The accrual of unlawful presence in the United States has devastating effects on both foreign nationals and their qualifying relatives due to the threat of separation. Thousands of immigrants currently eligible for permanent residence through a family member are required to leave the United States to attend an interview at the United States Embassy in their country of origin. For many, this journey of departing the United States triggers a bar which essentially prohibits them from returning to the United States for a period of ten years.
On August 29, 2016, a much anticipated new rule will go into effect which will open up the I-601A provisional waiver program to ultimately help legalize thousands of deserving immigrant families who would suffer extreme hardship if a loved one is denied U.S. legal residence. The expansion of the provisional or ‘stateside’ waiver allows eligible immigrants to apply for the waiver in the United States (i.e. in advance of travel abroad), ensuring an applicant can attend their appointment without the looming fear of family separation. Another important feature of the expansion is that it now allows for a wider group of qualifying family members which includes legal permanent resident spouses and parents, not just spouses and parents who are United States Citizens.
Edward Shulman, Esq., founder of the Shulman Law Group, a New Jersey-based immigration law firm, was interviewed about the expansion. He stated:" The 601A expansion is a well-needed step which creates a more humane waiver process removing barriers for individuals who are eligible to pursue permanent residency without the threat and fear of protracted separation from their families and the disruptive impact departing the United States would have on their work status, community ties, and social networks built in the United States. Furthermore, by expanding the categories of qualifying relatives, more clients can be helped. Our office welcomes the waiver program expansion and supports all efforts to maintain family unity and reduce hardship on immigrant families."
USCIS estimates that the expansion of the waiver program would benefit an estimated 10,000 foreign nationals per year.