In 1996, Congress enacted a series of immigration reforms. These changes to the law greatly expanded the reasons that certain people are deemed “inadmissible” to the United States or “removable” from the United States. These reasons include criminal history, terrorist ties and other serious problems. These inadmissibility problems also come up when people attempt to adjust status to that of lawful permanent resident status.
Federal law does allow for waivers of certain bars to admission. While these waivers are discretionary (and some would say limited in their use), the good news is that for individuals who came to the United States as refugees or as asylum seekers (asylees), there are special, expanded reasons for USCIS to apply a waiver in a given situation.
Section 209 of the Immigration & Nationality Act is the portion of the law that allows the Department of Homeland Security to adjust the status of eligible refugees and asylees to that of lawful permanent resident status. A subsection of 209, Section 209(c), exempts asylees and refugees from several important grounds of inadmissibility. These include the prohibition of the person being a public charge, failure to obtain a labor certification and certain immigration paperwork requirements. So waivers may expand the types of people who may be granted lawful permanent resident status.
Waivers will not apply to controlled substance traffickers and for people who have national security problems. But absent those prohbitions, Section 209(c) grants Homeland Security “the discretion to waive any other ground of inadmissibility” for humanitarian, family unity and public interest purposes.” This much broader scope of discretion has helped several of our clients to adjust status when they might not otherwise have been able to adjust.
St. Louis has a high number of refugees due to the excellent work of the International Institute. As a resettlement agency, the International Institute has brought refugees from Bosnia, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Somalia and many other countries to the United States. An experienced immigration attorney can craft a waiver application in such a way that makes the difference between lawful permanent resident status and a denial.
Our office was approached once to help a young Bosnian fellow who had a long pending green card application, which he had filed pro se (i.e., without an attorney). USCIS wasn’t sure if it wanted to approve or deny his application because he had been in a series of fights several years prior as a young 18-20 year old. These fights had resulted in arrests. But the young man had turned his life around – he owned a trucking company, was married and had a US citizen child. After suing USCIS for the long delay in adjudicating his application, we also filed a waiver under 209(c) and obtained the green card for our client. So a waiver can definitely help someone adjust status who might otherwise be ineligible.
If you have questions about waivers, inadmissibility and adjustment of status, feel free to call us at 314-961-8200 or visit our contact page here. We’d be happy to answer any questions you might have.