On September 30, 1996, President Clinton signed into law the most restrictive and mean spirited immigration act ever written.
The new law provides that anyone who is eligible to adjust their status here, but has been in the United States without authorization for more than six months, may be barred from immigrating for three years. The bar goes to ten years if you have been in the country illegally for more than one year. The clock started running on April 1.
In 1994 Congress passed a law know as section 245(i) allowing those with approved visas but in the United States without authorization to “adjust” their status here by paying a fine, instead of having to return to your country to get your “green card.” This law will “sunset” or expire on September 30, 1997. So far, Congress has given no indication that it will renew 245(i). Assuming the worst, this would mean that those applicants with approved visas, but who are now out of status, would have to return to their countries to interview at the U.S. consulates for their “green cards.” However, the new law states that if you are out of status for more than 180 days, leave the country and apply to reenter, you will be barred from immigrating for three years.
What does this mean for applications that were filed before April 1, 1997, but are still pending after September 30th? The General Counsel or the attorney for the INS, has issued an opinion about applications for adjustment of status submitted under section 245(i) prior to September 30, 1997 but are pending beyond that date.
The General Counsel said that applications for adjustment under 245(i) submitted before September 30, 1997, should be adjudicated even after that date. This means that if you are eligible to immigrate through an immediate family member or your employer, you should speak with an immigration attorney immediately. The process takes time and you need to apply before September 30th.
Make sure you go to an experienced and knowledgeable attorney. There are many immigration consultants and notaries public that offer immigration help. However, they are not authorized to practice before the Immigration Service or the Courts. So if something goes wrong they cannot help you.
My office has successfully represented hundreds of clients in cases like these. It is extremely important in this anti-immigrant climate, that applicants know their attorney will provide the best representation and will fight for them, to ensure that the INS will follow the law and not public opinion.