Under our immigration laws, if a person enters the United States illegally, stays here for a year or more, and then marries a United States citizen, he or she must go home for ten years before being allowed back in with a visa. This is called a “ground of exclusion” and is referred to as “the ten year bar” by immigration lawyers.
Although a “waiver” of this exclusion for ten years is available, the immigrants can only apply for it after they leave the United States. Women with children are often locked into undocumented status because they can’t leave their kids.
In March, the Department of Homeland Security began accepting forms that allow undocumented immigrants who are the Immediate Relatives of United States Citizens to apply for the waiver while they are still in the United States. They still have to go home to be issued their visas, but they don’t have to spend months away from their spouses and children as they formerly had to.
CARECEN has already started to file these waiver applications and we have counseled dozens of immigrants interested in applying for them. We are finding there is a great deal of confusion about the program among immigrants.
Compounding the problem is the fact that the program was announced against the background of the debate over comprehensive reform. Some unscrupulous people are claiming that the waivers are in fact the “Obama Amnesty”, and are ripping people off by encouraging ineligible immigrants to apply.
On Thursday, April 11, CARECEN will offer a presentation for the public on the new waiver program. The workshop will be offered by students in the Hofstra Law School Immigration Clinic which I co-direct with Professor Lauris Wren. The program will begin at 6:00 PM and will be given at CARECEN’s office at 91 N. Franklin St. Suite 208 in Hempstead, N.Y. Call 516-489-8330 for directions.