A foreign national is barred from adjustment of status if the foreign national is in an unlawful immigration status on the date of filing the adjustment application. [1] See INA 245(c)(2). See 8 CFR 245.1(b)(5). This chapter only addresses one of the three immigration violations described in the INA 245(c)(2) bar. For more information on the other two immigration violations, see Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations - INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) [7 USCIS-PM B.4] and Chapter 6, Unauthorized Employment – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) [7 USCIS-PM B.6]. This bar to adjustment does not apply to:

Immediate relatives; [2] See INA 201(b). Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen include the U.S. citizen’s spouse, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older). Widow(er)s of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals admitted to the United States as a fiancé(e) or child of a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen may also be considered immediate relatives if they meet certain conditions.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)-based applicants;

Certain foreign doctors and their accompanying spouse and children; [3] See INA 101(a)(27)(H).

Certain G-4 international organization employees, NATO-6 employees, and their family members; [4] See INA 101(a)(27)(I).

Special immigrant juveniles; [5] See INA 101(a)(27)(J).

Certain members of the U.S. armed forces and their spouses and children; [6] See INA 101(a)(27)(K). or

Employment-based applicants who meet the INA 245(k) exemption.

A. Lawful Immigration Status [7] See 8 CFR 245.1(d).

Foreign nationals in the United States who are considered to be in lawful immigration status generally include:

Lawful permanent residents (LPR), including lawful temporary residents and conditional permanent residents;

Nonimmigrants; [8] See INA 101(a)(15).

Refugees; [9] See INA 207.

Asylees; [10] See INA 208.

Parolees; [11] See INA 212(d)(5)(A).  

Foreign nationals in temporary protected status (TPS); and

Foreign nationals lawfully present in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI) between November 28, 2009 and November 27, 2011 based on a valid, unexpired, and lawfully obtained period of stay that was CNMI-authorized prior to November 28, 2009 that remains valid on the date of adjustment application.

Simply filing an application for an immigration benefit or having a pending benefit application generally does not put a foreign national in a lawful immigration status. [12] For more information, see Section E, Effect of Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)]. In general, once an immigrant benefit application is approved, a foreign national is in lawful immigration status as of the date of the filing of the application.

B. Unlawful Immigration Status

A foreign national is in unlawful immigration status if he or she is in the United States without lawful immigration status either because the foreign national never had lawful status or because the foreign national’s lawful status has ended.

Foreign nationals in unlawful immigration status generally include:

Foreign nationals who entered the United States without inspection and admission or parole; [13] USCIS systems may indicate an entry without inspection as “EWI.” and

Foreign nationals whose lawful immigration status expired or was rescinded, revoked, or otherwise terminated. [14] For example, a foreign national who was admitted as a nonimmigrant is in an unlawful status if the foreign national has violated any of the terms or conditions of the nonimmigrant status – such as by engaging in unauthorized employment, termination of the employment that was the basis for the nonimmigrant status, failing to maintain a full course of study, or engaging in conduct specified in 8 CFR 212.1(e)-(g). The foreign national’s status also becomes unlawful if the foreign national remains in the United States after DHS terminates the foreign national’s nonimmigrant status under 8 CFR 214.1(d).

C. Time in Unlawful Immigration Status

If in unlawful immigration status, the foreign national’s unlawful status generally begins:

On the day the foreign national enters the United States without inspection;

On the day the foreign national violates the terms or conditions of his or her nonimmigrant status; [15] The relevant terms or conditions include those that apply to all nonimmigrants, such as 8 CFR 214.1(e)-(g), as well as those that apply to the specific nonimmigrant classification. For example, a B-2 visitor who worked without authorization and an F-1 student who failed to maintain a full course of study would both be out of status. or

On the day after the foreign national’s authorized status has been violated, has expired, been rescinded, revoked, or otherwise terminated while he or she is physically present in the United States. [16] Extension of stay or change of status applications, once approved, may retroactively confer lawful immigration status. For more information, see Section E, Effect of Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)].

