What is 212(c) relief and who is eligible for it?

Answer:

212(c) relief refers to a provision under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) that allows certain lawful permanent residents (LPRs) who have been found deportable due to criminal convictions to apply for a waiver of deportation. This form of relief is particularly important for individuals who have long-standing ties to the United States but face removal due to past criminal activity.

Key Points about 212(c) Relief:

  1. Historical Context:
    • Section 212(c) of the INA was originally created to provide relief to LPRs who faced exclusion (denial of entry) based on certain grounds of inadmissibility. Over time, it was extended to cover deportation cases as well.
  2. Eligibility Criteria:
    • To be eligible for 212(c) relief, an individual must:
      • Be a lawful permanent resident.
      • Have accrued at least seven years of lawful permanent residence in the U.S.
      • Not have served a prison term of five years or more for an aggravated felony.
    • The individual must also demonstrate that the positive factors in their favor outweigh the negative factors (such as criminal history).
  3. Positive Factors:
    • Positive factors that may be considered in favor of granting 212(c) relief include:
      • Long-term residence in the U.S.
      • Family ties to U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
      • Employment history and economic contribution.
      • Evidence of rehabilitation and good moral character.
      • Hardship to the individual or their family if deportation occurs.
  4. Negative Factors:
    • Negative factors that may weigh against granting relief include:
      • The seriousness and recency of the criminal conviction(s).
      • Evidence of repeated criminal behavior or lack of rehabilitation.
      • Potential harm to the community or public safety.
  5. Discretionary Nature:
    • 212(c) relief is discretionary, meaning that even if an individual meets the eligibility criteria, the immigration judge has the final say in whether to grant the waiver based on the overall balance of positive and negative factors.
  6. Legal Changes:
    • In 1996, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA) significantly restricted the availability of 212(c) relief. However, certain individuals whose criminal conduct occurred before the enactment of IIRIRA may still be eligible.

Application Process:

  1. Filing the Application:
    • To apply for 212(c) relief, the individual must submit a formal application during their removal proceedings. This involves presenting evidence and arguments that demonstrate eligibility and justify the grant of relief.
  2. Hearing Before an Immigration Judge:
    • The applicant will have a hearing before an immigration judge, where they can present their case, submit supporting evidence, and provide testimony. The judge will consider the application and make a decision based on the merits.

Importance of Legal Assistance:

Given the complexities involved in 212(c) relief applications and the need to present a compelling case, it is highly advisable to seek assistance from an experienced immigration attorney. An attorney can help gather the necessary evidence, prepare the application, and represent the individual in court.

For a more detailed explanation of 212(c) relief and guidance on eligibility, visit this comprehensive resource: Understanding 212(c) Eligibility: Relief from Deportation Explained.

Navigating the process effectively with professional legal support can significantly improve the chances of obtaining 212(c) relief and avoiding deportation.