Adjustment of Status Under Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness



On December 20, 2019, President Donald Trump signed Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness (LRIF) into law as part of larger budget legislation. Under LRIF, certain Liberian nationals and derivatives who have been continuously physically present in the United States since November 20, 2014, are eligible to apply for adjustment of status through December 20, 2020. Among other things, the program is designed to provide a path to permanent resident status for certain Liberian beneficiaries of Deferred Enforced Departure, which provided temporary relief to Liberians in 1999, and remains in effect through March 30, 2020 [PDF version].

In this article, we will examine the legislation underpinning LRIF and the program's requirements.

Resources and Materials

You may read the legislation codifying LRIF here: Sec. 7611. Liberian Refugee Immigration Fairness, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020, pages 1112-1115 [PDF version].

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a short guide to the LRIF eligibility and filing requirements [PDF version].

Who is Eligible for LRIF?

In order to be eligible for LRIF, the alien must, as an initial matter, fall within one of two categories. The first category requires the alien to be a Liberian national who has been continuously present in the United States from November 20, 2014, to the date on which he or she applies for adjustment of status under LRIF. If the alien has one or more absences from the United States totaling 180 days or more during the period for which he or she must establish continuous physical presence, he or she will be deemed to have failed to meet the requirement. It is important to note that multiple absences of less than 180 days are disqualifying if the alien was absent for more than 180 days total.

The second category depends on the first category. The spouse, child, or unmarried son or daughter of a Liberian national in the first category is eligible for adjustment under LRIF. An alien does not need to be a Liberian national in order to be eligible for adjustment under LRIF through his or her relationship to a qualifying Liberian national. However, he or she must have a relationship to a qualifying Liberian national, meaning that the Liberian national must meet the continuous presence requirement before filing for adjustment through LRIF.

An alien seeking to adjust status under LRIF must properly file his or her application for adjustment of status no later than December 20, 2020. No applications for adjustment under LRIF will be accepted after the deadline. Applications for adjustment of status are filed on the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status.

The statute provides that the Secretary of Homeland Security shall grant an application for adjustment of status under LRIF provided that the alien applies within the time limit, is otherwise eligible to receive an immigrant visa, and is admissible to the United States for permanent residence. The use of “shall” in the statute is noteworthy — indicating that provided that the alien establishes that he or she meets all the statutory criteria, the adjustment application will be granted.

Certain inadmissibility grounds do not apply for purposes of adjudicating adjustment of status applications under LRIF. The non-applicable grounds are as follows:

INA 212(a)(4) — Public Charge
INA 212(a)(5) — Labor Certification
INA 212(a)(6)(A) — Present in the United States without having been admitted or paroled
INA 212(a)(7)(A) — Documentation requirements

Aliens seeking adjustment under LRIF cannot be found to be ineligible on public charge grounds, for being present in the United States without having been admitted or paroled, or for not having proper documentation. All other inadmissibility grounds — including criminal-related grounds, still apply. Thus, with the exception of INA 212(a)(4), (a)(5), (a)(6)(A), and (a)(7)(A), the alien must establish that he or she is otherwise admissible and eligible for adjustment. An applicant who is inadmissible on other grounds may pursue a waiver of inadmissibility by filing the Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, and Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal. Whether an alien may be eligible for a waiver will depend on the inadmissibility ground in question and the facts of the particular case.

If it is determined that the alien has been convicted of an aggravated felony (INA 101(a)(43)), has been convicted of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense), or has 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, he or she will be ineligible for adjustment under LRIF. It is important to note that the statute provides no time bars for these three ineligible grounds. Thus, if the alien was convicted of an aggravated felony or of two or more crimes involving moral turpitude, he or she is ineligible for adjustment under LRIF regardless of when the convictions occurred. The final ineligibility ground, based on persecution, is less common, but could arise in a small number of cases.

Relationship to Other Proceedings

An alien who is removal, deportation, or exclusion proceedings and who files an application for adjustment of status under LRIF may not be removed while the application is pending. If the application is ultimately denied, however, the alien may then be removed from the United States.

Employment Authorization

Aliens with pending adjustment applications under LRIF may be granted employment authorization while the application is pending. In order to seek employment authorization, the applicant must file the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Until the application has been pending for 180 days, the decision to grant employment authorization is discretionary. If the application remains pending 180 days or more, the alien must be granted employment authorization.

Departure on Advance Parole

If the applicant wants to depart the United States after filing the Form I-485 adjustment application, he or she must seek advance permission in order for the application to not be deemed abandoned. An alien may seek advance permission in the form of advance parole by filing the Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.


Aliens whose applications for adjustment under LRIF may seek administrative review of the denial. However, the statute provides that courts have no jurisdiction to review the decision of the Secretary of Homeland Security to deny adjustment of status under LRIF (except if the claim is based on constitutional grounds).


Liberian nationals who may be eligible for LRIF should consult with an experienced immigration attorney immediately. LRIF may provide the best, and in some cases, only, path for eligible Liberians and their families to obtain permanent resident status in the United States. This is especially important for beneficiaries of deferred enforced departure for Liberians, which faces an uncertain future as it is slated to expire on March 30, 2020. An experienced attorney will be able to assess a potential client's case and determine whether he or she is eligible for adjustment under LRIF or benefits under a different provision of the INA.