The administration recently published a proposed rule that will help keep American families together. The “Proposed Rule on Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives” is an effort to streamline the application process for many relatives of U.S. citizens currently eligible for a green card by minimizing the amount of time that applicants would have to be away from their families before being admitted into the United States. The proposed rule is currently in its “comment period,” and advocates are encouraged to submit comments in support of the rule. All comments are due on June 1, 2012.

Why is this proposed rule important? Currently, thousands of persons who qualify for green cards must leave the U.S. to obtain their permanent residence status, but as soon as they leave, they are immediately barred from re-entering the U.S. for three or ten years because of a period of unlawful presence in the United States of more than 180 days. There is a family unity waiver available, but the way the law is currently implemented, the waiver can only be adjudicated overseas. Because the process can often take many months, many otherwise eligible applicants do not apply for their green cards, and choose to remain unauthorized in the U.S. rather than risk leaving the country and being unable to return.

Under the proposed rule change, spouses and children of U.S. citizens who apply for a green card, but need a family unity waiver to re-enter the United States will be allowed to apply for the waiver without leaving the U.S. This “in-country processing” proposal means that USCIS could grant a provisional waiver here in the U.S, and many applicants would not face the same waiting period outside the country. Applicants would still be required to leave the U.S. before receiving final approval and their green card. But eligible immigrants will be encouraged to go through the process rather than remain unlawfully in the U.S.

The proposed rule does not change the eligibility standards for green cards or waivers. It does, however, mean that waiver can be adjudicated here in the U.S. so that the immigrant will know whether or not he or she will be able to re-enter the U.S. after receiving the green card, which would make a huge difference in the lives of many U.S. families. Allowing these family members to have their waivers adjudicated in the U.S. may save them from long, potentially dangerous separations from their families.

It is critical that USCIS receive many comments in support of the proposed rule. They need to know that there is overwhelming support from the American people for keeping families together and fixing this glitch in immigration law. Submit your comment by e-mailing it to [email protected] with “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2012-0003” in your subject line on or before June 1, 2012.

Photo by Olaru Radian-Alexandru.

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