Amnesty is defined as “an official pardon.” It is inaccurate to call any immigration relief for undocumented immigrants an amnesty. This is because the U.S. Congress always imposes certain conditions. Thus an ‘immigration amnesty’ is never a blanket pardon. There are mainly 4 ‘amnesty’ programs that were enacted in the U.S. since 1980:

  1. The Immigration Reform and Control Act was signed by President Ronald Reagan and enacted in November 1986. The act granted temporary legal status to any undocumented immigrants who had been living in the United States continuously since 1982 so long as they paid a $185 fee and could demonstrate good moral character. The act allowed undocumented immigrants to be eligible for permanent residence after 18 months, provided they had English language proficiency. This act became the largest U.S. legalization program in history, resulting in green cards being granted to about 2.7 million immigrants. Nevertheless, at least 2 million undocumented immigrants were ineligible for this relief.Form I-687 was originally used to apply for status as a Temporary Resident under the aforementioned “amnesty”. While the filing period ended in 1998, you may be eligible for this benefit if you satisfy the following eligibility requirements:
    • You can establish that you entered the U.S. before January 1, 1982; 
    • You can demonstrate that you have been continuously physically present in the U.S. since November 1986;
    • You can establish that you have resided continuously in the U.S. in an unlawful status since January 1, 1982;
    • You have not been convicted of any felony or of three or more misdemeanors committed in the U.S.
    • You are admissible to the U.S. as an immigrant except as otherwise provided by the Immigration and Nationality Act;
    • You have not assisted in the persecution of any persons on account of race, religion, nationality, etc.
  2. Immigration and Nationality Act, Section 245 (i) Amnesty was first ratified in 199, when Congress passed FY 1995 Commerce, Justice, State Appropriations bill. It was then extended to January 14,1998.
  3. Life Act Amnesty 2000 was passed by President Clinton who reinstated Section 245 (i) for four months from January to April 2001.
    You may by able to qualify for this provision; if you can establish that you are the beneficiary of a labor certification application (Form ETA 750) or immigrant visa petition (Forms I-130, Petition for Alien Relative or I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker) filed on or before April 30, 2001. In most cases, you must pay an additional $1,000 fee and complete Supplement A to Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  4. Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) was passed by Congress in 1997. Nicaraguans and Cubans who have lived in the U.S. illegally since 1995, along with their spouses and unmarried children, were automatically granted legal resident status under NACARA, as long as they apply by April 1, 2000
  5. Haitian Refugee Immigration and Fairness Act (HRIFA) was passed to benefit Haitians in the aftermath of NACARA. HRIFA grants permanent resident status to any Haitians who have been in the United States since December 1995, along with their spouses and children, as long as they apply before April 1, 2000. Although the filing period has closed for principal applicants, dependents of the principal filer may continue to apply for a green card under the HRIFA provisions.

Currently there are no bills up to vote in Congress for a possible Amnesty program