The Legal Immigration and Family Equity (LIFE) Act, changed immigration laws in the United States significantly. These changes made it easier for families to stay together during the immigration process and enabled some individuals who otherwise would be ineligible to live and work lawfully in the United States.

The LIFE Act has been amended a few times since its initial enactment in 2000. Many of the act’s provisions apply only to applications already in progress at the time the law was passed or shortly thereafter, but other provisions remain in force going forward. An experienced attorney could offer further clarification regarding the tenets of this Act and how it may affect your case.

Status Adjustments for Certain People

The LIFE Act amended Section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) to allow people who were in the United States at the time to apply to adjust their status despite factors that would have ordinarily blocked them from doing so. If they met all the qualifications, they would then be able to obtain a green card as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPR) of the United States.

In essence, the government offered to forgive violations of immigration status rules in exchange for payment of a $1,000 fine. This enabled many people who had entered the U.S. illegally, worked in the U.S. without authorization, or failed to maintain continuous lawful status to have these violations forgiven so that their immigration petitions could continue to be processed. However, this Act only applied to those who had either an immigrant petition or application for labor certification in process by April 30, 2001.

 “V” Visas for Families

Another provision of the LIFE Act is the “V” category of nonimmigrant temporary visas, which allows families to remain together during the processing of their immigrant visas. These visas are available to the spouses and unmarried minor children and stepchildren of lawful permanent residents. Those who received V visas would be protected from removal and would be eligible to work.

To be eligible for a V visa, the family member with a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status must have filed a Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative on or before the date of the act’s enactment, December 21, 2000. The family members must have been waiting three years or more since the filing.

K-3 and K-4 Visas

The LIFE Act also created the K-3 and K-4 visa categories for spouses and unmarried minor children of U.S. citizens. This is a nonimmigrant temporary visa designed to enable a spouse and children to reside in the country while United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) processes their Petition for Alien Relative.

To be eligible for a K-3 visa, an applicant must be married to a citizen, and the applicant’s spouse must have filed a Form I-30 Petition. The child of a spouse married to a citizen is eligible for a K-4 visa if the child is unmarried, under age 21, and is the child of a K-3 visa applicant.

Extension of Late Amnesty to Pre-1988 Immigrants

The final major provision of the LIFE Act involved persons who had sought to be included in three “late amnesty” lawsuits filed before October 1, 2000. This provision gave eligible parties one year from the date that regulations were issued to apply to adjust their status accordingly.

This provision also provided work eligibility and removal protection to spouses and children of those involved in the class action lawsuits. However, they had to have entered the U.S. before December 1, 1988.

Learn More About the LIFE Act from a Seasoned Attorney

Immigration law in the U.S. is complex and subject to frequent change by Congress, regulatory agencies, and Executive Orders. For the most up-to-date information about qualifying for protections of the LIFE Act, it may be helpful to contact a knowledgeable immigration lawyer.

The Legal Immigration and Family Equity (LIFE) Act could make it possible for you to obtain a green card and/or keep family members together during the processing period for immigration applications. Further information may be available through a local USCIS field office.

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