The proposed change which was just published in the Federal Register minimizes the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (parents, spouses, children) who are undocumented and in the process of applying for permanent resident status. The updated process allows undocumented individuals, who meet certain criteria including showing that their immediate relative would suffer “extreme hardship” in their absence, to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver while in the U.S. and then depart the U.S. to attend the immigrant visa interview in their native country. Under current law, many immediate relatives of U.S. citizens have to go abroad to apply for the waiver and then they are barred from re-entering the country because they had been unlawfully present for more than 180 days. The bar and the current process could amount to months, and in some cases, years of separation.
Approximately 25,000 families apply for the family unity waiver each year, and about 80% of those waivers are granted. These applications are expected to increase under the updated process. The updated process will be effective on March 4, 2013. To read more, click here.