USCIS has announced that it will start accepting permanent residence (green card) applications from Liberians who are in the United States.
The Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) Act was signed into law on Dec. 20, 2019. The Act opened a one-year window that will allow many Liberians living in the United States to apply for permanent residence.
According to the Immigrant Legal Resource Center (ILRC):
LRIF was needed because civil strife in Liberia beginning in 1989 caused thousands of Liberians to flee to the United States. While the United States provided temporary measures of protection such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), those programs only provided protection for a few years at a time and were eventually terminated.2
Liberia has a special history of close relationship with the United States. Many Liberians have relatives in the United States, and they are English-speaking. Some Liberians are Americo-Liberians, that is, emancipated slaves who immigrated to Liberia, while others are members of ethnic and language groups that are native to Liberia.
ILRC Fact Sheet is here.
What is the Application Period?
From now until December 20, 2020.
Who Can Apply?
Anyone who has been “continuously present” in the US since November 20, 2014 and up to the date of filing the application.
What About Family Members? Can They Apply?
The spouse, child (under 21), and unmarried son or daughter can apply as dependents of the principal applicant. This definition of dependents is more expansive than normal, in allowing for children who are over 21 to apply.
What is “Continuous Physical Presence”?
The USCIS states that applicants “…will be considered to have maintained continuous physical presence if their absences from the United States amount to not more than 180 day in the aggregate (total).”
In other words, trips outside the US since November 20, 2014 that add up to less than six months should not be an obstacle to eligibility.
The physical presence requirement only applies to the primary applicant, not to dependents.
How Do I Prove Continuous Physical Presence”?
The status does not specify how to prove this requirement. However, we can use the evidence needed to prove physical presence in other situations, such as under 241(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. This could include school records, tax returns, employment records, etc.
Who is Not Eligible to Apply?
The LRIF has fewer grounds of inadmissibility than many other provisions, but certain people are not eligible. This includes
How Do I Apply?
Eligible applicants and their family members need to complete Forms I-485 and provide the relevant supporting documents and filing fees. Currently (Jan 11, 2020) the filing fees for all forms, including work authorization and Advance Parole (for travel) are $1225. However, USCIS has plans to increase these fees very soon. The exact date is uncertain, but the new fees could be almost $2500.
For more information, contact Elaine Martin, Immigration Lawyer.
Elaine Martin has been practising US and global immigration law since 1997. She is an immigrant herself (from Ireland), so has a special understanding of the legal and emotional challenges involved in relocating to a new country.