Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)

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Special Statuses

Description

Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) is an immigration relief for suspension of deportation or cancellation of removal to eligible groups of Migrants that originally arrived in the United States claiming asylum and have remained in the country since their initial entry. Although NACARA approval grants eligibility for adjustment of status, a green card in the United States, Migrants must first meet strict NACARA eligibility requirements for the corresponding country of nationality. Requirements related to the dates of entry in the United States and/or dates of previously filed asylum/registrations vary from country to country.

Originally, under section 202 of the NACARA law, Migrants from Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala, Cuba, and former Soviet-Bloc countries, that met strict eligibility requirements, were eligible for NACARA status. Countries under the former Soviet Bloc include Russia, Soviet Union, any republic of the former Soviet Union, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Yugoslavia, or any state of the former Yugoslavia. However, as of 2000, Migrants from Nicaragua and Cuba are no longer eligible for NACARA status.

Currently, under section 203 of the NACARA law, Migrants from El Salvador, Guatemala, and countries from the former Soviet-Bloc remain eligible. Additionally, the law has expanded now to protect qualifying family members as well as victims who have been battered and subjected to extreme cruelty at the hands of individuals eligible for NACARA under section 203 relief. To file under this category, the Migrant must generally be in deportation or removal proceedings and submit an application before Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to have an Immigration Judge (IJ) adjudicate the NACARA claim.

To meet eligibility under NACARA, Migrants from El Salvador must have entered the United States for the first time on or before September 19, 1990, may not have been apprehended and/or detained at the time of entry after December 19, 1990, and must have registered for ABC benefits on or before October 31, 1991. Alternatively, they may have filed for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) on or before October 31, 1991, but must have applied for asylum on or before February 16, 1996.

To meet eligibility under NACARA, Migrants from Guatemala must have entered the United States for the first time on or before October 1, 1990, must have registered for ABC benefits on or before December 31, 1991, applied for asylum on or before January 3, 1995, and may not have been apprehended and/or detained at the time of entry after December 19, 1990.

Migrants from either nationality must have registered for benefits under the settlement agreement established in American Baptist Church v. Thornburgh (ABC), a lawsuit that challenged former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) proper treatment of asylum process and adjudication. ABC registration forms must have been submitted before the INS, now known as U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Under the NACARA law, Migrants from the former Soviet-Bloc countries may be eligible if initial entry in the United States was on or before December 31, 1990, and an asylum claim was filed on or before December 31, 1991.

All eligible Migrants must be cautious when filing a NACARA application with either USCIS or the EOIR. If a Migrant from either El Salvador or Guatemala filed an asylum application by April 1, 1990, and in rare occasion an adjudication remains pending by USCIS, the Migrant may proceed to file Form I881, Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal, with USCIS. However, if the Migrant was ordered removed and remained in the United States, NACARA filings must be made before an Immigration Judge unless a Motion to Reopen is granted and proceedings are administratively closed under the ABC settlement agreement. The Migrant must generally use Form EOIR-40, Application for Suspension of Deportation, if currently under deportation proceeding or Form EOIR-42B, Application for Cancellation of Removal and Adjustment of Status for Certain Nonpermanent Residents, if currently under removal proceedings.

When eligible to file with USCIS, the application must be accompanied by supporting documentation that verifies the Migrant’s nationality, date of entry, 7-year continuous physical presence, and good moral character. Additionally, the Migrant may be required to provide evidence of extreme hardship incurred by qualifying family members should the Migrant face removal and has been convicted of an aggravated felony. USCIS will issue a Receipt Notice to confirm receipt of application and its processing. USCIS will then issue an Application Support Center (ASC) appointment notice detailing the date and time the Migrant should attend a biometric appointment. USCIS performs a routine background check to verify any criminal conviction concerns. Upon a thorough review by USCIS, an Interview Notice will be provided. The Migrant must prepare and attend the interview before an asylum officer who has authority to adjudicate a NACARA application.

Benefits

A Migrant who is eligible for NACARA under section 203, is generally granted suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal while continuing to reside in the United States. At the interview phase with USCIS, the Migrant will be required to attest and sign an admission document that verifies not having lawful status in the United States. Generally, this final step grants the Migrant lawful permanent resident status in the United States and generates the production of a green card.

The Migrant may also become eligible to apply for an employment authorization document (EAD) and a social security number pursuant to a pending application for suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal under NACARA section 203. The Migrant may choose to simultaneously apply for an EAD with USCIS and pay the applicable EAD filing fees to be granted authorization to lawfully work in the United States.

