A. Purpose and Background

On September 7, 1977, the United States signed the Panama Canal Treaty, agreeing to the eventual transfer of control of the Panama Canal from the United States to the Panamanian government. The Panama Canal Act of 1979 effectively implemented the treaty that, among other things, resulted in the involuntary separation or geographic relocation of most U.S. citizens working as federal employees in the Canal Area. [1] See Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452 (September 27, 1979).

The Panama Canal Act also impacted certain Panamanian nationals and others working at the Panama Canal. In particular, the legislation impacted those employed as firefighters, police officers, or security guards who were considered threatened or at risk as a direct result of their employment. Congress created a special immigrant category for certain former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government as a result of the perceived threat and to reward certain employees for their faithful service. [2] See Section 3201 of Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452, 496 (September 27, 1979).

Congress originally limited this special immigrant category to 15,000 immigrant visas in total, with no more than 5,000 immigrant visas available per year. Congress later removed these numerical limitations in the Immigration and Nationality Technical Corrections Act of 1994. [3] See Section 212 of Pub. L. 103-416, 108 Stat. 4305, 4314 (October 25, 1994) (striking Section 3201(c) of Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452, 497 (September 27, 1979)). These special immigrant former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government, however, are subject to the yearly numerical limits of the employment-based fourth preference immigrant category.

Due to the difficulty in verifying the periods and nature of employment and the periods of residence, USCIS generally should consult with the U.S. Embassy in Panama City and the Department of State prior to granting any cases under these provisions, unless consultation already occurred during adjudication of the underlying special immigrant petition to verify this information. [4] See Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360). See 9 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 502.5-4, Fourth Preference Special Immigrants – Panama Canal Employees. This program has no sunset date.

B. Legal Authorities

INA 101(a)(27)(E), INA 101(a)(27)(F), and INA 101(a)(27)(G) – Employees of Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government

INA 203(b)(4) Certain special immigrants

INA 245; 8 CFR 245 – Adjustment of status of nonimmigrant to that of person admitted for permanent residence

22 CFR 42.32(d)(3) - Panama Canal employees

C. Eligibility Requirements

To adjust to lawful permanent resident (LPR) status as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee, an applicant must meet the following eligibility requirements:

Adjustment of Status Eligibility Requirements for

Special Immigrant Panama Canal Zone Employees

The applicant has been inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled into the United States.

The applicant is physically present in the United States at the time of filing and adjudication of the adjustment application.

The applicant is eligible to receive an immigrant visa because the applicant is the beneficiary of an approved Form I-360 classifying him or her as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee.

The applicant had an immigrant visa immediately available when he or she filed the adjustment of status application [5] See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 3, Filing Instructions, Section B, Definition of Properly Filed [7 USCIS-PM A.3(B)]. and at the time of final adjudication. [6] See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review, Section C, Verify Visa Availability [7 USCIS-PM A.6(C)]. For information on Visa Availability and Priority Dates, see the DOS Visa Bulletin.

The applicant is not subject to any applicable bars to adjustment of status. [7] See INA 245(c). See Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

The applicant is admissible to the United States or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. [8] For more information, see Volume 8, Admissibility [8 USCIS-PM] and Volume 9, Waivers [9 USCIS-PM].

The applicant merits the favorable exercise of discretion. [9] See INA 245(a). For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures [7 USCIS-PM A] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

1. Eligibility to Receive an Immigrant Visa [10] See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment, Chapter 2, Eligibility Requirements, Section C, Eligible to Receive an Immigrant Visa [7 USCIS-PM B.2(C)].

To be eligible to receive an immigrant visa to adjust status as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee, the principal applicant must obtain such classification from USCIS by filing a Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360).

The table below outlines the various special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee categories provided by law.

