New I-601 Policy Proposed Changes to Current Waiver Process

By Noel Suniga

The United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) has put forth a proposal that, if enacted, would allow more spouses of U.S. citizens to apply for their legal permanent residency (LPR) status.

Many families in the United States currently consist of a spouse who is a U.S. citizen and another who is undocumented or entered the country illegally. Current immigration laws require many spouses of U.S. citizens to leave the country and travel abroad in order to apply for their LPR after a consular appointment in their country of origin. Under the current process, many of these spouses are forced to be separated from their families for a long period of time (possibly months to years).

In an attempt to comply with the current immigration laws, many families of a U.S. citizen have had to endure separations for years. Many families who no longer have the non-citizen spouse have to seek out public assistance and some have lost their homes because the single remaining spouse could not keep up with mortgage and other bill payments alone. Because of these harsh effects many spouses simply remain in the United States with their families in unlawful status, risking being placed in removal proceedings on a daily basis.

The proposed policy by the USCIS seeks to promote family unity. Currently, nothing in the new proposal would change the law. Instead the new proposal provides that prior to the LPR appointment taking place outside the United States, the waiver application may now be submitted in the United States while the family remains intact waiting for the decision by consular officials.

Under the proposed changes, the applicability of the new waiver process would be limited in three additional ways:

1. Only immediate relatives of U.S. citizens may apply;
2. Only unlawful presence waivers would be included; and
3. The extreme hardship must be to qualifying relatives who are U.S. citizens.

It’s important to remember that the new policy is only at the proposal stage and may take many months before it is fully implemented. However, there is definitely an interest in this proposal by members of the public who may benefit from these changes. If you know someone seeking out more information on this matter, please direct them to the Bailey & Galyen Immigration Section at 214-252-9099.

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