Derivative Dependents

NACARA applications are treated independently and must be filed by each Migrant accordingly to the country’s requirements. However, the current NACARA law extends to qualifying family members, spouses and unmarried sons/daughters, of a NACARA recipient who already applied or is currently filing for suspension of deportation or special rule cancellation of removal. Unfortunately, if the unmarried son/daughter is over 21 years of age, additional requirements apply. The adult son or daughter must have entered the United States on or before October 1, 1990 or be under 21 years of age at the time the parent was granted NACARA status. Additionally, a Parent-Son/Daughter relationship must have existed at the time the parent was granted NACARA status.

Process Description

The NACARA process and timeframes vary depending on the agencies’ internal policies for handling NACARA applications. A NACARA case pending with USCIS may generally be processed and approved within 12 months, depending on various factors. Migrants may visit USCIS’ webpage and use USCIS tools and resources to obtain up-to-date case processing times. However, a NACARA case pending before EOIR may incur a significant wait time ranging from 2-4 years. Unfortunately, processing times vary state by states.

Unfavorable Circumstances

For some individuals, immigration is a complex process to navigate through due to the strict requirements and interpretation of the law. Past or present criminal history and/or previous immigration history related to prior deportations or failure to meet registration deadlines, may impact a NACARA decision. Currently, Migrants who apply for NACARA cannot have been convicted of an aggravated felony under immigration law.

As mentioned before, it is highly important for the Migrant to meet all NACARA requirements. Failure to meet entry date, registration dates, and good moral character may result in illegibility to apply for NACARA. It is recommended to consult with a licensed attorney and/or an accredited legal representative to confirm eligibility and to establish best course of action as some Migrants may currently be or face deportation or removal proceedings. A licensed attorney may be able to assess the Migrant’s circumstances accordingly to the law, immigration bars, and restrictions.

Relevant Links List

Name Description Website
USCIS Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal Website contains additional information regarding U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) NACARA eligibility under Section 203 of Public Law 105-100. https://www.uscis.gov/i-881
USCIS Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) 203: Eligibility to Apply with USCIS Website contains additional information regarding U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) NACARA eligibility. https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/asylum/nicaraguan-adjustment-and-central-american-relief-act-nacara-203-eligibility-to-apply-with-uscis
USCIS Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) 203: The Decision Making Process Website contains additional information regarding U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) NACARA decision making process under relief 203. https://www.uscis.gov/humanitarian/refugees-and-asylum/asylum/nicaraguan-adjustment-and-central-american-relief-act-nacara-203-the-decision-making-process

Citations

NACARA applications are processed and adjudicated under complex and strict eligibility requirements. Certain relevant laws and regulations are specified under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and/or U.S. Code. Some of the applicable laws and regulations include:

Citations List

Citations Description Section Title
8 CFR § 240.66 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) establishes regulations imposed by the Federal Government of the United States. Eligibility for Special Rule Cancellation of Removal
8 CFR § 1003.43 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) establishes regulations imposed by the Federal Government of the United States. Motions to Reopen for Suspension of Deportation and Cancellation of Removal Pursuant to Section 203(c) of NACARA and section 1505(c) of the LIFE Act Amendments
8 CFR § 240.61 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) establishes regulations imposed by the Federal Government of the United States. Applicability

Forms

Related Forms List

Name Description No. Fee
Application for Employment Authorization An Application for Employment Authorization form should be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the purpose of the Migrant Spouse to obtain an employment authorization document. The filing fee may be waived if it's an initial request under adjustment of status). I-765 $410
Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal An Application for Suspension of Deportation or Special Rule Cancellation of Removal should be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) if eligible under NACARA. I-881 $285

Supporting Documents

A NACARA application must generally be accompanied by documentation in support of Migrant’s nationality, date of entry, 7-year continuous physical presence, and good moral character. Additionally, the Migrant must generally provide evidence of extreme hardship incurred by immediate family members of lawful status should Migrant face removal from the United States. Some of the required supporting documentation may include:

Supporting Documents List

Name Description
Evidence of ABC Benefits Registrations
Evidence of Continuous Presence in the US
Evidence of Country Conditions
Evidence of Extreme Hardship
Evidence of Previously Filed Petitions
Evidence of U.S. Admission
Passport-Style Photographs Passport-styles photographs must comply with USCIS' requirements related to sizing, position, and color.
Personal Documentation Personal documentation must be submitted to verify the Sponsor's and Migrant's identity. Personal documentation includes birth certificates, passport biographical pages, identification IDs. All documentation must be in compliance with the U.S. Department of State - Bureau of Consular Affairs which requirements vary by country.