If you are married to a U.S. citizen, now is finally the time to get your immigration status in the United States legal. This exciting new process allows immigrants and their families to stay together through most of the process of obtaining their immigrant visa. No longer will immigrants have to remain outside of the United States for months or years while their waiver is adjudicated.
Beginning March 4, 2013, certain immigrant visa applicants who are spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens (immediate relatives) can apply for what U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services calls “provisional unlawful presence waivers” 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 waiver inside the United States and before they depart for their immigrant visa interviews at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.
The new process is expected to substantially shorten the time U.S. citizens 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 of U.S. citizens 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 existing waiver process, which remains in effect, immediate relatives cannot apply for a waiver until after they have appeared for an immigrant visa interview abroad, and a Department of State (DOS) consular officer has determined that they are inadmissible to the United States.
What You Need to Know
- The new provisional unlawful presence waiver process does not change the immigrant visa process. Even if your provisional unlawful presence waiver is approved, you are still required to depart the United States for your immigrant visa interview with a U.S. consular officer abroad.
- If a provisional unlawful presence waiver is approved, it will only take effect after:
- You depart the United States and appear for your immigrant visa interview, and
- A DOS consular officer determines that you are otherwise admissible to the United States and eligible to receive an immigrant visa. NOTE: Do not depart until the National Visa Center (NVC) notifies you of your scheduled immigrant visa interview date and time at the designated U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
- DOS may cancel your immigrant visa application process if you fail to appear at your interview.
To be eligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver you must fulfill ALL of the following conditions:
- Be 17 years of age or older.
- Be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (not a preference category immigrant who has a visa available). An immediate relative is an individual who is the spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen.
- Have an approved Petition.
- Have a pending immigrant visa case with DOS for the approved immediate relative petition and have paid the DOS immigrant visa processing fee.
- Be able to demonstrate that refusal of your admission to the United States will cause extreme hardship to your U.S. citizen spouse or parent.
- Be physically present in the United States to file your application for a provisional unlawful presence waiver and provide biometrics.
- Not have been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview by DOS before January 3, 2013.
- Meet all other requirements for the provisional unlawful presence waiver, as detailed in 8 CFR 212.7(e) and the Form I-601A and its instructions.
You are not eligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver if any of the following conditions apply to you:
- You are subject to one or more grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence.
- DOS initially acted before January 3, 2013, to schedule your Immigrant Visa (IV) interview for the approved immediate relative petition upon which your provisional unlawful presence waiver application is based, even if your immigrant visa interview has been canceled, you failed to appear for the interview, or your interview was rescheduled on or after Jan. 3, 2013.
- You do not meet one or more of the requirements, as outlined in the Form I-601A and its instructions.
As shown, there are many requirements to this exciting new process and you may not qualify. It is important to get the help of a qualified immigration attorney. Call us today to see if you too can qualify for what we like to call, “The Stateside Waiver.”