The Obama administration recently announced a proposal to cut government red tape in current immigration law to prevent many American families from being separated for months or even years while American citizens apply for green cards for their children or spouses. Currently, American citizens face lengthy bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining lawful permanent resident status for their spouse or child, including a requirement that their family members return to their home countries to receive their visas.
Once their undocumented family members leave the United States, they are automatically barred from returning for at least three years and often for a decade, even if they are fully eligible to become legal residents. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can provide a waiver from those bars, if the immigrants can show that their absence would cause "extreme hardship" to a United States citizen such as their spouse or children. Unfortunately, obtaining the waiver can be difficult and time-consuming.
Under current law, immigrants have to return to their country of origin to wait while the waiver is approved. Waiting times can be months, or even years. In the case that a waiver is not approved, immigrants can be permanently separated from their American families.
USCIS announced a new proposed rule that will allow undocumented immigrants to get a provisional waiver in the United States before they leave to pick up their visas. This will allow them to depart knowing they almost certainly will be allowed to return, and should cut down on wait times for immigrants overseas from months or longer to only a few weeks. The announcement of this proposal is the beginning of the process, although USCIS has said they hope to issue a new rule by the end of the year.
"We need to ensure that our immigration enforcement policies do everything possible to prevent breaking up families and leaving them with uncertainly during tough times, so I am pleased to see that the Obama Administration is taking steps to cut through the red tape and address this issue," said Rep. Gary Peters. "By implementing this limited, common sense processing change, we can help families that want to play by the rules stay together. While we still need to pass comprehensive immigration reform and the DREAM Act, the administration's proposed Family Unity Waiver rule is a step in the right direction that could help thousands of American families, many of them in the Greater Detroit Area."