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U.S. to reduce travel, time for immigrants needing waivers

January 06, 2012 (2 min read)

Alicia A. Caldwell, AP, Jan. 6, 2012: "The Obama administration plans a rule change to help reduce the time [unauthorized] immigrant spouses and children are separated from citizen relatives while they try to win legal status in the United States, a senior administration official said.  Currently, [unauthorized] immigrants must leave the country before they can ask the government to waive a three- to 10-year ban on legally coming back to the U.S. The length of the ban depends on how long they have lived in the U.S. without permission.  The official said Thursday the new rule would let children and spouses of citizens ask the government to decide on the waiver request before the [unauthorized] immigrant heads to his or her home country to apply for a visa. The [unauthorized] immigrants still must go home to finish the visa process to come back to the U.S., but getting the waiver ahead of time could reduce the time an [unauthorized] immigrant is out of the country."

Julia Preston, NYT, Jan. 6, 2012: "The immigration agency can provide a waiver from those tough measures, if the immigrants can show that their absence would cause “extreme hardship” to a United States citizen. But until now, obtaining the waiver was almost as hard and time-consuming as obtaining a green card.  Immigrants had to leave the United States and return to their countries of birth to wait for at least three months and sometimes much longer while the waiver was approved. And sometimes the waivers were not approved, and the immigrants were permanently stranded, separated from their American families.  The journey toward the green card to which they were entitled was so fraught with risks for the illegal immigrants that many families simply decided to live in hiding and not apply.  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."

Here's a link to an advance copy of a USCIS Notice of Intent, to appear in the Federal Register on Jan. 9, 2012.