By Kim Tremblay, Associate Attorney
In March 2012, the Department of Homeland Security announced that it was proposing rules to change the I-601 unlawful presence waiver process for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are physically present in the United States. Currently, certain individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States must leave the country to be able to obtain their permanent residency through their relatives. Once they leave, if they have accumulated a certain number of days of unlawful presence, they cannot return to the United States for up to 10 years unless they obtain a waiver. They must wait for their waivers to be approved before they can return to the United States. Processing times vary, but at times the wait is six months or more. The Department of Homeland Security proposes to permit immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to apply for the waiver while in the United States and then to proceed with their immigrant visa interview abroad once the waiver is approved. This should limit the time that families are separated during this process.
Although this new process has not yet begun, small changes have taken place since March. Currently, I-601 unlawful presence waivers are being processed in the United States instead of at consulates abroad. Applicants still have to wait outside of the United States, but can send their waiver applications to the USCIS Lockbox in Chicago. The current processing time for I-601 waivers has been reduced to about 4 months.
The latest news on the implementation of stateside waiver processing was obtained during an October 9, 2012 meeting AILA officials had with USCIS. USCIS has indicated that the new rules should be out by the end of this year. Thus, potential applicants may want to wait yet a few more months before starting the consular process.
For more information on the proposed rule see:
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