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Update On Adjustment For Indochinese Parolees

by John T. Combs, Esq.

At long last, CIS is beginning to process the applications for adjustment of status applications filed by Indochinese parolees under the provisions of Section 586 of Public Law 106-429, the Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2001, signed by President Clinton on November 6, 2000. This law provides opportunities for parolees from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos to adjust their status and have their permanent residency back dated to the date of their entry into the U.S. Final regulations implementing the law were published in the Federal Register on December 26, 2002 and the three year application period opened up on January 27, 2003. The regulations are now found at 8 CFR 245.21

The law provided for a cap of 5,000 adjustments under the provision. Within weeks of the application period opening, more than 7,000 applications were filed. Currently more than 8,000 applications have been received by the CIS and for the time being, CIS is continuing to accept such applications. Congress noted that the potential beneficiaries of the law are a fixed number of individuals who were lawfully admitted into the United States. Though the conference agreement included a ceiling on the number of aliens who may benefit from the law, Congress noted that the 5,000 cap may need to be revised in the future to ensure that no eligible alien is arbitrarily denied adjustment of status. Efforts are now underway by advocacy groups to have the cap removed or substantially increased.

As of mid-April 2004, not a single adjustment application filed under Sec. 586 had been adjudicated by CIS and current backlogs indicated the wait could extend several more years. Advocates continued to pressure CIS for prioritization of the applications since many or the parolees had been stuck in such status since the early 1990's and were unable to move forward in their lives with the uncertainty of parole status. Finally, in early April 2004, CIS agreed to consider prioritization of the cases and invited submission of arguments or material in support of the prioritization. Advocates presented their arguments and in late April 2004, CIS Operations and the Nebraska Service Center agreed to adjudicate the Indochinese Parolee adjustment applications to the largest extent possible this fiscal year. On May 5, 2004 approvals began to be sent out by the Nebraska Service Center.

The classification code for such approvals is ID-6 which mystified many of the local district offices when applicants appeared to provide their press print because it did not appear in any of their instructions. Hopefully, by the time the actual I-551 cards are produced, information on this category will have been disseminated so that the cards will reflect the proper start date of residency which is the date of inspection and entry as a parolee. Until such cards reflecting the actual start date of residency are received, difficulties may be expected in the filing of N-400s and it is suggested that the I-797 reflecting the ID-6 classification along with a copy of the regulation at 8 CFR 245.21(j) be submitted to evidence the required time as a resident.

The primary beneficiaries under Sec. 586 will be from among the approximate 20,000 Public Interest Parolees from Vietnam who have still not been able to adjust their status. After an examination of the then current refugee/immigration policies in both Southeast Asia and the former Soviet Union in late 1988 and early 1989, the refugee "pipeline" was closed and these individuals who would have previously been admitted as refugees began to be "paroled" into the U.S., a status that many of them still find themselves in today.

The "Lautenberg Amendment" was passed in late 1989 (Sec. 599D and E of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act, Public Law 101 - 167, codified as 8 USC 1255). It provided for the adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence for nationals of Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia and the former Soviet Union if they were paroled in to the U.S. during the period August 15, 1988 through September 30, 2000 (as extended), after being denied refugee status.

Originally, the INS policy announced in September, 1990, held that all parolees processed in Ho Chi Minh City ( formerly Saigon), were presumed eligible for adjustment of status under the Amendment. However, despite clear identification of these individuals in the Lautenberg Amendment legislative history, a later INS policy memo dated March, 1993, eliminated most of these individuals' ability to adjust status and obtain permanent residency under the Amendment by requiring that for those individuals paroled after April 1, 1991, a denied INS Form I-590 (Registration for Classification as Refugee) be in the file to demonstrate that they had been denied refugee status. Other substantively identical but differently numbered "Orderly Departure Program" forms were generally used to collect such information so most of the parolees from Vietnam have been waiting for over a decade for some opportunity to adjust status. It appears that day has finally come.

About The Author

John T. Combs is a partner at Stern & Elkind, 650 S. Cherry Street, Suite 900 Denver, CO 80246. He regularly updates a guide for AILA members on visa processing practices at the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. John T. Combs can be reached via email:, (Ph) 303-692-0111 or (Fax) 303-692-0505.

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.