Last week, President Obama proposed a new rule that would allow illegal immigrants with U.S. Citizen spouses or parents to stay in the U.S. while applying for a hardship waiver. Without a hardship waiver, an illegal immigrant may be barred from reentering the U.S. for up to ten years. Under the current rule, illegal immigrants may seek a waiver if they can show that his or her absence would cause an extreme hardship to the U.S. citizen relative. However, those seeking a hardship waiver must leave the U.S. and return to their native country while waiting for their waiver to be processed, which can take months or even years. The approval process causes families to be separated for a lengthy period of time and subjects the U.S. citizen relative to further hardship.
The proposed rule, which does not require congressional approval, would allow these immigrants to apply for a hardship waiver in the U.S., rather than return to their native country for an uncertain duration to wait for an approval of the waiver. Upon approval, the immigrant would still need to return to their home country to apply for a visa and could return to the U.S.
So what can we expect as a result of this proposed change? Ultimately, the new rule will promote family unity by reducing the amount of time families are separated. The proposed change will also lessen the hardship caused to the U.S. citizen relative. In addition, we will likely see a reduction in the number of illegal immigrants who have otherwise been unwilling to risk the hardships involved with the lengthy separations.