Unlawful immigration status generally ends when either of the following events occur, whichever is earlier:

The foreign national obtains lawful immigration status, or

The foreign national departs the United States.

D. Difference between Lawful Immigration Status and Period of Authorized Stay

Lawful immigration status is distinct from being in a period of authorized stay. Periods of authorized stay are only relevant when determining a foreign national’s accrual of unlawful presence for inadmissibility purposes. [17] See INA 212(a)(9)(B) and INA 212(a)(9)(C). Those in a period of stay authorized are protected from accruing unlawful presence. For example, a foreign national whose adjustment of status application is pending is in a period of stay authorized and does not accrue unlawful presence. However, although a foreign national is in a period of stay authorized, it may be that the foreign national is in unlawful status. See Section E, Effect of a Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)]. Although a foreign national in a lawful immigration status is also in a period of authorized stay, the opposite is not necessarily true. Those in a period of authorized stay may or may not be in a lawful immigration status.

Officers consider the difference between lawful immigration status and a period of authorized stay when determining whether a foreign national is in lawful immigration status for purposes of the INA 245(c)(2) adjustment bar.

E. Effect of Pending Application or Petition

A pending application to extend or change status (Form I-129 or Form I-539), a pending adjustment application, or a pending petition does not confer lawful immigration status on a foreign national. In addition, a pending application or petition does not automatically afford protection against removal if the foreign national’s status expires after submission of the application. The foreign national may have no actual lawful status in the United States and may be subject to removal proceedings unless and until the extension of stay (EOS) application, change of status (COS) application, adjustment application, or petition is approved.

1. Extension of Stay or Change of Status

A foreign national may file an adjustment application after expiration of his or her nonimmigrant status while the foreign national’s timely-filed EOS or COS application is pending. [18] In some cases, USCIS may excuse untimely filing and approve an extension of stay or change of status request. For more information, see Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8), Section E, Exceptions, Subsection 3, Effect of Extension of Stay and Change of Status [7 USCIS-PM B.4(E)(3)]. In such cases, the officer should defer adjudication of the adjustment application until USCIS adjudicates the EOS or COS application so long as there are no other grounds for denial.

If USCIS ultimately approves the EOS or COS application, then the foreign national is considered to be in lawful immigration status on the date the adjustment application is filed. If USCIS denies the EOS or COS application, then the foreign national is generally considered to be in unlawful immigration status as of the expiration of the foreign national’s current nonimmigrant status and likewise on the date the adjustment application is filed. In this instance, the INA 245(c)(2) bar would apply, unless an exemption is available.

The following scenario illustrates the distinction between lawful immigration status and a period of stay authorized by the Secretary of Homeland Security. The scenario provides an example of when a foreign national may be considered to be in unlawful immigration status after filing multiple applications to extend and change status.

Example: Effect of Multiple Applications to Extend or Change Status

Date

Event

September 28, 2007

A foreign national is admitted to the United States as a B-2 nonimmigrant visitor.

March 16, 2008

An employer timely filed an L-1 petition (Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) for the B-2 nonimmigrant visitor, including a request on behalf of the nonimmigrant to change status to an L-1 nonimmigrant intracompany transferee nonimmigrant classification.

March 28, 2008

The B-2 nonimmigrant visitor’s authorized stay expires, as indicated on the Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94).

September 10, 2008

The foreign national untimely filed an application to extend B-2 nonimmigrant visitor status after the employer receives a Request for Evidence (RFE) on the L-1 petition.

December 7, 2008

The RFE goes unanswered and USCIS denies the L-1 petition and the accompanying COS application.

January 11, 2009

The employer untimely files a second L-1 petition (Form I-129) for the foreign national.

February 8, 2009

USCIS denies the foreign national’s application to extend B-2 nonimmigrant visitor status because it was filed after the expiration of his authorized stay.

