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AILA 245(i) News Release

Cite as "AILA InfoNet Doc. No. 97121658 (posted Dec. 16, 1997)"


American Immigration Lawyers Association

For Immediate Release: [INSERT TODAY’S DATE]



New Law Says Eligible Immigrants Must Act by January 14 or Return Home to Adjust Status But Homecoming Could Trigger Reentry Bars for Three to Ten Years

[INSERT YOUR CITY, YOUR STATE] - Eligible, out-of-status immigrants have only until January 14, 1998 to apply for a green card and remain in the United States while awaiting processing, warns local attorney [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. Due to a bill recently signed by President Clinton, after January 14, anyone who is eligible to apply for a green card but has not continuously maintained their legal status must return to their home country to obtain a green card. For some who are technically out of status, this could mean leaving behind their families and jobs for months. For others, due to last year’s draconian immigration law, they could be barred from returning to the U.S. for three to ten years.

"It’s very easy for an immigrant to fall out of status without even knowing it," [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE] commented. "We’re talking about students who’ve dropped a course, workers who’ve been transferred by their employers to different cities in the U.S., tourists whose paperwork expired on someone’s desk. But any immigrant who has ever fallen out of status no matter how briefly and for whatever reason will be affected by this change in the law.

"Having to leave the United States to obtain a green card will cause extreme hardship to immigrants’ families and businesses," warned [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. "Sacrificing this income can send a family into poverty. And companies who have sponsored these workers have already discovered that they are irreplaceable. Losing them will hurt companies, other workers, and the community at large. So it’s imperative that eligible immigrants apply for their green card before this deadline."

Before Thanksgiving, Congress voted to end Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, a program which allowed people applying for their green cards to file their paperwork in the U.S., even if they had somehow breached their immigration status in the past. Such applicants were required to pay a $1000 fine as a penalty for their violation. With the recent change in the law, Section 245(i) will no longer be available to those who have not filed their preliminary paperwork with the INS by January 14th. In most cases, those who do not meet this deadline will now be required to return to their home countries to obtain their green card. But many of these people will face a Catch-22: If they leave the U.S. to obtain their green card, they may be barred from returning for three to ten years, pursuant to a provision included in last year’s immigration law.

[INSERT YOUR NAME HERE], who handles XXXX such "out-of-status" cases a month, described one client who [INSERT CIRCUMSTANCES HERE.]

"Now I can file a petition for him/her, and he/she can receive a green card in this country when they become eligible for one," said [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. "But next month, people like him/her will be between a rock and a hard place."

In general, to be eligible to apply for a green card, a person must have a qualifying relative or employer willing to sponsor them. The following categories of people can sponsor a relative for a green card:

  • U.S. Citizens can sponsor their spouses, children, parents, brothers and sisters.
  • Legal Permanent Residents (i.e. green card holders) can sponsor their spouses and unmarried children.
  • Employers can sponsor certain of their employees.

"I cannot stress enough how important it is that anyone who is eligible for a green card, but has not continuously maintained legal immigration status, files the proper paperwork immediately with the INS or the Department of Labor," concluded [INSERT YOUR NAME HERE]. "People who do not file their paperwork on or before January 14, 1998 may lose their chance to legalize their status. If you haven’t already filed your paperwork, call an immigration attorney or local legal services provider."

© 1999, American Immigration Lawyers Association

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