WASHINGTON (CN) - The time U.S. citizens are separated from spouses, children and parents who are applying to become permanent U.S. residents will be reduced in some cases, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Currently, these relatives are not eligible to apply for lawful permanent resident status while they are already in the United States. They must first leave the country and get an immigrant visa from the Department of State to be able to return and request admission as a lawful permanent resident. Some must also request a waiver of inadmissibility as a result of their unlawful presence in the country, according to the regulation.
The new regulation establishes a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver and application form to be used for the expedited process, which goes into effect March 4.
The process will allow immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are in the United States to request provisional unlawful presence waivers before leaving the country for consular processing of their immigrant visa applications. Applicants would still have to leave the country, but because the application may be made before they leave, the family separation time will be significantly reduced, according to the agency.
"The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon," according to the agency's statement.
The new rule does not apply in every case. "[T]he applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent," the agency said. The applicant would still have to leave the country, but by being able to apply for the provisional waiver before departing, the family separation time will be significantly reduced. The existing waiver process continues to apply to those who do not qualify for the new process.
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