Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Program Allows Those Who Held DED Status Since 2014 to Apply for Green Cards

Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIF) allows certain Liberians with DED and living in the U.S. to apply for permanent residency (a green card).

** LEGAL UPDATE **

Thousands of people from the West African nation of Liberia have been living in the U.S. for years with a legal status known as Deferred Enforced Departure or DED, and before that, Temporary Protected Status (TPS). It all began with a brutal civil war in Liberia in the 1990s, and then more recently a major Ebola outbreak, all of which led to the U.S.'s ongoing recognition that it would be unsafe for Liberians living in the U.S. then to return home.

However, because TPS and DED are only temporary benefits meant to stave off deportation, the Liberian community has had to rely on regular renewals, and recently faced fear of being uprooted after President Trump declared that their DED designation would soon be terminated.

In light of that, members of Congress introduced what's known as the Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (LRIF), with the idea of allowing certain Liberians in this situation to apply for lawful permanent residency (green cards) and provide them with a pathway to citizenship. The Act passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020, and was signed into law.

For a Liberian national to be eligible for a green card under LRIF, he or she must have been continuously physically present in the United States from November 20, 2014 up to the date he or she submits an application for adjustment of status. The person must be otherwise eligible for an immigrant visa and be admissible to the United States.

Immediate family members, including spouses, unmarried children under 21, and unmarried sons and daughters 21 or older of eligible Liberian nationals are also eligible for green cards under this new law. Each one will need to file a separate application, but at the same time as the main applicant.

One of the most unusual features of this program is that it can be used even by Liberians with an outstanding order of deportation or removal. There's no need to ask the court to reopen the case. You would go straight to USCIS to apply, and if you're approved, USCIS will take care of canceling the removal order. (See January 13, 2020 EOIR Order.)

As an added benefit, some of the grounds of inadmissibility that can block other applicants' eligibility for permanent residence are being waived for LRIF applicants, including:

  • public charge (or likelihood of receiving need-based public assistance, under I.N.A. § 212(a)(4))
  • labor certification requirements (only applicable to employment-based applicants, per I.N.A. § 212(a)(5));
  • aliens present without admission or parole (referring to the mode of one's U.S. entry, per I.N.A. § 212(a)(6)(A)), and
  • documentation requirements (I.N.A. § 212(a)(7)(A).

On the other hand, the law imposes some bars to eligibility. Applicants are ineligible for a LRIF green card if they have:

  • been convicted of any aggravated felony
  • been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense), or
  • ordered, incited, assisted or otherwise participated in the persecution of any person on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion.

There are deadlines on getting your LRIF application together. USCIS originally planned to stop accepting LRIF applications on December 20, 2020. Subsequently, however, Trump extended the application deadline to December 20, 2021.

What's more, newly inaugurated President Joe Biden issued an executive order extending Liberian DED status through through June 30, 2022.

See How to Prepare and Send Adjustment of Status Application to USCIS for more information on filling out Form I-485 and preparing supporting documents. In Part 2 Item 1.g of the form, choose "Other Eligibility" and in the text box, write "LRIF."

Because of the continuous physical presence requirement, you'll need to submit a copy of the page in your passport showing admission to the U.S. or a grant of parole plus any entries to or exits from the United States, as well as a list of such trips, including the dates. You'll also need to submit evidence of the time spent within the United States.

Also include proof that you're a Liberian national. Ideally, this would be an unexpired Liberian passport or certificate of naturalization.

You'll probably also want to include in your application package an I-765 form for a work permit while awaiting your adjustment interview (in Part 2, Item 27, enter (c)(9) as your eligibility category), plus an I-131 for "Advance Parole" if you'd like to travel while awaiting your adjustment interview.

More information about how to file for a green card (adjustment of status) and what evidence to submit under the LRIF program is available from USCIS and in its Policy Manual in Volume 7, Part P, Chapter 5. Applications are being accepted immediately.

Effective Date: December 20, 2019