Beginning this March, many mixed-status families who have undocumented immigrants as spouses, parents, or children, will no longer have to watch their family members leave the country while applying for U.S. residency. The new rule was announced Wednesday, January 2 and allows undocumented immigrants the ability to apply for U.S. residency while still in the United States. However, they must still travel to their home country for the waiver interview.
Under the current law, those seeking an immigration waiver due to mixed-status family must file their applications in their home countries and remain there while they wait for a decision. This tends to cause many hardships on those families as the member often must quit their jobs leaving both financial and emotional strain on the family they are forced to abandon, while hoping that it is only temporary.
While the new rule is being touted as a winning step towards immigration reform and preventing extreme hardship for these families, it does not cover non-citizen legal residents and their mixed-status families. These families must still worry about the months apart waiting for a waiver as well as the potential outcome should that waiver be denied.
Federal law currently prohibits unauthorized immigrants who have lived in the United States for a year or more from returning to the U.S. for 10 years after leaving voluntarily, which one must do for the interview for the waiver. If they have only been in the U.S. for six months to a year, they risk a three year ban. The waiver would negate both of these bans, but it is a risk that does not guarantee the reward sought. The hope is that this new rule will encourage more unauthorized immigrants to apply for U.S. residency despite the risks involved.
If you or someone you know is in need of assistance in applying for U.S. residency and receiving a waiver, please contact an attorney. An immigration attorney can assist you in determining which options are available to each unique situation and can provide further counsel as to how to best proceed with the process.
Source: The Press-Enterprise, "IMMIGRATION: New rule means less time away from families," David Olson, Jan. 2, 2012