A new law coming into effect March 3, 2013 will allow spouses of United States Citizens to apply for an unlawful presence waiver. This means that spouses of United States Citizens who are unlawfully present in the United States may no longer have to fear the three year and ten year bars that were triggered with unlawful status. The waiver’s goal is to “[reduce] the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa.”
Tentatively, USCIS reports: “In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen spouse or parent. USCIS will publish a new form, Form I-601A, Application for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, for individuals to use when applying for a provisional unlawful presence waiver under the new process.”
While this may help a number of unlawfully present spouses, the waiver’s effectiveness will likely be dictated by how USCIS adjudicators apply the extreme hardship requirement. Nevertheless, the exact language of the waiver is still in the works, so we will have to wait and see how the waiver develops.