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Return to NACARA 203

NACARA 203: The Decision-Making Process (Fingerprinting, Interview, Receipt of Decision)

What happens after I file my application with the USCIS?

After you file a Form I-881 with the USCIS, you will receive in the mail a notice acknowledging that the USCIS has received your application.  You will later receive in the mail a notice with an appointment date for you to have your fingerprints taken at an Application Support Center (ASC).  Because many applications are still pending, most NACARA applicants are no longer immediately scheduled for fingerprinting appointments upon the filing of the NACARA application.  Therefore, you may experience a delay between the time you submit your NACARA application and the time you receive a fingerprinting appointment notice.   Once your fingerprints have been taken, your fingerprints will be sent to the FBI for a background check.  You will not be scheduled for an interview with an asylum officer until the background check is complete.  If you have a pending asylum application with the USCIS, you should be prepared to answer questions about both your NACARA and asylum applications at the interview.

Will I need to get fingerprinted?

Every applicant who is 14 years of age or older must be fingerprinted to apply for relief under NACARA 203.

Once your fingerprints have been taken, they will be sent to the FBI for a background check. The procedures for having your fingerprints taken are described on our Fingerprints page.

If you are 14 years old or older, the USCIS will schedule you for an interview with an asylum officer only after the background check by the FBI is completed.

When will I receive my notice to have my fingerprints taken?

Individuals whose NACARA applications were received by the Service Center before July 2000 should have already received a notice to go to an Application Support Center (ASC) for fingerprinting.  If you believe your NACARA application was received by a Service Center before July 2000 and you have not received a fingerprint notice, you should submit a request to be scheduled for fingerprints, in writing, to the mailing address of the Asylum Office listed on the receipt notice showing you filed an I-881. 

In July 2000, the INS (now USCIS) stopped automatically scheduling fingerprint appointments for individuals upon the filing of a NACARA application, with certain exceptions, to prevent the expiration of the FBI fingerprint check responses before the date of the NACARA interviews.  The FBI response regarding an applicant's background expires 15 months after the review of the fingerprints by the FBI.  The USCIS cannot grant NACARA relief to an individual if the fingerprint response from the FBI has expired.  Therefore, the USCIS currently schedules a limited number of NACARA applicants for fingerprinting appointments based on the projected number of interviews each Asylum Office will conduct each year.  Additionally, the USCIS makes every effort to schedule for a fingerprinting appointment any applicant who has a child who will turn 21 years old within the next year and the child entered the United States after October 1, 1990. (See What if I need an expedited interview and have not had my fingerprints taken?.) Upon the filing of a NACARA application, the USCIS will automatically schedule an individual for fingerprints if the individual has a dependent aged 20 on his or her pending asylum application.

What if I need an expedited interview and have not had my fingerprints taken?

The USCIS is aware that, in certain very limited circumstances, there may be compelling reasons an individual would want to expedite the fingerprinting process. One reason for requesting expedited scheduling for a fingerprinting appointment may be the approaching 21st birthday of a NACARA applicant's child in the United States. A child who is not independently eligible to apply for NACARA 203 relief and is only eligible to apply for NACARA 203 relief as a qualified family member will also be required to show that he or she entered the United States on or before October 1, 1990, unless the parent is granted NACARA 203 relief before the child turns 21. Click here for information on eligibility to apply as a qualified family member.

The USCIS will schedule an individual for fingerprints if the USCIS discovers the individual has a child who will turn 21 years old within the next year and the child entered the United States after October 1, 1990.  If you have not been scheduled for fingerprinting, you have a child in the United States who will turn 21 years old within the next year, and the child did not enter the United States before October 1, 1990, you should submit a request to be scheduled for fingerprints, in writing, to the mailing address of the Asylum Office listed on the receipt notice showing you filed an I-881.  You should explain in your request to be fingerprinted that your child in the United States will turn 21 within the next year.

When will I be scheduled for an interview?