Types of Special Immigrant Panama Canal Zone Employee

Citation

Employed by…

Employed at least…

Additional Requirements

INA 101(a)(27)(E)

Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government

One year on or prior to October 1, 1979

Lived in Panama Canal Zone on April 1, 1979

INA 101(a)(27)(F)

U.S. Government in the Canal Zone

15 years prior to October 1, 1979

Panamanian national and honorably retired from service or continues to be employed by the U.S. government in an area of the former Canal Zone

INA 101(a)(27)(G)

Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government on April 1, 1979

Five years, as of date of the ratification of the Panama Canal Zone Treaty of 1977

Personal safety, or the safety of their spouse and children, is placed in danger because of the nature of the employment and the Panama Canal Treaty

Foreign nationals who qualify as a current or former employee of the U.S. Government in the Canal Zone [11] See INA 101(a)(27)(F). might also qualify as a special immigrant employee or honorably retired employee of the U.S. Government. [12] See INA 101(a)(27)(D). See Chapter 3, International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad [7 USCIS-PM F.3]. An applicant who is eligible under both categories may seek to adjust under whichever category may be more advantageous.

Verifying the Underlying Basis to Adjust Status and Determining Ongoing Eligibility [13] For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6].

The Panama Canal Zone employee petition should already be adjudicated and approved when the officer adjudicates the adjustment application. USCIS does not re-adjudicate the Panama Canal Zone employee petition at the time of the adjudication of the adjustment application. However, the officer should ensure that the applicant remains classified as a Panama Canal Zone employee and thus is eligible to adjust as a Panama Canal Zone employee. As a result, there may be instances when USCIS may require the applicant to provide additional evidence to show he or she continues to be classified as a Panama Canal Zone employee. In other words, the officer must verify the status of any underlying immigrant petition that forms the basis for adjustment.

2. Bars to Adjustment

Special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employees and their derivatives are ineligible for adjustment of status if any of the bars to adjustment of status apply. [14] See INA 245(c). For more information on the bars to adjustment, see Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

3. Admissibility and Waiver Requirements

In general, an applicant who is inadmissible to the United States may only obtain LPR status if he or she obtains a waiver or other form of relief, if available. [15] See INA 212(a) for the specific grounds of inadmissibility. In general, if a ground of inadmissibility applies, an applicant must apply for a waiver or other form of relief to overcome that inadmissibility. [16] See Volume 8, Admissibility [8 USCIS-PM] and Volume 9, Waivers [9 USCIS-PM]. See Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Form I-601) and Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal (Form I-212). If a waiver or other form of relief is granted, USCIS may approve the application to adjust status if the applicant is otherwise eligible.

The following table specifies which grounds of inadmissibility apply and which do not apply to applicants seeking LPR status based on the Panama Canal Zone employee classification.

Applicability of Grounds of Inadmissibility:

Panama Canal Zone Employees

Ground of Inadmissibility

Applies

Exempt or

Not Applicable

INA 212(a)(1) – Health-Related

X

INA 212(a)(2) – Crime-Related

X

INA 212(a)(3) Security-Related

X

INA 212(a)(4)Public Charge

X

INA 212(a)(5) Labor Certification and Qualifications for Certain Immigrants

X

INA 212(a)(6) – Illegal Entrants and Immigration Violators

X

INA 212(a)(7)(A) Documentation Requirements for Immigrants

X

INA 212(a)(8) – Ineligibility for Citizenship

X

INA 212(a)(9) Foreign Nationals Previously Removed

X

INA 212(a)(10) Practicing Polygamists, Guardians Required to Accompany Helpless Persons, International Child Abductors, Unlawful Voters, and Former Citizens who Renounced Citizenship to Avoid Taxation

X

4. Treatment of Family Members

The spouse or child [17] Unmarried and under 21 years of age. of a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee may accompany or follow-to-join the principal applicant if the spouse or child is otherwise eligible. [18] See INA 101(a)(27)(C) and INA 203(d). For the definition of child, see INA 101(b)(1). The spouse and child may, as derivative applicants, apply to adjust status under the same immigrant category and priority date as the principal applicant.

D. Documentation and Evidence

An applicant should submit the following documentation to adjust status as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee:

Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485), with the correct fee;

Copy of the approval notice (Form I-797) for the principal applicant’s special immigrant petition (Form I-360);

Two passport-style photographs;

Biographic Information Sheet (Form G-325A), if the applicant is 14 through 79 years of age;

Copy of government-issued identity document with photograph;

Copy of birth certificate;

Copy of passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);

Copy of passport page with admission or parole stamp (if applicable);

Copy of Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94) or copy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) admission or parole stamp on the travel document (if applicable); [19] Foreign nationals admitted to the United States by CBP at an airport or seaport after April 30, 2013, may be issued an electronic Form I-94 by CBP instead of a paper Form I-94. Such foreign nationals may visit the CBP website to obtain a paper version of an electronic Form I-94. CBP does not charge a fee for this service.

