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180 Days In Immigration Law
by Sherry L. Neal

Around the World in 180 Days is the title of a well known book and yet, for some reason, Congress likes the 180-day mark in crafting immigration laws as well. Specifically, Congress has passed two bills in the last decade where the 180-day point serves as an important mark - in one bill it's a positive mark for foreign nationals but in the other bill it's a negative mark for foreign nationals.

The Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 created an anti-immigration provision for the 180-day point. Among other things, the Act bars a foreign national from re-entering the United States for a specified time if he stays in the U.S. 180 days longer than he is permitted to stay. For example, if a foreign national is in the United States on a visitor visa then once his status expires he begins to accrue "unlawful presence" in the United States. If he leaves the United States after he accrues 180 days of unlawful presence then he is prevented from re-entering the United States for three years.

The American Competitiveness in the Twenty-First Century Act of 2000 ("AC21") created a pro-immigration provision based upon a 180-day point. Specifically, the Act gives foreign nationals greater job flexibility in situations where their green card application has been pending for a lengthy period of time. Historically, any foreign national who changed job positions or employers while his green card application was pending would not be able to get the green card approval if the application was based upon his employment. Now, foreign nationals can change positions or employers 180 days after the final application is filed if the new position is in a "same or similar occupation."

Since immigration law is a political issue, it is apt to undergo continuous legislative changes in America. Undoubtedly, as Congress creates more laws they will refer back to their ever-popular 180-day point for future immigration provisions.

About The Author

Sherry L. Neal is an immigration attorney with Hammond & Associates, LLC in Cincinnati-Ohio. She can be reached at