DHS Reveals Plans For Issuance Of Stateside Unlawful Presence Waivers

A recent announcement from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) indicates that changes are coming to the way unlawful presence waivers are granted to some immigrants who want to gain a " green card" and become legal permanent residents. This process applies to parents, spouses or children of U.S. citizens who have remained unlawfully in the U.S.

Currently, those people must leave the country as part of the process of becoming a legal permanent resident. But those who have been in the U.S. unlawfully for more than one year can be forbidden re-entry for up to 10 years. While immigration waivers are available to those who show that this separation would cause extreme hardship to family members in the U.S., waivers must be granted via consular processing in the applicant's country.

Under new regulations introduced in January by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), applicants can file for unlawful presence waivers while still in the U.S. If granted a waiver after demonstrating the necessary hardship, they must still depart the U.S. for visa processing and an interview abroad at a U.S. Consulate in their home country, but they can do so with more confidence about their future.

Many immigration lawyers welcome this change, noting that the delays and potential for lengthy separation presented by the current system discourage family members from pursuing a green card. However, the change applies only to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, and the waiver process will still create lengthy and traumatic separations of lawful permanent U.S. residents from sons, daughters, mothers and fathers who seek green cards themselves.

The new procedure for provisional waivers has just been announced, and will not take effect until the necessary public comment period has passed and a final rule is issued. An experienced green card attorney can help families understand the latest legal developments and explain strategies for helping an immediate family member become a legal resident.