A law that has been more than a decade in the making finally made it through Congress at the end of 2019. Section 7611 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 included a long-awaited form of relief unique to Liberians. The section, identified as Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness, addresses the needs of Liberians who have been caught in the vicious cycle of TPS and Liberian DED for the last twenty years. It is a one-time reprieve that addresses the long-suffering Liberian community.
Notably, the provision does not require that the qualifying Liberian ever applied for either TPS or DED. The law instead requires continuous presence on or before November 20, 2014 to present with an allowance for a very brief amount of time out of the United States during this period.
The keys are:
- You are a national of Liberia;
- You have been continuously physically present in the United States during the period beginning on November 20, 2014, and ending on the date you properly file your Form I-485;
- You are otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa; and
- You are admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief.
There is an important deadline for this benefit. The government must receive the application before December 20, 2020. In addition, the person applying must qualify for residency. Being present and Liberian by themselves are not the only considerations. If there are issues of criminal history, fraud, or other disqualifications that apply to any applicant for residency, these disqualifications will hinder an application under this program. Notably, the public charge requirement does not apply. A person does not need a financial sponsor or affidavit of support to apply.
The program also includes the children and spouses of qualifying individuals. A qualifying relative does not have be a citizen of Liberia or be present in the United States on November 20, 2014. The principal relative must qualify so that his or her dependent qualifies.
Individuals who are in the United States with final orders or voluntary departure orders who did not leave do not have to motion the immigration court or the Board of Immigration Appeals to apply. If USCIS approves the application, the approval will cancel the removal or deportation order. A motion nevertheless is a good idea to prevent any problems with future travel. This provision, however, will not help individual already removed from the United States.
USCIS will scrutinize applications for all residency concerns. Liberia has a history of defective birth, marriage, and divorce records. A person applying under this program must take great caution to ensure that his or her documents are valid.
In addition, it is imperative that the applicant identify all children regardless of age, location, or relationship. USCIS reacts very harshly to omissions about family history. Omissions now will impact a person’s ability to apply for citizenship in the future. Omissions in prior visa applications abroad will also surface here. USCIS regularly orders copies of visa applications to see what the person listed for personal relationships. Sudden omissions or additions will create issues in this new application. USCIS will review all prior applications for consistency. A person who has a lot of applications on file with USCIS and former INS should consider ordering a copy of his or her immigration file via FOIA before submitting this new application for relief. Continuity is imperative.
Wilson Law Group welcomes the opportunity to help its friends in the Liberian community find peace of mind after so many years. We invite anyone who thinks he or she may qualify under the law to schedule a consultation.