We have been expecting this day for so long, but today is the day. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano today announced the posting of a final rule in the Federal Register that reduces the time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives (spouse, children and parents), who are in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances. The final rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin. The process will be effective on March 4, 2013 and more information about the filing process will be made available in the coming weeks.
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 4,000 comments in response to the April 2, 2012 proposed rule and considered all of them in preparing the final rule.
“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.”
Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the U.S. and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa. Under the existing waiver process, which remains available to those who do not qualify for the new process, immediate relatives cannot file a waiver application until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad and the Department of State has determined that they are inadmissible.
In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process.
Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives must still depart the United States for the consular immigrant visa process; however, they can apply for a provisional waiver before they depart for their immigrant visa interview abroad. Individuals who file the Form I-601A must notify the Department of State’s National Visa Center that they are or will be seeking a provisional waiver from USCIS.
Our office will attend a Phone Conference with the USCIS later today and we will provide further updates on this process in the next few weeks.
Please email us with any questions.
Here is an Advanced Copy of the Rule
DEPARTMENT OF HOMELAND SECURITY
8 CFR Parts 103 and 212
CIS No. 2519-2011; DHS Docket No. USCIS-2012-0003
Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives
AGENCY: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, DHS.
ACTION: Final rule.
SUMMARY: On April 2, 2012, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule to amend its regulations to allow certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are physically present in the United States to request provisional unlawful presence waivers prior to departing from the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications.
This final rule implements the provisional unlawful presence waiver process. It also finalizes clarifying amendments to other provisions within our regulations. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) anticipates that these changes will significantly reduce the length of time U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who engage in consular processing abroad.
DHS also believes that this new process will reduce the degree of interchange between the U.S. Department of State (DOS) and USCIS and create greater efficiencies for both the U.S. Government and most provisional unlawful presence waiver applicants.
DHS reminds the public that the filing or approval of a provisional unlawful presence waiver application will not: Confer any legal status, protect against the accrual of additional periods of unlawful presence, authorize an alien to enter the United States without securing a visa or other appropriate entry document, convey any interim benefits (e.g., employment authorization, parole, oradvance parole), or protect an alien from being placed in removal proceedings or removed from the United States in accordance with current DHS policies governing initiation of removal proceedings and the use of prosecutorial discretion.