As previously noted, the administration recently proposed a new rule that would help keep American families —the “Proposed Rule on Provisional Unlawful Presence Waivers of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives.” This proposed rule would 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. While the proposed rule is certainly a welcome change and would be an improvement over current procedures, there are ways in which the rule could be improved to help even more immigrants.

  • Expand eligibility for new streamlined process to additional family members:  Under the proposed rule, the streamlined process is only available to spouses, minor children, and parents of U.S. citizens who claim that their absence would create an extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen.  It does not apply to other people eligible for a green card through the family preference categories. Expanding the proposed rule to people whose absence would cause extreme hardship for LPR spouses or parents and unmarried adult children of U.S. citizens would rescue additional American families from prolonged separations.
  • Expand eligibility for new streamlined process to people in removal proceedings:  People who are currently in removal proceedings, who have been issued a Notice to Appear (NTA), or who have already been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview are not eligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver.  In order to apply, these individuals would have to get their cases terminated or dismissed; those whose cases have been administratively closed would need their cases to be reopened for voluntary departure; and those who have been issued an NTA would need to get the NTA cancelled. These are serious obstacles to eligibility. Allowing them to apply would help keep more people together.
  • Include enhanced due process protections:  Under the current proposed rule, there is no appeals process for those who are denied a provisional unlawful presence waiver. Applicants that are denied could petition for a waiver only through the current process, outside of the U.S.  Allowing immigrants to appeal their denials or to file for the waiver again in the U.S. would be another positive step to avoid potentially harmful separations.

It’s important to note that none of these changes to the proposed rule would mean anyone would automatically get the waiver. Those eligible would have to go through the application process and could be denied the waiver. But expanding eligibility to additional family members and individuals in removal proceedings, as well as allowing immigrants to appeal their denials and apply from inside the U.S. would be an improvement to the rule and would go a long way in keeping more American families together.

Comments on the proposed rule are due June 1, 2012. Submitting comments, which can include suggested improvements like the expansions of eligibility, is easy. Submit your comment by e-mailing it to [email protected] with “DHS Docket No. USCIS-2012-0003” in your subject line.

Photo by treviño.

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