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Suggestions on Family Unity Visa Waiver: Deadline for Comments Today!

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Today is the deadline to comment on the Family Unity Visa Waiver — a proposed change in immigration policy to help keep some immigrant families together.  Until the end of the day today, the public will be able to propose suggestions for the rule, which is, like a lot of rules, a good start…but not entirely perfect.

U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents face unnecessary and dangerous bureaucratic hurdles in obtaining lawful permanent resident status for their spouse or child.  Currently, the government requires undocumented immigrants married to U.S. citizens and legal residents to leave the country and apply for green cards, at which point, the immigration officers reviewing the case could slap them with a three or ten year bar and ban them from entering the United States.  The Family Unity Visa Waiver would allow those married to U.S. citizens to file unity waivers in the United States, so that they wouldn’t have to wait abroad, in fear of being separated from their families.

There are obvious improvements that can be made. For example, spouses and children of legal permanent residents still have to leave the country before they’re able to get a visa to join a loved one in the United States. And the “extreme hardship” standard one must meet in order to qualify for the waiver is still too difficult.  The National Immigration Forum has a great blog post on how you can take action, and list of points you can make to help improve the process:

  • Click on the button that says “Comment Now!”
  • Fill out the information on the form, and type in your comment. When you are done, hit submit.

Here are some points you can make, which the Forum and other experts on these issues have identified as key weaknesses in the Proposed Rule:

  • The spouses and children of Lawful Permanent Residents qualify for hardship waivers if they can prove “extreme hardship” to a Lawful Permanent Resident spouse or parent. Yet the proposed waiver process will be available only to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Individuals who can show extreme hardship to Lawful Permanent Resident spouses or parents, and relatives in family preference categories including unmarried adult children of U.S. Citizens, should also be eligible for the provisional waiver process.
  • Eligibility for the new provisional waiver process should be expanded to cover individuals in removal proceedings, those individuals in cases where a Notice to Appear has been issued but not yet filed with the court, those with a scheduled visa interview, and those whose cases have been administratively closed. Expanding eligibility to individuals in these cases will reinforce agency goals to focus removal resources on high-priority cases.
  • Eligibility for the new provisional waiver process should include individuals who, through an exercise of prosecutorial discretion, have had their cases administratively closed. By excluding these individuals, USCIS would require individuals granted administrative closure under the prosecutorial discretion initiative to return to court to have their case re-opened and to accept voluntary departure. Given the Administration’s commitment to the robust use of prosecutorial discretion, it would be illogical—and a waste of government resources—to force these individuals to re-open their cases in order to apply for the waiver.
  • The extreme hardship standard has been applied inconsistently over the years. USCIS should establish clear guidelines for making extreme hardship decisions that include the devastating effect of family separation as well as financial hardship.
  • In the proposed rule, there is no opportunity for an individual who has been denied a waiver to re-file or appeal. Individuals who have received an initial denial should have an opportunity to re-file at least once. The final rule should also contain an administrative appeal process.