Evidence of continuously maintaining a lawful status since arrival in the United States;

Any other evidence, as needed, to show that an adjustment bar does not apply; [20] Such as evidence that the INA 245(c)(2) adjustment bar does not apply because the applicant’s failure to maintain status was through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons. See 8 CFR 245.1(d)(2). See Part B, 245(a) Adjustment, Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8), Section E, Exceptions [7 USCIS-PM B.4(E)].

Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693); [21] The applicant may submit Form I-693 together with Form I-485 or later at USCIS’ request. See the USCIS website for more information. For more information on when to submit Form I-693, see Volume 8, Admissibility, Part B, Health-Related Grounds of Inadmissibility, Chapter 4, Review of Medical Examination Documentation [8 USCIS-PM B.4].

Certified police and court records of criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);

Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Form I-601) or other form of relief (if applicable); and

Documentation of past or present J-1 or J-2 nonimmigrant status, including proof of compliance with or waiver of the 2-year foreign residence requirement under INA 212(e) (if applicable).

In addition, a spouse or child who is filing as a derivative applicant should submit the following:

A copy of documentation showing relationship to the principal applicant, such as a marriage certificate or adoption decree (if applicable); and

A copy of the approval or receipt notice (Form I-797) for the principal applicant’s Form I-485 or a copy of the principal applicant’s permanent resident card (Form I-551) (if applicable and not filing together with the principal applicant).

E. Adjudication [22] For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6].

1. Filing

An applicant seeking adjustment of status as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee may file his or her adjustment application with USCIS after USCIS approves the special immigrant petition [23] See Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360). (as long as the petition is still valid), provided:

USCIS has jurisdiction over the adjustment application; [24] For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 3, Filing Instructions, Section D, Jurisdictions [7 USCIS-PM A.3(D)]. and

The visa availability requirements are met. [25] The applicant must have an immigrant visa immediately available when he or she filed the adjustment of status application and at the time of final adjudication. See Section C, Eligibility Requirements [7 USCIS-PM F.7(C)].

These applicants may not file an adjustment application concurrently with Form I-360.

2. Interview

The officer must schedule the applicant for an in-person interview at the appropriate field office and transfer jurisdiction to that field office for final adjudication in cases where:

The officer cannot make a decision based on the evidence of record; or

The applicant does not meet the criteria for an interview waiver. [26] For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 5, Interview Guidelines [7 USCIS-PM A.5].

3. Decision

Approval

The officer must determine that the applicant meets all the eligibility requirements as well as merits the favorable exercise of discretion before approving the application to adjust status as a special immigrant Panama Canal Zone employee or family member. [27] See INA 245(a). For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures [7 USCIS-PM A] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B]. If the application for adjustment of status is approvable, the officer must determine if a visa is available at the time of final adjudication. [28] For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review, Section C, Verify Visa Availability [7 USCIS-PM A.6(C)].

If approved, USCIS assigns the following codes of admission to applicants adjusting under this category: 

Classes of Applicants and Codes of Admission

Applicant

Code of

Admission

Former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government [29] Under INA 101(a)(27)(E).

SF6

Spouse of former employee (SF6)

SF7

Child of former employee (SF6)

SF7

Former employees of the U.S. Government in the Panama Canal Zone [30] Under INA 101(a)(27)(F).

SG6

Spouse of former employee (SG6)

SG7

Child of former employee (SG6)

SG7

Former employees of the Panama Canal Company or Canal Zone government employed on April 1, 1979 [31] Under INA 101(a)(27)(G).

SH6

Spouse of former employee (SH6)

SH7

Child of former employee (SH6)

SH7

The applicant becomes an LPR as of the date of approval of the adjustment application. [32] The date of approval is shown in the USCIS approval notice mailed to the applicant; that date is also shown on the actual Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) the applicant receives after adjustment approval.

