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Cuban immigrants are subject to special green card law

With the relationship between the United States and Cuba beginning to thaw, one of the implications could be changes to the American immigration policy toward Cuban citizens looking to live in the U.S. permanently. Currently, the ability for Cuban nationals to gain green card status in the U.S. is governed by the Cuban Adjustment Act of 1996.

Under the Act, Cuban natives or citizens can receive green card status from the U.S. Attorney General if:

  • The applicant has been in the U.S. for at least one year
  • They have been admitted or paroled into the U.S., and
  • They are admissible as an immigrant

Under the terms of the original CAA, passed in 1966, the applicant needed to spend two years in the U.S. before being eligible for a green card.

One major difference for Cuban immigrants and those from other countries seeking permanent U.S. residency is how they arrived in the country. Under the CAA, it does not matter whether a Cuban native or citizen entered the U.S. through an open port of entry, so long as the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has paroled the individual into the country. Nor does being a “public charge” bar a Cuban immigrant from eligibility for permanent resident status.

Many Cuban immigrants arrive with family members who would like to continue to live with their spouse or parent. The law allows spouses and children of green card applicants under the CAA to also apply, with certain conditions. For instance, the familial relationship must continue until the dependent spouse or child receives a green card, and they must live with the green card applicant in the United States.

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