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Proposed Waiver Rule – Good For Families

The newly proposed waiver rule could save years of waiting overseas – if it actually gets adopted.

The proposed rule would allow spouses and children of U.S. citizens to apply for the waiver PRIOR to departing the U.S. to apply for the green card overseas.

On January 6, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a proposal to streamline the application process for the spouses and children of U.S. citizens currently eligible for legal permanent resident status, minimizing the amount of time that applicants would have to be separated from their families.  Under current procedures, thousands of persons who qualify for legal status must leave the U.S. to obtain their permanent resident status, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering for 3 or 10 years if they have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than 180 days.  Many are eligible for a family unity waiver, but under current rules (not law), the waiver can only be applied for from overseas.  Because that process can often take many months and even years, it is believed that many otherwise eligible applicants do not apply for legal permanent resident status, remaining unauthorized in the U.S. rather than risk lengthy separation from their families.

The proposal—or, at this point, a “notice of intent to issue a rule”— recognizes this Catch-22 by revising the procedures for determining the family unity waivers for spouses and children of U.S. citizens. However, the rule change will not cover spouses and children of legal permanent residents. Under this “in-country processing” proposal, which must still go through the formal rule-making process, spouses and children of U.S. citizens who apply for legal permanent residence and need a family unity waiver to re-enter the U.S. will be allowed to apply for the waiver without first leaving.  This process does not alter or revise eligibility standards and only affects persons whose sole need for a waiver is based on having been in the U.S. without authorization.

This “in-country processing” proposal would permit USCIS to grant a provisional waiver, eliminating the often prolonged wait that many applicants currently face when they seek a waiver outside the U.S.  Although applicants would still be required to depart from the U.S. before receiving final approval on their application, pre-processing of the family unity waiver will encourage applicants to come forward and create a faster and safer means for processing applications.

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