Denial

If the officer determines that the applicant is ineligible for adjustment, the officer must deny the adjustment application. The officer must provide the applicant a written reason for the denial. [33] See 8 CFR 103.2(b)(19) and 8 CFR 103.3(a). Although there are no appeal rights for the denial of an adjustment application, the applicant may file a motion to reopen or reconsider. The denial notice should include instructions for filing a Notice of Appeal or Motion (Form I-290B).

Footnotes


1. [^]

See Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452 (September 27, 1979).

2. [^]

See Section 3201 of Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452, 496 (September 27, 1979).

3. [^]

See Section 212 of Pub. L. 103-416, 108 Stat. 4305, 4314 (October 25, 1994) (striking Section 3201(c) of Pub. L. 96-70, 93 Stat. 452, 497 (September 27, 1979)).

4. [^]

See Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360). See 9 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 502.5-4, Fourth Preference Special Immigrants – Panama Canal Employees.

5. [^]

See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 3, Filing Instructions, Section B, Definition of Properly Filed [7 USCIS-PM A.3(B)].

6. [^]

See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review, Section C, Verify Visa Availability [7 USCIS-PM A.6(C)]. For information on Visa Availability and Priority Dates, see the DOS Visa Bulletin.

7. [^]

See INA 245(c). See Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

8. [^]

For more information, see Volume 8, Admissibility [8 USCIS-PM] and Volume 9, Waivers [9 USCIS-PM].

9. [^]

See INA 245(a). For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures [7 USCIS-PM A] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

10. [^]

See Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment, Chapter 2, Eligibility Requirements, Section C, Eligible to Receive an Immigrant Visa [7 USCIS-PM B.2(C)].

12. [^]

See INA 101(a)(27)(D). See Chapter 3, International Employees of the U.S. Government Abroad [7 USCIS-PM F.3].

13. [^]

For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6].

14. [^]

See INA 245(c). For more information on the bars to adjustment, see Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

15. [^]

See INA 212(a) for the specific grounds of inadmissibility.

16. [^]

See Volume 8, Admissibility [8 USCIS-PM] and Volume 9, Waivers [9 USCIS-PM]. See Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Form I-601) and Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal (Form I-212).

17. [^]

Unmarried and under 21 years of age.

18. [^]

See INA 101(a)(27)(C) and INA 203(d). For the definition of child, see INA 101(b)(1).

19. [^]

Foreign nationals admitted to the United States by CBP at an airport or seaport after April 30, 2013, may be issued an electronic Form I-94 by CBP instead of a paper Form I-94. Such foreign nationals may visit the CBP website to obtain a paper version of an electronic Form I-94. CBP does not charge a fee for this service.

20. [^]

Such as evidence that the INA 245(c)(2) adjustment bar does not apply because the applicant’s failure to maintain status was through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons. See 8 CFR 245.1(d)(2). See Part B, 245(a) Adjustment, Chapter 4, Status and Nonimmigrant Visa Violations – INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8), Section E, Exceptions [7 USCIS-PM B.4(E)].

21. [^]

The applicant may submit Form I-693 together with Form I-485 or later at USCIS’ request. See the USCIS website for more information. For more information on when to submit Form I-693, see Volume 8, Admissibility, Part B, Health-Related Grounds of Inadmissibility, Chapter 4, Review of Medical Examination Documentation [8 USCIS-PM B.4].

22. [^]

For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review [7 USCIS-PM A.6].

23. [^]

See Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant (Form I-360).

24. [^]

For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 3, Filing Instructions, Section D, Jurisdictions [7 USCIS-PM A.3(D)].

25. [^]

The applicant must have an immigrant visa immediately available when he or she filed the adjustment of status application and at the time of final adjudication. See Section C, Eligibility Requirements [7 USCIS-PM F.7(C)].

26. [^]

For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 5, Interview Guidelines [7 USCIS-PM A.5].

27. [^]

See INA 245(a). For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures [7 USCIS-PM A] and Part B, 245(a) Adjustment [7 USCIS-PM B].

28. [^]

For more information, see Part A, Adjustment of Status Policies and Procedures, Chapter 6, Adjudicative Review, Section C, Verify Visa Availability [7 USCIS-PM A.6(C)].

32. [^]

The date of approval is shown in the USCIS approval notice mailed to the applicant; that date is also shown on the actual Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) the applicant receives after adjustment approval.