One group that is permitted to adjust without leaving the country is the group of individuals protected by section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Most people who have this protection obtained it when somebody filed a family or labor petition on their behalf on or before April 30, 2001, and they have proof of being physically present in the United States on December 21, 2000. This physical presence requirement is not necessary for those whose petition was filed on or before January 14, 1998 or who are derivative beneficiaries (i.e., related to the person on whose behalf the necessary petition was filed. As long as the petition was "approvable” at the time of filing, the beneficiary will fall under the protection of this law and can, with the payment of a penalty fine, adjust status in the United States if they are still the beneficiary of an approved petition, have a visa available, and are not inadmissible for other reasons.
The remaining lucky few who had a petition filed on their behalf usually know that they are protected by 245(i). Less known is that their spouses or children may enjoy the same protection, and that protection can follow them even if they end their relationship with the principal beneficiary, i.e., the person on whose behalf the petition was filed.
To "inherit" the protection of 245(i), the relationship of the spouse or child with the 245(i) prinicipal beneficiary must have existed on or before April 30, 2001. Remember that one must be under 21 to be considered a child in immigration law. A person who has "inherited" the protection carries that protection even if that person later divorces or turns 21, or if the principal beneficiary dies. Of course, it is still necessary for one who has "inherited" 245(i) protection to be the beneficiary of an approved petition, have a visa available, and be otherwise inadmissible. But it is not necessary to be petitioned by someone who is protected by 245(i). For example, a woman married to a man who was the beneficiary of a petition filed by his brother in 1997 could divorce that man, and marry a different U.S. citizen. She could then adjust status in the country through her new husband because her marriage to a 245(i) beneficiary before 4/30/01 allows her to carry her 245(i) protection with her even when that marriage is over. In contrast, those whose relationship with a principal 245(i) beneficiary came into being after April 30, 2001 will only enjoy the protections of 245(i) if they adjust as dependents of that particular principal beneficiary.
If you think you might have "inherited" 245(i) protection from an earlier relationship or parent, you should speak with an immigration attorney about a path to a green card that might be easier than you had thought.