USCIS expands provisional waivers

On July 29, 2016, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) agency announced that they would be expanding the provisional waiver program. The provisional waiver was first introduced in 2013. It allows certain immigrant visa applicants who are the spouse, child, or parent of U.S. citizen (immediate relatives of US citizens) and have been unlawfully present in the United States, to have their illegal status be forgiven so that they may be granted a green card.

Prior to the provisional waiver program, immediate relatives who are unlawfully present in the U.S. and who have a green card application pending, were forced to travel to their home countries for the final green card interview, with no guarantee that they would return. Once they voluntarily leave the U.S. to attend this mandatory interview, they are not able to re-enter the U.S. because of their immigration history, without an approved unlawful presence waiver. During the interview, at the U.S consulate or embassy abroad, the immigrant has the opportunity to submit an application asking immigration to waive their previous unlawful presence so that they may return to the U.S. In some cases, the adjudication of these applications took over a year. The long separation from immediate relatives caused many U.S. citizens great financial and humanitarian hardship. With that in mind, in 2013, USCIS initiated the provisional waiver program allowing immediate relatives to apply for this discretionary waiver before traveling abroad for the interview.

The provisional waiver reduced the amount of time that the U.S. citizen is separated from their family members and reduced the uncertainty as to whether the application would be approved before leaving the U.S. The agency’s recent announcement expands who is able to apply for a provisional waiver. The provisional waiver is no longer limited to immediate relatives of U.S citizens: the spouse, child, or parent of U.S. citizen. Instead, all individuals who are the beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition and is eligible for a waiver may now file an application. According to USCIS, the expansion is “intended to encourage eligible individuals to complete the immigrant visa process abroad, promote family unity, and improve administrative efficiency.”

The expansion will go into effect on August 29, 2016. The provisional waiver only waives unlawful presence. Where the individual had other grounds of inadmissibility such as criminal grounds, health related ground, fraud or misrepresentation grounds, they are not eligible for a provisional waiver.

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