February 11, 2009

USCIS approves the second L-1 petition (Form I-129) for the foreign national but denies the accompanying application to change status from B-2 nonimmigrant visitor to L-1 because the foreign national was out of status at the time the petition was filed.

This example highlights that a foreign national seeking an EOS or COS cannot indefinitely avoid any time out of or in violation of lawful status just because of a pending application to extend or change status.

When USCIS denied the first L-1 petition and COS application on December 7, 2008, the applicant was out of B-2 status as of March 29, 2008. Even though USCIS ultimately denied the first L-1 petition and COS request, the petition was timely filed. Accordingly, the petition provided the foreign national a period of authorized stay while the petition was pending from March 16, 2008 through final adjudication on December 7, 2008.

Notwithstanding, the untimely filed application for extension of B-2 status did not provide the foreign national any period of authorized stay. In addition, the applications and petitions filed did not grant any lawful status to the foreign national or create a “bridge” of continuing lawful status stemming from the first timely filed petition.

2. Adjustment

A pending adjustment application does not put a foreign national in a lawful immigration status. For example, if USCIS previously denied adjustment of status to an applicant and the applicant reapplies for adjustment, the period the first application was pending does not count as time spent in lawful immigration status.

3. Petition

A pending or approved petition does not confer lawful immigration status on a foreign national. An immigrant petition merely classifies a foreign national in a particular immigrant visa category, which forms the basis for the foreign national’s adjustment application.

Footnotes


1. [^]

See INA 245(c)(2). See 8 CFR 245.1(b)(5). This chapter only addresses one of the three immigration violations described in the INA 245(c)(2) bar. For more information on the other two immigration violations, see Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations - INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) [7 USCIS-PM B.4] and Chapter 6, Unauthorized Employment – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) [7 USCIS-PM B.6].

2. [^]

See INA 201(b). Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen include the U.S. citizen’s spouse, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age), and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older). Widow(er)s of U.S. citizens and foreign nationals admitted to the United States as a fiancé(e) or child of a fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen may also be considered immediate relatives if they meet certain conditions.

9. [^]

See INA 207.

10. [^]

See INA 208.

12. [^]

For more information, see Section E, Effect of Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)].

13. [^]

USCIS systems may indicate an entry without inspection as “EWI.”

14. [^]

For example, a foreign national who was admitted as a nonimmigrant is in an unlawful status if the foreign national has violated any of the terms or conditions of the nonimmigrant status – such as by engaging in unauthorized employment, termination of the employment that was the basis for the nonimmigrant status, failing to maintain a full course of study, or engaging in conduct specified in 8 CFR 212.1(e)-(g). The foreign national’s status also becomes unlawful if the foreign national remains in the United States after DHS terminates the foreign national’s nonimmigrant status under 8 CFR 214.1(d).

15. [^]

The relevant terms or conditions include those that apply to all nonimmigrants, such as 8 CFR 214.1(e)-(g), as well as those that apply to the specific nonimmigrant classification. For example, a B-2 visitor who worked without authorization and an F-1 student who failed to maintain a full course of study would both be out of status.

16. [^]

Extension of stay or change of status applications, once approved, may retroactively confer lawful immigration status. For more information, see Section E, Effect of Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)].

17. [^]

See INA 212(a)(9)(B) and INA 212(a)(9)(C). Those in a period of stay authorized are protected from accruing unlawful presence. For example, a foreign national whose adjustment of status application is pending is in a period of stay authorized and does not accrue unlawful presence. However, although a foreign national is in a period of stay authorized, it may be that the foreign national is in unlawful status. See Section E, Effect of a Pending Application or Petition [7 USCIS-PM B.3(E)].

18. [^]

In some cases, USCIS may excuse untimely filing and approve an extension of stay or change of status request. For more information, see Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8), Section E, Exceptions, Subsection 3, Effect of Extension of Stay and Change of Status [7 USCIS-PM B.4(E)(3)].