Multi-American | How immigrants are redefining 'American' in Southern California

Hope for mixed-status families? A new proposal for hardship waivers

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is proposing an administrative tweak that could encourage many families of mixed immigration status to come out of the shadows.

The proposal concerns a rule that requires most undocumented spouses and children of U.S. citizens to return to their native countries in order to receive a green card, allowing them to return legally. But once they leave, depending on how long they've been in the U.S. illegally, they can be barred from returning for up to ten years. If they can prove the absence will cause "extreme hardship" to a citizen spouse, a waiver may be obtained to let them return sooner. But these are dfficult to obtain. If not granted, the person waiting abroad can be left stranded there for years.

The proposed change, which the New York Times reports will be published in the Federal Register today, would streamline the waiver process and allow it to happen on U.S. soil. From the looks of it, the change wouldn't necessarily make the waivers easier to obtain, but at least those seeking visas would know before they go. From the story:

Now, Citizenship and Immigration Services proposes to allow the immigrants to obtain a provisional waiver in the United States, before they leave for their countries to pick up their visas. Having the waiver in hand will allow them to depart knowing that they will almost certainly be able to return, officials said. The agency is also seeking to sharply streamline the process to cut down the wait times for visas to a few weeks at most.

"The goal is to substantially reduce the time that the U.S. citizen is separated from the spouse or child when that separation would yield an extreme hardship," said Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of the immigration agency.

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