Well, it took USCIS over a year to finish with the “final rule” on the provisional waiver, but it’s finally done. Here’s the press release.
This is great news for family unity and puts (what everyone hopes) an end to the senseless period of separation required in previous I-601 Waiver applications. For those unfamiliar with the process, let me give you a brief example:
THE PREVIOUS PATH
Maria is from Mexico and she enters the country illegally as a 2 yr old with her parents. After growing up her entire life in the U.S., she marries her childhood sweetheart at the age of 21. Her husband is a U.S. citizen, so he petitions her for a green card. Because she entered illegally originally, she must apply for a waiver at the consulate in Mexico to obtain her immigrant visa. Maria is scheduled for an interview in Ciudad Juarez, and she establishes that she is in a bona fide marriage with a U.S. Citizen. Maria clears all necessary background and health screens, but she has the issue of inadmissibility because of her illegal entry into the U.S. as a child. Maria is told she must file a waiver. Then she has to wait for the waiver to be approved. This can take months to years. All the while, Maria is unable to return to the U.S. where her family and husband await.
This long waiting period is why many married couples never applied for their permanent residence… they couldn’t stand the idea of separating for an indefinite period of time to wait for the waiver.
THE NEW PATH
Well, not much really changes as far as procedural steps are concerned. Maria must still file a petition. She must still pass an interview in Mexico. She must still file a waiver application and wait for it to get approved. What’s the difference? Maria can now do the application here in the U.S. before she flies to Mexico for her interview. This way, she will not be separated from her husband for an indefinite period of time, and she will have the confidence in knowing she has been provisionally approved for the waiver.
Personally, I think it would be easier simply to allow certain immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens to be automatically waived for such things, but this is still a step in the right direction. Now the only problem is what to do about all those that did their waiver applications the old way and are still stuck apart from their families waiting to see what the consulate officer decides on their application?