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Greg Siskind on Immigration Law and Policy

New Waiver Policy Drawing Praise for Administration

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Alert readers posted about the new reentry bar waiver policy in the comments just as the news was breaking this morning. For those who missed it, here's the announcement from USCIS:

Underscoring the Obama Administration's commitment to family unity and administrative efficiency, this morning U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services posted a Notice of Intent in the Federal Register to begin a regulatory change that would reduce the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their families while their family members go through the process of becoming legal residents of the United States. 

Currently, children and spouses of U.S. citizens who have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the U.S., and have to leave the country in order to become a legal permanent resident of the U.S., are barred from returning to their families for as long as 3 or 10 years.  They can receive a waiver to allow them to return to their families before that period by showing that their U.S. citizen family member would face extreme hardship as a result of the separation.  But under current procedures, in order to obtain the waiver, these individuals must apply from outside the United States after they have been found inadmissible by a Department of State consular officer. This process can be lengthy and discourages individuals who are currently eligible for this waiver from applying.  To address this problem, the USCIS proposal would allow eligible immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for and receive "provisional waivers" of unlawful presence before they leave the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications, significantly reducing the time U.S. citizens are separated from their spouses, or children.

Not only will this proposal further the Administration's commitment to family unity, but the change would improve government efficiency by increasing the predictability and consistency of the application process.

The policy will change will no doubt encourage many people who are likely eligible for green cards to apply since the ability to file for the waiver in the US will largely reduce the risks of long separation of families.

A number of organizations have praised the move by the Administration. The National Immigration Law Center called the new policy "common sense" and warned immigrants not to fall prey to notarios and reminded people that the announcement regards a proposal and not the final rule.

The National Immigration Forum praised the White House for showing that it "understands the value of family unity" and called the plan a "tremendous victory." They also noted that the new rule would help by allowing people to avoid prolonged stays in extremely dangerous locations like Ciudad Jarez.

The American Immigration Council believes the plan will benefit people by creating a faster and safer process for securing waivers. AIC Executive Director Ben Johnson noted

By proposing new rules for processing waiver applications for spouses and children of U.S. citizens, USCIS has shown a commitment to addressing one of the most notorious implementation problems in our current immigration system.  Improving this system, within the framework of the law, is the legitimate role of any administration.  We commend USCIS for embarking on this rule change and its other attempts to bring efficiencies and fairness to the immigration system.

Eleanor Pelta, president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association [note - I serve on AILA's Board of Governors] also praised the Administration:

"Although this is just a small part of dealing with the dysfunction of our immigration system, it represents a significant change in process for many individuals," said Eleanor Pelta, president of AILA. "It's a move that will be less destructive to families and bring about a fairer and more streamlined waiver process. Right now people who have accumulated unlawful presence in the U.S. who leave the country to apply for a green card have to wait abroad, often for months or years. 

"This adjustment to the rule is important," Pelta added, "because it will literally save lives. Unfortunately, most waiver applications are filed in Ciudad Juarez on the U.S.-Mexico border, an extremely dangerous city these days, and more than one applicant has been murdered or seriously harmed while waiting there."

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  1. gimeka's Avatar
    Best decesion ever!!!!
  2. michelle mijangos's Avatar
    yes save us citizens of the united states for our spouse to get there papers in the u.s so that they dont die in juarez,mexico why waiting for there visa and waivers its to long to have a family apart to have anything happen.
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