Under a rules change set to take effect on March 4, the Obama Administration will for the first time allow certain spouses and minor children of U.S. citizens to remain in the country while a portion of the paperwork for their green cards is processed. To qualify, the U.S. citizen must show "extreme hardship" if forced to remain separated from a spouse or child. Typical examples include U.S. citizens who are sick or disabled and are being cared for or supported by their immigrant spouse or parent.
The move could affect some 1 million undocumented immigrants currently in the U.S. "The administration deserves credit for moving ahead in the absence of comprehensive immigration reform from Congress," said SEIU International Secretary-Treasurer Eliseo Medina.
The new rule, which requires the family members to briefly return to their country of origin to finalize the process once the waiver has been approved, makes a small but significant change and removes a bureaucratic hurdle that has deeply hurt citizens facing hardships. The risks, uncertainties and delays that come with applying for the visa from abroad create unnecessary burdens on families in hardship cases.
While a welcome step forward in the right direction, the waiver is nonetheless a limited change. "We are disappointed that the rules change does not apply to spouses of legal permanent residents and adult children of U.S citizens, as they often are caregivers," said Medina. "We hope that as the changes are implemented, the administration will see the wisdom in expanding the hardship waivers to these critical family members."
- Learn more here.
- More news coverage of the waiver at the Santa Cruz Sentinel and ABC News/Univision.