correct earlier ruling

Nunc Pro Tunc Reinstatement of Status

nunc pro tunc

A powerful tool to salvage an accidentally expired I-94

Nunc pro tunc (English translation: “now for then”) is a Latin expression in common legal use in the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries. In general, a ruling nunc pro tunc applies retroactively to correct an earlier ruling.

A typical Scenario requiring nunc pro tunc adjudication in the non-immigrant visa context:

You go on-line to the CPB website to pull up your I-94 for your lawyer because you are getting ready to either file a change of status, an extension of stay or adjustment of status, and to yours and everyone else’s shock and disbelief, an expired Form I-94 pops up.

At face value, it looks like the end of the line. It is not permissible to file either an extension or change of status or adjust status to permanent residence in an employment context if the I-94 has expired. Furthermore, presence in the U.S. without a valid I-94 constitutes not only an overstay in unlawful status but “unlawful presence” with draconian consequences. Unlawful presence of 6-12 months + departure from the U.S. triggers the three- year bar to re-entry. Unlawful presence of 12 months or more + departure from the U.S. triggers the ten-year bar.

How does this happen?

An employee and/or family member does not realize that an I-94 has expired. Sometimes, the CBP officer at the airport only gives just enough time on the I-94 to match the visa in the passport and not to match the validity date of the underlying approved Form I-797.

In another situation, the CBP officer enters the I-94 validity date into the computer as expiring on the same date as the expiration of the passport. This is often the case and the unsuspecting individual does not notice because she has already submitted the passport to her Consulate to obtain a new one. She doesn’t download her I-94 from the website until she is ready to file the extension and to her shock and horror she realizes that she has been out of status and accumulated unlawful presence with her expired I-94.

In a different scenario, the employer had changed the employee’s status to H-1B but had not done anything for the H-4 family members. The wife and child had obtained H-4 visas at the overseas Embassy and entered the U.S. When the employer filed the petition to extend the H-1B for the employee, the H-4s were not extended for the family. The wife and child were therefore in the U.S. on expired Forms I-94.

In the first example, CBP clearly made an error and if it is discovered after a short while after entry it may be possible to go to deferred inspections at the local USCIS office and point out the CBP error. Often, they will fix it. But if the error is not discovered until after filing either an extension or an adjustment of status and USCIS issues an RFE, then usually USCIS will accept the explanation if proof can be submitted along the lines of a Nunc Pro Tunc argument.

A Nunc Pro Tunc approval means that even though the application may have been filed after the expiration of the I-94, and there was a technical break in the status, the approval will excuse the late filing and seamlessly connect the dates so that there is no break in the status. For example, if the applicant’s status expired on August 1st, 2016, and an extension application was not filed until December 6, 2016, if the application was approved Nunc Pro Tunc, the validity period of the extension would start on August 2, 2016, thus erasing the gap in valid status. This is critically important because it means that even though the application was filed late, because the application was approved Nunc Pro Tunc back to August 2, there was no break in status and therefore no violation of status and therefore no unlawful presence.

What is Required to file a successful Nunc Pro Tunc Application?

Even if an applicant needs to file an extension or change of status late, after the I-94 has expired, it can be approved Nunc Pro Tunc (out-of-time) to avoid the break in status in limited circumstances, if the applicant can show that:

  1. The failure to file was due to extraordinary circumstances;
  2. The extraordinary circumstances were beyond the applicant’s control;
  3. The delay in filing was commensurate with the circumstances, meaning that the explanation is reasonable and the delay makes sense in light of what happened;
  4. The applicant is a bona fide Non Immigrant;
  5. The applicant has not otherwise violated his/her visa status; AND
  6. The applicant is NOT in removal (deportation) proceedings

If the applicant can prove all of the above to the satisfaction of USCIS, then the application will be granted with a Nunc Pro Tunc status reinstatement back to the date of expiration of the I-94.

We applied these six rules to the third example above, where the employer didn’t file an extension for the H-4 family members.

If you find yourself in a similar predicament, and if your lateness to file can be explained using the 6 factor requirements above, then you may be eligible for the Nunc Pro Tunc status reinstatement which will preserve your valid U.S. immigration status.

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