Phoenix Immigration Lawyer Darius Amiri on Proposed Immigration Changes: Promising Developments or Pre-Election Political Posturing

As an immigration attorney in Phoenix, Darius Amiri is constantly on the lookout for changes that may benefit his immigration clients. One such change is now on the horizon. On January 6, 2012, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that beginning this year it will be changing the way unlawful presence waivers are going to be processed for certain relatives of U.S. citizens filing immigrant visa petitions abroad. The proposed changes will allow qualified individuals to file for an I-601 provisional unlawful presence waiver while physically present inside the United States. If the waiver ends up getting approved, the petitioner would still have to depart the United States to receive their visa and undergo an interview at a U.S. consulate office, where they would need to show that a lengthy bar from the United States would cause an “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen spouse or parent.

Alcock & Associates attorney Amiri thinks this proposed change could favor thousands of people in dramatic fashion. Currently, spouses and family members of United States citizens and lawful permanent residents face many difficulties when applying for their lawful permanent residence card (LPR card, or green card). In many circumstances, applicants are forced to travel back to their home country and be interviewed before their visa is processed, in a procedure known as ‘consular processing.’ One major problem with consular processing is that an applicant who leaves the United States after entering and accumulating presence here, may then trigger a “bar from re-entry,” especially when their initial manner of entry was without inspection, or “illegal.”

Under the current consular processing system, individuals subject to a re-entry bar may apply for a 601 unlawful presence waiver, pay a fine of $585.00, and hope that their petition is approved and they do not have to be separated from their loved ones for an unnecessarily lengthy period of time. But in order for the petition to be granted, they have to demonstrate “extreme hardship” to the interviewing officer, and this must be done in their home country, not in the United States. This decision can often come in months or even years. The current wait time for many of our clients undergoing consular processing in Mexico is between 12-18 months. During this time, families are separated, or family members from the United States who choose to accompany their loved ones during the consular process are exposed to dangerous circumstances, for example, American citizens accompanying their parents from Mexico to the consular process in Ciudad Juarez. Some have been assaulted and even killed while waiting for a hardship interview abroad.

The new procedure aims to permit certain family members of U.S. citizens to apply for waivers of unlawful presence bars while remaining in the United States. If deemed eligible, USCIS will grant a provisional waiver, the petitioner will still have to depart and apply abroad for a consulate appointment, where the interviewing officer will decide on the inadmissibility and whether or not to apply the waiver. These proposed changes may result in a reduced wait time by several months, or even years. The standard will still remain “extreme and unusual hardship,” but by allowing the waivers to be filed within the United States, the bureaucratic hurdles and wait time could potentially be drastically reduced.

An interesting note is that these proposed changes are announced in an election year where both parties expect to rely heavily on the Latino vote. Earlier this year, the Obama administration announced a change in the way it would enforce deportation proceedings, allowing for prosecutorial discretion to administratively close cases where the respondent posed little threat to the community, had strong ties to the United States, had been present and attended school here since an early age, and otherwise benefited the community. So far, here at the Phoenix Immigration Law Firm of Alcock & Associates, we have seen the burgeoning effects of prosecutorial discretion, and have successfully convinced DHS to close some cases, but not to the extent expected when the announcements were first made.

Similarly, the announcement of changes in the way unlawful presence waivers are processed is not effective immediately, but are purported to take effect “at a future date,” per DHS. The immigration attorneys at Alcock & Associates are keeping tabs on this promising development, and promise to update as more developments come. For consular processing questions, unlawful presence waiver questions, or immigration questions in general, please contact acriminal lawyer or immigration attorney at (602) 989-5000 or at www.

posted by: Arizona Immigration Lawyer

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