One of the less noticed aspects of President Barack Obama’s administrative relief program issued last week is a program allowing the spouses and children of permanent residents to apply for and have an “exclusion waiver” adjudicated in the United States.
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 10 years before being allowed back in with a visa. This is called a “ground of exclusion” and is referred to as “the 10 year bar” by immigration lawyers.
Although a waiver of this exclusion for 10 years is available, most 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 for such a long period waiting for bureaucrats to adjudicate the waiver.
In March of 2013, 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 filed these waiver applications over the last year and a half, with great success. Unfortunately, the families of lawful permanent residents were left out.
Last week the White House announced that this program “will be expanded to include the spouses and children of lawful permanent residents, as well as the adult children of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents.” This will not be a brand-new program, but simply an expansion of an existing one. We should see the rules out fairly soon allowing for these applications to go forward early in 2015.
Almost as importantly, Jeh Johnson, the Secretary of Homeland Security, ordered the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service to clarify the meaning of “extreme hardship.” Anyone applying for one of these waivers must demonstrate “extreme hardship” and immigration officers have used inconsistent standards in deciding cases. Here is what Johnson’s order says:
USCIS should clarify the factors that are considered by adjudicators in determining whether the “extreme hardship” standard has been met. Factors that should be considered for further explanation include, but are not limited to: family ties to the United States and the country of removal, conditions in the country of removal, the age of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent, the length of residence in the United States, relevant medical and mental health conditions and financial hardships and educational hardships.
CARECEN will offer a free workshop on this expanded program on December 8, 2014 at 5:30PM at 91 N. Franklin St., Suite 208 in Hempstead.