On January 2, 2012, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano, announced a final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time some U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children, and parents), who are in the process of obtaining a visa to become a lawful permanent resident (“green card holder”).
Under current immigrant law, certain undocumented immigrants that are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens are not eligible to adjust their immigration status in the United States to become a lawful permanent resident, and must leave the U.S. to obtain an immigrant visa. The challenge facing these individuals, which has effectively kept many immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from adjusting their immigration status, is a three or ten year ban that immigration law imposes on certain individuals who leave the United States after having lived in the U.S. as undocumented immigrants. Under the new process, undocumented immigrants would be seeking a waiver to the ban before they leave the United States, so that they can pursue legal permanent residency in the U.S.
Beginning March 4, 2013, certain undocumented immigrants will be able to apply for a provisional “unlawful presence” waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. More information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks at www.uscis.gov.
“This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa,” said Secretary Napolitano.
“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves,” USCIS Director Mayorkas said. “The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.”