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The Cuban Adjustment Act Explained

June 27, 2016 | Posted In Immigration

Cuba has been in the news quite a bit lately, as President Barack Obama has worked to normalize relations with the country. Lawmakers have also been considering changing the Cuban Adjustment Act, as tens of thousands of Cubans have streamed into the United States to take advantage of special status provided by this Act. 

As the relationship between the U.S. and Cuba changes, it is important for anyone considering immigrating from Cuba to understand exactly what the Cuban Adjustment Act is, why it exists, and how to receive benefits under the Act. A New Jersey immigration lawyer can help.

What is the Cuban Adjustment Act?

The Cuban Adjustment Act was first passed in 1966 and signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson.  The Act was enacted to provide relief to around 300,000 Cubans who had fled to the United States in response to the socialist revolution spearheaded by Fidel Castro.  The Act remains in effect to this day, and establishes a special procedure for Cuban natives, citizens and their families to get permanent residence in the United States.

Permanent residence, or a green card, is available to Cuban natives and citizens if they have been admitted to the United States (or have been paroled), are admissible as immigrants, and they have been present within the United States for at least a year.  Arriving at a place other than an official sanctioned point of entry does not disqualify a Cuban native or citizen from becoming a permanent resident, provided they meet the other criteria.

Because of the Cuban Adjustment Act, there is no fear of deportation for anyone who comes from Cuba. Refugee assistance and welfare benefits, including housing and food stamps, become available immediately.

Cuban refugees are also not required to be the beneficiary of an immigrant visa petition, and they are not required to meet ordinary requirements established by Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Caps on immigration also do not apply to Cubans seeking a green card.

All of the special rules mean that any person from Cuba who wants to become a permanent resident of the United States can do so much more quickly and easily than people coming from other locations.  The key requirement is that the person actually arrived on dry land from Cuba. 

Under a 1995 Amendment to the Cuban Adjustment Act, this means being on the U.S. Shore. A Cuban migrant apprehended in the water between the U.S. and Cuba can be sent home. The 1995 Amendment establishing this rule is sometimes called the “wet-foot, dry-foot” policy.

While this special status can make it much easier for Cuban immigrants to get legal status and citizenship compared with people from other countries, changes to the law may occur in the future now that relations are normalizing and it has become easier for Cubans to travel to the United States.

A skilled immigration attorney at Helmer, Conley, and Kasselman, PA can help Cubans take advantage of immigration opportunities before any changes to the Cuban Adjustment Act are made, and can keep migrants updated on possible modifications to Cuban immigration policy. Contact us today to discuss your situation.

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