What New Law?

Several people have asked me about a new law they heard takes effect August 29, 2016. What these people heard about is actually a new rule that the immigration agency issued that will help some families in the United States. However, the rule is of limited scope does not reflect a major change in U.S. immigration laws.

The rule expands the class of people who can apply for a “provisional waiver” inside the United States. As I discussed in a previous post, some people who are inside the United States are eligible to apply for an immigrant visa. However, often these people must depart the United States to receive the visa and, upon departing, trigger a 10 year penalty for their previous “unlawful presence” in the United States. A “waiver” of the unlawful presence penalty is required if the person does not want to spend 10 years outside the United States.

Beginning March of 2013, the Obama administration allowed some people to apply for this waiver before departing the United States. This was a tremendous advance in allowing families to remain together. Previously, my foreign clients often would have to spend several months in their home country waiting for the approval of the waiver. 

From March 2013 until August 29, 2016, the only people who could apply for the waiver from inside the United States were those who had a U.S. citizen spouse or U.S. citizen parents. These relatives are known as “qualifying relatives.” The August 29 rule expands the list of “qualifying relatives” to spouses and parents who are Lawful Permanent Residents.

Thus, the August 29 change allows foreign nationals to apply for a provision waiver from inside the United States if they have have spouse or parent who is a a Lawful Permanent Resident of the United States. The new rule also makes other important changes to the waiver process, but they are more technical than I care to get into here. You can read summaries on the government’s web page (uscis.gov).

In sum: While the new rule will be extremely helpful for those who are eligible, it does not reflect a sweeping change in U.S. immigration law.