Stephanie Corcoran 2013-03-06 00:26:59
The Provisional Waiver: A New Way To Help Keep Families Together Stephanie Corcoran is an associate with Maria Jones Law Firm, practicing immigration law. She received her Bachelor of Arts in political science from Miami University of Ohio. She later served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Haiti from 2000- 2002. Following her experience in Haiti, she attended law school at St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Florida, where she was a member of the school’s Immigration Law Clinic, International Moot Court team, and Inn of Courts. Stephanie graduated magna cum laude in 2006 and moved to Arizona to pursue her passion for helping others and making a difference in the lives of immigrants. Stephanie can be reached at 602-636-1200 or via email at stephanie@ mariajoneslawfirm.com. For years, during consultations a common question arises, “Can I apply for my residency here in the United States?” Generally the answer for most people is, “I’m sorry, the immigration laws are very strict, and you won’t be able to remain here and obtain your residency.” Often many people have a way to obtain residency if they return to their country of origin, but there is no guarantee for how long the person will be gone. Normally when I tell people this, the response I get is, “I’m too afraid to go back, I just don’t want to risk being stuck outside of the country for an indefinite period of time.” Who can blame them? Until recently, a spouse, unmarried child under 21 of a U.S. citizen, or parents of a U.S. citizen who were in the United States after entering unlawfully are generally not eligible to apply for lawful permanent residence in the United States. Instead, these immediate relatives of citizens must to return to their countries of origin to obtain immigrant visas and the majority also need a waiver of inadmissibility from the Department Homeland Security at the same time as a result of their unlawful presence in the United States. Before recent changes, these relatives could not apply for the waiver until after their immigrant visa interview abroad, and thus could not re-enter the United States until after their waiver was granted. Often this process takes 6-8 months, even at times up to a year or more, during this time the family is separated, while the immigrant waits abroad for his or her waiver to be adjudicated. This separation during adjudication, can cause major anxiety, especially for spouses who are stuck holding down the fort in the United States, not knowing if their loved one is safe or even alive in the family member’s country of origin, all the while, family health and economic problems here or abroad as well as an indefinite period of separation can all cause extreme stress and hardship to a family divided. No one likes to be in the business of separating families…not even the Department of Homeland Security. Thus, January 3, 2013, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced the final proposed rule to the Federal Register that will go into effect March 4, 2013, this rule implements the provisional unlawful presence waiver process. Through this new rule, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens will be able to file for a provisional unlawful presence waiver in the United States before leaving for their immigrant visa interview abroad. This change in procedure will likely significantly reduce the wait time for many immediate family members of United States citizens. Ideally, if the unlawful presence waiver is granted before the family member travels to a U.S. Consulate abroad for their immigrant visa interview, the immigrant will likely only have to be outside of the country for a short amount of time for the immigrant visa interview as well as a medical exam. Now, when I am asked the question “Can I apply for my residency here in the United States?” I still have the same answer, but at least now maybe more people will be less scared and actually take advantage of the benefits of this new rule to obtain legal status for themselves and their family members.
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