The New York Times is reporting that the Obama Administration intends to propose a rule change that would have a significant effect on spouses and children of U.S. citizens who are eligible for legal permanent residence but must leave the U.S. in order to apply for their "green card."
Currently, a spouse or child who has accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. by entering the U.S. without inspection by an immigration officer must return to their home country in order to apply for legal permanent residence. The problem is that once they leave, they are "barred" from returning for 3-10 years because of their unlawful presence. There is a waiver available that currently must be applied for from the consulate after the initial Immigrant Visa interview. Applicants are currently spending 4-5 months in Mexico in order to complete the interview and waiver process in the best case scenario. Many applicants spend more than a year to receive an approval of their waiver application in Mexico or other countries.
Now, Citizenship and Immigration Services proposes to allow the immigrants to obtain a provisional waiver in the United States, before they leave for their countries to pick up their visas. Having the waiver in hand will allow them to depart knowing that they will almost certainly be able to return, officials said. The agency is also seeking to sharply streamline the process to cut down the wait times for visas to a few weeks at most.
“The goal is to substantially reduce the time that the U.S. citizen is separated from the spouse or child when that separation would yield an extreme hardship,” said Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the immigration agency.
If this rule change is approved, it will be of great benefit to mixed status families who now face the choice of either having family members remain undocumented or risking separation for months or years in order for them to obtain a green card outside the U.S.
[A]gency officials, speaking on condition of anonymity on Thursday before the proposal was formally announced, stressed that this was only the beginning of a long regulatory process that they hoped to complete by issuing a new rule before the end of this year.
The change on how and where these waivers are issued is one example of a number of measures the Obama administration has taken in recent months that do not require the approval of Congress. The steps are designed to ease the burdens on American and immigrant families stemming from dysfunctional or outmoded immigration statutes.
This is an excellent step. Kudos the the Obama Administration. It does not appear that this change will benefit spouses and children of legal permanent residents who must also apply for a waiver of unlawful presence.