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The whole world is watching the United States Congress to see what type of new comprehensive immigration law emerges.

In the interim, let’s take a look at recent change to the law, which may not amount to comprehensive reform, but it is worth noting.

Rule Changes – Federal Register Notification

Immigrants with spouses, children and parents in the U.S. may not have to wait much longer to get their much sought-after green cards, thanks to a new change in immigration policy.

On January 2, 2013, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano described the posting of a final rule in the Federal Register. This will reduce the time U.S. citizens are separated from their spouses, children and parents on waiting lists for permanent citizenship in certain cases.

This took effect in March. Pursuant to this final rule change, those family members of U.S. citizens looking to live in the United States may apply for provisional waivers prior to heading into the country to attend immigrant visa interviews that would help legalize their status. The way this works is, the waiver helps applying immigrants dodge serious penalties for being in the U.S. without documentation during her application process, according to Secretary Napolitano. However, rationale beneath the new rule is to reduce the pain of long separations that face U.S. citizens waiting for loved ones on the other side to be allowed into the country and be reunified.

“The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to U.S. citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves,” U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Mayorkas indicated in a declaration. “The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.”

Pursuant to the rule pre-March of 2013, undocumented immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to leave the country and get an immigrant visa abroad as part of the green card process. Under that same rule, those who have been in the country unauthorized for more than six months must obtain a waiver before leaving the country in order to obtain an immigrant visa.

Moreover, an immigrant who returned to the USA illegally could be barred from re-entering for several years.

Even with an adjustment to the current regulations, immediate relatives must still leave the as part of the application process; however, they can apply for a provisional waiver before they depart for their immigrant visa interview abroad.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security Statistics provide that approximately 25,000 immigrants seek family unity waivers annually in the USA; eighty-eight percent of those were approved in 2012; 84 percent in the year 2011.

Immigration reform has been talked about for decades. Former President George Bush proposed immigration reform, unsuccessfully. Then, immigration reform was promised during President Obama’s election as President of the United States in 2008. Since then, President has blamed changes in the economy and disagreements with Congress for not proposing comprehensive immigration reform during his first term. This issue re-emerged to the forefront of the national debate during President’s bid for reelection in November of 2012. President Obama has promised to make good on his early pledge to make changes to the process surrounding immigration and Republicans indicating a more willing stance to work for such changes.

Some immigration reform advocates support the March 2013 rule change.

“(We) are pleased that the Obama administration is using its authority to keep families together and we look forward to more leadership as we embark on the long term solution of immigration reform,” Kica Matos, Director of Immigrant Rights and Racial Justice for the Center for Community Change, indicated to Fox News.

Our Pittsburgh lawyers practice immigration nationwide and offer a free consultation over the phone or in person.

Stay tuned to Elliott & Davis, PC for updates on the changes in immigration law as described by our attorneys

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