SECRETARY OF Homeland Security, Janet Napolitano, has announced new rules reducing the time Caribbean and other nationals who are US citizens are separated from their immediate relatives.
She said these relatives - spouse, children and parents - must be in the process of obtaining visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States under certain circumstances.
"The final rule establishes a process that allows certain individuals to apply for a provisional unlawful presence waiver before they depart the United States to attend immigrant visa interviews in their countries of origin," she said, adding that the process will be effective on March 4, 2013.
"This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that US citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa."
Napolitano said the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) received more than 4,000 comments in response to the April 2, 2012 proposed rule and considered all of them in preparing the final rule.
"The law is designed to avoid extreme hardship to US citizens, which is precisely what this rule achieves," said USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas.
He said the change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon.
Under current law, immediate relatives of US citizens who are not eligible to adjust status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the US and obtain an immigrant visa abroad.
Individuals who have accrued more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver to overcome the unlawful presence inadmissibility bar before they can return to the United States after departing to obtain an immigrant visa.
In order to obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the USCIS said the applicant must be an immediate relative of a US citizen, inadmissible only on account of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship to his or her US citizen spouse or parent.