Friday Last Day to Comment on Family Waiver

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - BusinessOn April 2, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a Proposed Rule that would make an important change in the process for applying for a waiver to a bar to re-entering the U.S. Under current law, undocumented immigrants who have been in the U.S. without status for six months or more are barred from re-entering for three years once they leave. If they have been here without status for a year or more, the bar to re-entry goes up to ten years.

Typically, a person applying for the waiver is eligible for an immigrant visa. However, if the person is not eligible to adjust his or her status within the U.S., the immigrant visa must be picked up at a U.S. consulate in the individual’s home country. Once the individual leaves the U.S. to pick up the visa, the three- or ten-year bar is triggered. It is a Catch-22 that immigrants must deal with all the time: they can gain Lawful Permanent Resident status with the immigrant visa they are eligible for, but to acquire that visa, they must leave the U.S. and thus are barred for years from coming back.

A waiver is available if an individual can show that a citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or parent would suffer “extreme hardship” if the individual was forced to remain outside of the U.S. With the current process, however, the individual cannot apply for that waiver until he or she leaves the country to pick up his or her visa. The wait for a decision on the waiver can stretch to months, during which time the family is separated.

The proposed provisional waiver process will alleviate the problems that result when families suffer lengthy separation because a family member must wait abroad for his or her waiver to be processed. The rule could go further, however, to reduce family separation. You can weigh in to help improve the rule. Public comments are being accepted until June 1. Here’s how you can make your voice heard.

If you would like to see more detail and/or rationale for these concerns, you can view a memo prepared by the American Immigration Lawyers Association and more than 40 other organizations, posted to the Federal Register site here:!documentDetail;D=USCIS-2012-0003-1086.

Families who want more information or need referrals for legal or other help can call ICIRR’s Family Support Hotline, 1-855-HELP-MY-FAMILY (1-855-435-7693).

The Illinois Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights is a statewide coalition of more than 130 organizations dedicated to promoting the rights of immigrants and refugees to full and equal participation in the civic, cultural, social, and political life of our diverse society. For more information, visit

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