New Law Supports Family Unity During the Green Card Application Process

If you are a US citizen with an immediate family member, such as spouse, parent and unmarried child under age 21, who has been living in the US illegally, you can apply for a green card and an I-601 Waiver that allows your family members to “waive” their illegal time here.

If you are a US citizen with an immediate family member, such as spouse, parent and unmarried child under age 21, who has been living in the US illegally, you can apply for a green card and an I-601 Waiver that allows your family members to “waive” their illegal time here. You may have put off applying for your relative’s green card because you heard you could be separated from your loved ones for months, possibly years, while they are out of the country waiting for their visas to be processed. If so, here is more good news for you. Beginning March 4, 2013, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will change the current procedures to prevent difficult separations by letting some citizens seek a “provisional” hardship waiver before their family members fly out of the country to process their green card abroad.

The way things are now, U.S. citizens must petition for a green card for immediate family members who have accrued more than 180 days of “unlawful presence” in the U.S. In some circumstances, and once your relative is abroad, you must also apply for an I-601 “waiver of grounds of inadmissibility,” which would allow the family member to return to the U.S. if the U.S. citizen they are related to suffers “extreme hardship” because of the separation.

The new process would work like this:

– The immediate relatives of a U.S. Citizen still needs to apply for a green card, and still needs to file an I-601 Waiver application. But with the new change, the USCIS would grant a provisional “Family Unity” Waiver before the applicants leave the U.S. for processing of their green card.

– The “Family Unity” Waiver applies only to “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens. It cannot help other relatives. It also will not help your relatives if they are in removal proceedings, were previously deported or if they have committed certain crimes.

– The process can be complicated, with possibly permanent and tragic consequences. That is why smart U.S. citizens with illegal family members must find a good lawyer to prepare green card and I-601 Waiver applications.

A good lawyer will determine eligibility for the I-601 Waiver; discuss confidentiality issues since information in the applications could trigger removal; prepare, gather and organize evidence and file the I-601 Waiver application on your behalf; follow through with the USCIS, Immigration Court or applicable U.S. Consulate abroad and represent you before the USCIS and Immigration Court hearings.

Finding the right immigration lawyer, whom you can trust to get the job done right and at a price you can afford, can be overwhelming. The best way to find a good lawyer is to first meet him or her in person to see what they are like, ask questions about their experience and your case and find out how much they charge. Some of the very best law firms offer initial consultations that are more than affordable – they are free!