Although Congress has not yet passed an immigration reform bill, many undocumented immigrants already qualify for a new program called the Provisional (or "Stateside") Waiver. This program is also known as the "I-601A" Waiver, referring to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) form that is associated with the application for such a waiver.
The provisional waiver program was implemented on March 3, 2013. Also known as a "stateside" waiver, or an I-601A waiver, this new program offers an exciting opportunity for immigrant families. The provisional waiver program allows spouses of U.S. citizens to apply for their green cards, or lawful permanent residency, without having to leave the United States, and being separated from their families, for long periods of time. It also allows parents of adult U.S. citizens the same opportunity, although the situation for parents, as opposed to husbands and wives, of U.S. citizens, may be a bit different.
In the past, it would take up to a year for a green card applicant in this situation to remain outside of the country. Why? Because the U.S. consulates would schedule one interview for the green card, and then would schedule a second interview--up to a year later--to decide whether the unlawful presence waiver should be granted. The old system was very difficult, since it required applicants to be separated from their families for up to a year, and they still would not know the result of their waiver application until the final interview. Under the new system, the unlawful presence waiver may be filed, and will be "provisionally" approved or denied, before the applicant ever leaves the United States. Assuming the provisional waiver is approved, the applicant can expect to be out of the country for no more than approximately one week before returning to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, with his or her green card.
Although the "path to citizenship" that we hope Congress will sign into law will be a welcome development, it is still likely to take people 8 to 10 years to receive their green cards, and even longer for citizenship. With the provisional waiver program, eligible applicants may receive their lawful permanent residency within a year of submitting their petitions and applications, and they may qualify for citizenship in under 5 years.
The Law Offices of Matthew H. Green is happy to provide information about the provisional waiver program, and other immigration options, to those who may benefit from our services. Please call us today to schedule a consultation.