Before passing the Legal Immigration and Family Equity Act (LIFE Act) of 2000, foreign nationals who were married to a US Citizen and living overseas had to get an immigrant visa outside of the US before admission. The LIFE Act allows certain people residing in the US who might be eligible for an immigrant visa to apply for adjustment of status (get a green card) without having to leave the US. This is particularly important because in certain circumstances, people who have been out of status in the US for more than 6 months would be barred from re-entering the US for at least 3 years and as many 10 years.
The LIFE Act is of help to those who are the beneficiary of a filed Labor Certification Application (LCA) OR of an immigrant visa petition (I-130), OR nearly any other petition/application for permanent residency.
A beneficiary who had been present in the US for more than one year is required to have had filed on their behalf before April 30, 2001 either a LCA with the Department of Labor (DOL) or an approvable immigrant visa petition with the USCIS. Per the physical presence requirement, people who filed a petition or labor certification after January 14, 1998, but before April 30, 2001, have to prove that they were in the US on December 21, 2000, the date the law was enacted, in order to become eligible.
Coming to the employment classification, employees, or potential employees, who were eligible for a green card based on a job offer, benefited the most from the LIFE Act. Spouses and certain other family members of US Citizens or green card holders also have benefited.
The LIFE Act is specifically an advantage for those who have overstayed their visa, or otherwise violated the terms of a visa, worked without authorization, or even entered without inspection because through the LIFE Act, they are permitted to apply for adjustment of status from within the US by paying an additional fee but without other penalties.
It is important to understand that the LIFE Act does not authorize an immigrant to work. It simply allows people who have been illegally present in the US, or who do not otherwise qualify for adjustment, to apply for adjustment of status. The LIFE Act does not give any other benefits in this context.
Through the LIFE Act, individuals can utilize a new petition on the basis of the old. For example, a previously filed family petition may be used as the basis for a new work or family based petition. This “grandfathering” effect permits foreign nationals to use petitions filed years earlier to permit current applications that would otherwise be rejected.