Written by attorney C. C. Abbott

Immigration: The SAW Program - Group 1 and Group 2

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) provided a specific amnesty to a specific group of agricultural workers who were needed to perform labor related to perishable fruit and vegetables. Basically, it granted undocumented farmworkers the opportunity to temporary remain in the US as lawfully temporary resident farmworkers and then apply for lawfully permanent residents if they met specific criteria established by the Act. These aliens became known as special agricultural workers. (SAW)

The SAW program enabled two groups of undocumented farmworkers to gain legal status in the US. Group 1 SAWs were required to provide evidence that they had performed at least ninety days as a farmworker, as defined by Federal legislation, in each of three years from May 1, 1983 to May 1, 1986. These farmworkers were able to obtain temporary residency. The Group 1 SAW was automatically able to adjust his/her status to that of a lawful permanent resident on December 1, 1989 if the alien could should they had not commit any act that would make them deportable under existing immigration law. Group 2 SAWS were farmworkers who could provide evidence they had worked in the US as a farmworker for at least ninety days between May 1, 1985 and May 1, 1996. Group 2 SAWs qualified for lawful permanent residency if they were not deemed deportable on December 1, 1990.

IRCA set the limit of Group 1 SAWs at 350,000 and the remainder could be included in the Group 2 SAWs. The law specified that the alien had to have lived in the US for six months for each of the qualifying years. INS enabled farmworkers to submit a variety to evidence in support to the application including pay stubs, travel receipts, rental agreements and leases, driver licenses, and other documents from churches and schools.

Many SAWs who became permanent residents were able to gain all the rights as provided by other permanent residents who gained stats through family member, employment, or asylum. Any SAW based green card holders who at this time wish to renew their permanent residency should contact an experienced immigration attorney who can assist in the filing of the I-90 Renewal Form with required supporting evidence as required in the I-90 Instructions.

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