The USCIS cannot provide a specific time period when you will be scheduled for interview.  The USCIS gives priority scheduling to individuals who have children in the United States who entered the United States after October 1, 1990 and who will turn 21 within a year.  This is to prevent them from losing eligibility to apply because they turn 21 before their parents' applications are decided.  The USCIS is also making every effort to schedule individuals who have already been fingerprinted in connection with filing of a NACARA 203 application and the USCIS has received a response on those fingerprints.  Of those individuals who have been fingerprinted and a response has been received, the USCIS generally schedules interviews in order of the submission date of the I-881.  Due to a backlog of NACARA 203 applications, you may experience a delay between the time you file your application and the time you are scheduled for an interview.  Also, if you live in an area where the USCIS Asylum Office does not have permanent staff on location it may take longer to be scheduled for your interview.   The USCIS is working on increasing its resources to decrease the amount of time NACARA 203 applicants must wait to have their applications decided.

Is it possible to ask the USCIS to expedite the scheduling of my NACARA request for interview?

The USCIS understands that, in certain very limited circumstances, there may be compelling reasons for an applicant to request to expedite the scheduling of an individual's NACARA and/or asylum interview.  Requests should be submitted in writing to the Asylum Office that has jurisdiction over your application.  The Asylum Office's mailing address is listed on the receipt notice you receive after you file your I-881 with the Service Center.   The request should outline the reasons why you believe that an expedited interview is necessary. 

Children Turning 21 Years Old: One reason for requesting expedited scheduling may be the approaching 21st birthday of an asylum/NACARA applicant's child in the United States.  A child who turns 21 can no longer be included as a dependent on his or her parent's asylum application.  A child who is not independently eligible to apply for NACARA 203 relief and is only eligible to apply for NACARA 203 relief as a qualified family member will also be required to show that he or she entered the United States on or before October 1, 1990, unless the parent is granted NACARA 203 relief before the child turns 21. Click here for information on eligibility to apply as a qualified family member

Once I receive my interview notice, what preparations must I make for appearing at my interview?

If you have both a pending asylum application and NACARA application with the USCIS, you should be prepared to answer questions about both your NACARA and asylum applications at the interview.

If you have included dependent family members on your asylum application, those family members must come with you to the interview.

You are entitled to bring an attorney or accredited representative with you to your interview with the asylum officer at your own expense.

If you do not feel comfortable speaking in English, you must bring an interpreter who is fluent in English and your native language.  The cost of the interpretation is also at your own expense.  The interpreter must be at least 18 years of age and cannot be your attorney or representative or a witness testifying on your behalf.  If you also have an asylum application pending, the interpreter cannot be a representative or employee of your home country.

In order to receive your decision as quickly as possible after the interview, please be prepared to give the asylum officer any documents needed to establish eligibility to be granted relief under section 203 of NACARA.  Such documents may include:

  • proof of your relationship to family members (marriage/birth certificates); 

  • proof that you have filed income taxes during the seven years of continuous physical presence;

  • proof of hardships you and/or your family members would suffer if you are removed from the United States; and

  • court disposition documents related to any past criminal proceedings or serious traffic violations. 

You should also bring any passport, travel documents, and other forms of identification with you.  If you have a valid passport and the USCIS approves your NACARA application, your passport will be stamped with temporary evidence of your lawful permanent resident status.

What if I can't go to my scheduled interview?

If you cannot make it to your scheduled interview, it is very important that you contact the USCIS before your scheduled interview date.

You can do so by noting the reason on your interview notice, signing the notice, and mailing the notice to the asylum office where your interview is scheduled, or you may send a written request to reschedule.  Rescheduling is permitted only once without a reasonable excuse for rescheduling if the request to reschedule is received at least 2 days before the scheduled interview date.  Other requests to reschedule an interview, including those submitted after the interview date, may be granted if you provide a reasonable excuse for not appearing.

If you fail to go to your interview, without notifying the USCIS, you must provide a reasonable excuse as soon as possible following the scheduled interview date.  If you do not do so, your NACARA application may be dismissed or referred to an immigration judge, and any asylum request you have pending with the USCIS may be denied or closed, unless you show compelling circumstances for the delay in providing a reasonable excuse.

It is not possible to reschedule by phone.  All rescheduling requests must be made in writing to the USCIS asylum office that scheduled your interview.

To avoid scheduling difficulties you should always notify the USCIS of all changes in address.  You should submit the change of address to the Asylum Office that has jurisdiction over your application.  The law requires you to notify the USCIS within 10 days of your change of address.

What will my interview be like?

The interview will be conducted in a non-adversarial manner; it is not a court hearing.  Your attorney or accredited representative may be allowed to make a statement in support of your case at the end of the interview. 

