December 16, 2008

Settlement Opens Amnesty Doors for Tens of Thousands of Immigrants

In September, a U.S. district court in Washington State approved a settlement between USCIS and a group of immigrants which opened the door for amnesty for tens of thousands of individuals. The 1986 amnesty laws required that individuals prove that they were not in lawful status at the time that they applied for amnesty. The September settlement applies specifically to individuals who entered the United States on a valid visa, but fell out of status between 1982 and 1988.

Specifically, the 1986 amnesty provisions required those who entered the U.S. on a valid visa, but fell out of status, prove that the U.S. government knew that they were out of status at the time in which they applied. This created a huge burden of proof for most immigrants.

This settlement addresses two specific instances where it is presumed that the government knew that an individual was out of status in two instances:

If an individual was on a student visa, but dropped out of school, the school was legally required to inform the government of the student’s unlawful status. However, many schools cannot prove that they informed the government. The settlement states that even if the school cannot later prove that they informed the government, it is presumed that they did and, therefore, the government was informed of the student’s unlawful status. If an individual did not provide the government with an address report every three months as required by law. If the government cannot produce the documents showing the address updates, then it is presumed that the individual did not provide the address update and, thus, fell out of lawful status.

It is important to note that this settlement offers a limited, one-year time period for those eligible to file for amnesty. USCIS will begin accepting applications starting February 1, 2009, and individuals have until January 31, 2010, to file.

If you or someone you know qualifies for this program, please contact our office immediately at 469-916-7900 for assistance in this process.

By Michelle Richart