The Obama Administration changed the process for thousands of immigrants who are married to US citizens and residents just a few years ago. Certain immigrant visa applicants who are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents can now apply for provisional unlawful presence waiver before they leave the United States. The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows individuals, who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence, to apply for a provisional waivers in the United States and before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
The new process has drastically shortened the time U.S. citizens and residents are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members are obtaining immigrant visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. Under current law, immediate relatives who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States must travel abroad and obtain an immigrant visa. Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility to overcome the unlawful presence bars under section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before they can return to the United States. Under the previous provisional waivers process immediate relatives could not apply for a waiver until after they had appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad, and a Department of State (DOS) consular officer had determined that they were inadmissible to the United States. Only after the interview could they submit the waiver and it would take months and sometimes years for a decision. The entire time the waiver was adjudicated the relative had to remain outside of the United States away from their family. The time and uncertainty created by this process convinced thousands of people to not go forward with the filing.
This all changed just a few short years ago. Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and residents can now apply for the new provisional unlawful presence waiver before they go to their interview. This takes away much uncertainty and more importantly, time away from family. Our firm thinks it is one of the best things to happen to immigration law in many years.
If you are married to a US citizen or permanent resident, now is the best time to start your immigration process.