USCIS Proposes Change in Process for Certain Waiver Applications
The Obama administration published a "notice of intent" outlining its plan to change the waiver application process in the January 6th Federal Register. The plan would allow undocumented immigrants who have accrued unlawful presence to apply for waivers of inadmissibility while still in the United States. Please refer to Government Documents for summaries of the Notice and the Q&A provided by USCIS. The Notice and Q&A are reprinted as Appendix A and Appendix B respectively.
The current process requires spouses and children of U.S. citizens who have accrued unlawful presence to leave the United States before they can request waivers of the three to ten year ban on legally coming back to the United States. A waiver can be obtained if he or she is able to demonstrate that the U.S.-citizen family member would face extreme hardship as a result of the separation.
Under the proposed rule, the spouses and children who are eligible for an immigrant visa, but who need a waiver, would apply for a provisional waiver before leaving the United States to have their immigrant visa application processed at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, as required. The new process would be limited to those individuals who are inadmissible based solely on unlawful presence and who can demonstrate extreme hardship to their U.S.-citizen relative.
USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters that the purpose of the proposed change is to "minimize the extent to which bureaucratic delays separate Americans from their families for long periods of time," according to the Associated Press.
The proposal, which requires no congressional action, caused a stir among congressional Republicans who accused President Obama of skirting Congress. Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on the Judiciary, released a statement accusing President Obama of putting "illegal immigrants ahead of the interests of American citizens and legal immigrants. President Obama has already granted backdoor amnesty to potentially millions of illegal immigrants without a vote of Congress."
Immigration advocates applauded the proposed change. Angelica Salas, Executive Director, Coalition for Humane Immigrants Rights of Los Angeles, concluded, "This rule change will help ease the hardship on families, who under the current law, have had to endure long separations from spouses and children as they wait for waivers to return to the United States. In many cases, the family breadwinner has had to leave the country, forcing the rest of the family to try and make ends meets."
"Everyone in the advocacy community is very hopeful, but it's too soon to tell because we don't even have the proposed rule, much less the final rule," Dan Kowalski, attorney and editor of Bender's Immigration Bulletin, told the Texas Tribune.
Salvadoran TPS Extended
Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano extended the Temporary Protected Status for El Salvador for eighteen months. The extension is effective March 10, 2012 through September 9, 2013.
DHS is also automatically extending the validity of employment authorization documents issued under the last extension of TPS for an additional six months, through September 9, 2012.
All individuals seeking to maintain their TPS must re-register before March 12, 2012. For TPS and EAD filing procedures and fee requirements, please see the Federal Register notice at Appendix C. It should be noted that the Federal Register notice incorrectly states that the re-registration period ends on March 9. This error was corrected by a subsequent notice. Please refer to the summary under Government Documents for the correction reference.
Houston Immigration Court Relocated
The Executive Office for Immigration Review announced the relocation of its Houston Immigration Court. On January 23, 2012, the Court reopened at its new location:
600 Jefferson Street, Suite 900,
Houston, Texas 77002.
The Court operates from 7:30 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7:30 a.m. through 3:30 p.m. on Fridays. The telephone number is 713-718-3870.
Chennai Consulate No Longer Accepts Immigrant Visa Petitions
The U.S. Consulate in Chennai India, no longer accepts immigrant visa petitions. As of January 1, 2012, the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi and U.S. Consulate in Mumbai are the only acceptance centers in India for immigrant visas.
[This is an excerpt from the Oct.. 15, 2011, issue of Bender's Immigration Bulletin.]
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