245i Protection for Undocumented Immigrants

What Is Section 245i of the Immigration and Nationality Act?


Section 245i refers to section 245 and subsection (i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, INA. Section 245i is part of immigration law that allows certain undocumented immigrants the opportunity to obtain lawful permanent residence status and a green card.

In order to qualify for the INA Section 245i adjustment, applicants must have had a labor certification application or an immigrant visa petition filed on or before April 30, 2001. 245i adjustments may affect those with an H1B visa or those looking for an H1B extension.

Why Was INA Section 245i Created?

The INA Section 245i was created by Congress in 1952 as part of the initial Immigration and Nationality Act. This Act provides certain individuals that were admitted to the United States as nonimmigrants, like international students or temporary workers, the option to adjust their status to permanent lawful status without having to leave the country and reenter it. This applies as long as they are eligible for a green card and that one is available. Anyone already living in the U.S. could stay with family and continue their education or work while they finish their adjustment of status.

Initially, anyone lawfully admitted or paroled into the United States while maintaining lawful status could adjust that status under Section 245. However, in 1994 Congress passed section (i), which extended the eligibility to certain undocumented individuals that were not lawfully admitted into the country, did not have employment authorization, or did not have lawful status at the time of application, as long as a valid petition was filed on their behalf before the deadline.

When the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act was created in 1996, Section 245i protected individuals that would have been penalized by this Act. This Act was designed to impose penalties on anyone that was in the U.S. without authorization and barred them from reentering the U.S. after departing. Once this Act was passed, the reentry bans made immigrants wary of leaving and attempting to reenter with a lawful status. Section 245i, however, protected anyone from having to legally leave and reenter the U.S. to obtain their green card and would also prevent any reentry bans.

What Is the LIFE Act?

The Legal Immigration Family Equity, LIFE, Act was enacted on December 21, 2000. It required any applicants filing for the 245i to be present in the United States upon filing, and any filing must be submitted by the April 30, 2001 deadline.

In 1994, the law created Section 245i as a temporary process. During this time, only applicants with an immigrant petition submitted and approved by October 1, 1997, could apply for adjustment of status under this law. After that, Congress extended the filing deadlines multiple times.

Congress made Section 245i permanent in 1998 and created new filing deadlines for anyone with an immigrant visa petition or labor certification filed before January 14, 1998.

When the LIFE Act changed the filing date to April 30, 2001, this allowed many immigrants that may have otherwise not been eligible to file an adjustment of status the opportunity to file as long as they were physically present in the United States on December 21, 2000. Since then, Congress has not adjusted the date again.

How Does INA 245i Work for Immigrants?

Any immigrants with unlawful immigration status could apply for a green card as long as a family or employment-based petition was filed on their behalf before April 30, 2001.

How to Qualify for INA 245i

INA 245i

In order to qualify for adjustment of status under 245i, the following requirements must be met:

  • The applicant was physically present in the U.S. on December 21, 2000
  • The applicant is the principal beneficiary of an immigrant petition or application filed before April 30, 2001. Or was previously approved for but had not yet submitted to the USCIS and was pending before that date.
  • The applicant has a valid family or employment-based application or petition.
  • The applicant does not have any bars to adjustment, like being unlawfully present in the U.S. prior to the adjustment.
  • The adjustment of status application was filed by December 21, 2000, or by April 30, 2001, if it had not been filed yet.

Any applicants that meet the above criteria are eligible for adjustment of status. In some cases, applicants may still not be able to file for adjustment even if the above criteria were met. Anyone that has committed a crime or violated any immigration law will not be able to file for an adjustment.

Who Is Eligible for Adjustment of Status Under INA 245i?

In order to be eligible for adjustment status, undocumented immigrants may receive a green card as long as their family or employment-based petition was filed on their behalf before April 30, 2001. The applicant must also be the beneficiary of the immigrant petition and present in the United States upon filing.

Currently, no one is eligible to apply for a green card under Section 245i unless you had a family member or employer file a visa petition or labor certification on their behalf before April 30, 2001.

What Are the Benefits of INA Section 245i?

Section 245i provides many benefits for many unauthorized immigrants. Applicants have the opportunity to start fresh by allowing them to file an adjustment of status and obtain a green card no matter how they entered the U.S., whether they worked without prior authorization or failed to maintain lawful status. Some benefits of INA Section 245i are:

  • The ability to gain lawful employment status and legal wages. Applicants that receive Section 245i adjustment can qualify for more job opportunities and provide for themselves and their families.
  • In some situations, an adjustment of status allows eligible immigrants access to social security benefits like retirement or disability payments.
  • Anyone with adjustment status can travel abroad and return to the U.S. without fear of being denied due to immigration status.
  • An adjustment of status also makes it easier for individuals to bring family members to the U.S.
  • Under Section 245i, anyone that gained lawful permanent resident status can be protected against deportation proceedings.

How Much Does INA Section 245i Cost?

Filing for adjustment status under INA Section 245i costs $1,000 for yourself and an additional $1,000 per family member unless the child is under the age of 14, which has a lowered fee.

What Would Happen if Congress Amended INA Section 245i?

INA section 245i protection

If Congress were to update Section 245i, it could provide millions of undocumented immigrants the chance to become lawful permanent residents. Most of these immigrants already live in the United States and have been contributing to their societies, paying taxes, and supporting their families. Updating Section 245i would also ensure that these immigrants would be able to keep their families together and give them the safety and security that comes with becoming a permanent resident.

If Congress were able to eliminate the filing deadlines completely, there would be no need for future updates to Section 245i. This could give undocumented immigrants the opportunity to adjust their status with a qualifying petition as long as they paid the penalty and met all other requirements.

There have been motions in Congress to update Section 245i. In May 2021, Senator Catherine Cortez-Masto (D-Nevada) revived the Fairness for Immigrant Families Act which would extend the filing deadline from April 2001 to five years following the establishment of the Fairness for Immigrant Families Act. So if the Act had been enacted in 2021 when Senator Cortez-Masto reintroduced it, it would have extended the filing deadline to a specific date in 2026. Unfortunately, in September 2021, the Senate notified Congressional Democrats that immigration reform would not be allowed in the budget bill.

Do You Need an Immigration Attorney for Your Case?

The adjustment of status process can be complicated, so it’s recommended to seek legal representation from an experienced immigration attorney in Phoenix. Hiring an immigration attorney can help make sure that you have all the proper documentation and guide you through the process. There are many laws and regulations one must follow when filing an immigrant petition, and when the adjustment of status gets added into the mix, it can make an already complex process an even more difficult one.

When you hire the Phoenix immigration lawyers at the Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, you know you’re in good hands. For years we’ve helped families through the immigration process and understand the complex laws that accompany it.

Contact the Phoenix Immigration Attorneys at YMLG Today

If you had a family member or employer file a petition on your behalf by April 30, 2001, you could be eligible for an adjustment of status. At the Ybarra Maldonado Law Group, we’ve had years of success handling family immigration petitions, and with our vast knowledge of immigration law, we can help you as well. Our goal is to help immigrant families gain their citizenship and understand their legal rights here in the United States. To learn more about the cases we handle or to schedule a consultation, call our offices at 602-910-4040 or submit an online form.


Ray A. Ybarra Maldonado, Esq.

Founder & Principal Attorney
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Brett Turley, Esq.

Senior Criminal Defense Associate Attorney
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Zachary William Rivera Weiss

Immigration Attorney
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