If you have both a NACARA and asylum application pending with the USCIS, you will normally be interviewed on your NACARA application first.  If you are granted NACARA relief after the NACARA interview, you will then be given the option to continue with an asylum interview or to withdraw your asylum application.  In order to make this decision, you may wish to talk with someone experienced with immigration matters, prior to the interview to help you decide what to do.

When will I be told of the decision on my NACARA application by the USCIS?

You may be told the decision on the day of your interview.  If the USCIS does not tell you the decision on the day of your interview, the USCIS will either ask you to return to the asylum office to receive the decision at a later date, or you will be sent the decision by mail.

If I am told that I am eligible to have my NACARA application approved, will I be required to do or say anything else before being granted lawful permanent resident status?

Yes.  After you are told that the USCIS intends to approve your NACARA application, you will be asked to sign a document in which you admit that you are inadmissible or deportable.  This is necessary because the USCIS cannot approve your NACARA application until it is determined that you are inadmissible or deportable.  Once you sign this admission document, your NACARA application can be approved, and the USCIS will grant you lawful permanent resident status.

If I sign the admission of inadmissibility or deportability, what am I admitting? 

You are admitting that you have taken actions that make you inadmissible or deportable under United States' immigration law.  For example, if you entered the United States illegally or overstayed your non-immigrant visa, you are subject to a ground of inadmissibility or deportability under U.S. immigration law.   Even if you presently have a work authorization card and a pending asylum application, you may still be inadmissible or deportable.  The USCIS will only ask you to sign the admission document if the USCIS is going to approve your NACARA application and grant you lawful permanent resident status.

What will happen if I do not sign the document admitting that I am inadmissible or deportable?

If you do not sign the admission document, the USCIS will not be able to grant your NACARA application.  In most cases, your application will be referred to an immigration judge for a decision.  You may wish to consult with an attorney or representative before your interview if you have any concerns about signing a document in which you admit that you are inadmissible or deportable.

What will happen if my NACARA application is approved by the USCIS?

If the USCIS approves your NACARA application, you will be granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States.  If your NACARA application is approved on the day of your interview, the Asylum Office will immediately give you temporary evidence of your lawful permanent resident status, and the USCIS will later send you a Permanent Resident Card (commonly known as a "green card") by mail.  If your NACARA application is approved sometime after the day of interview, you will receive temporary evidence of your lawful permanent resident status either when you return to the asylum office to receive the decision or by mail.

If my NACARA application is approved, what will happen to my asylum application?

Even if your NACARA application is approved, you are still eligible under the law to seek asylum in the United States.  Once your NACARA application is approved, you will be asked whether you want to continue to seek asylum in the United States or withdraw your asylum application.

What are the possible reasons for wanting to continue with my asylum claim if my NACARA application is approved and I am granted permanent resident status?

Under United States law, any alien present in the United States is permitted to apply for asylum regardless of the alien's status.  A NACARA beneficiary may want to pursue an asylum application because a grant of asylum permits a dependent spouse or unmarried child under the age of 21 who is included in the asylum application to be granted asylum.  If the spouse or unmarried child is not included in the asylum application or is outside the United States at the time the application is approved, the applicant may petition to give such dependents derivative asylum status.  Upon approval of the petition, those dependent(s) residing outside the United States may then be allowed to join the applicant in the United States.  There may also be certain public assistance benefits that are available based on an approved asylum application. You may wish to consult with an attorney or representative before your interview if you have any concerns about withdrawing an asylum application.

What happens if the USCIS determines that I am not eligible for NACARA 203 relief?

When the USCIS interviews you regarding your NACARA eligibility, you will also be interviewed regarding your eligibility for asylum if you have an asylum application pending with the USCIS.  If the USCIS cannot grant NACARA relief and your asylum application is approved, your NACARA application will be dismissed.  If the USCIS cannot grant your NACARA application and your asylum application is not approved, or you did not have a pending asylum application with the USCIS, your NACARA application will be sent to the Immigration Court in most instances.  The USCIS does not have authority to deny an application for relief under NACARA.  Therefore, if the USCIS cannot approve your application and you appear inadmissible or deportable, your NACARA application will be sent to the Immigration Court for an immigration judge to decide whether you are eligible for NACARA 203 relief.

Return to NACARA 203

 
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