There are a lot of different ways to immigrate to the United States, but not all of them give people the opportunity to apply for citizenship one day. A new rule will make it much easier for one group of immigrants to get on that path. Liberians who have temporary legal status can now apply for U.S. permanent residency.
Between 1989 and 2003, thousands of Liberian citizens living through their country’s civil war sought refuge in America, including Louisiana. These individuals were given temporary legal status under the Deferred Enforced Departure — DED — program. That program is set to end on March 30, 2020, but there are around 4,000 people from Liberia who are still living and working with DED protection.
Many of these Liberian immigrants took it upon themselves to lobby Congress so they could stay in the country legally. They pointed out that the country they left is no longer recognizable and has still not fully recovered from the civil war. Ending their DED protection even seemed like discrimination based on their national origin and race.
A recently passed provision allows Liberians with DED status who have lived in America since at least Nov. 2014 to apply for green cards. Their spouses and unmarried children can also apply for green cards. The public charge test will not apply to this group either, and they cannot be denied if the government thinks they will need any type of assistance in the future. Those who are eligible can apply for citizenship after having a green card for five years.
Finding the right path to citizenship can take time. Most visas are only applicable in very specific situations, and the rules for who can and who cannot apply for U.S. permanent residency may not always seem to make sense. This is one of the reasons why many immigrants living in Louisiana talk with experienced attorneys about their options before submitting applications and paperwork.