The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin accepting I-601A provisional unlawful presence waiver applications on March 4, 2013. Under the recently-announced new waiver process, immediate relatives of U.S. Citizens who will be subject to the unlawful presence bar can apply for a waiver and await its adjudication before they have to depart the U.S. Once the provisional waiver application is approved, the applicant must still depart the U.S. and attend a consular interview abroad, before an immigrant visa can be issued. However, the new process lessens the length of separation and encourages family unity while the waiver application is pending.
The USCIS will publish a new Form I-601A to be used for provisional waiver applications. It is very important to understand that the new process is limited and that there are many disqualifying factors. For example, it only applies to certain relatives of U.S. Citizens (spouses, children and parents), but not to other relatives. Further, the new process is not applicable to individuals who are subject to any additional grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence. Individuals not eligible to file a waiver under the new process can still file a waiver under the existing regulations, by departing to attend a consular interview abroad and then filing the waiver from abroad.
Waivers of inadmissibility grounds are major undertakings and as such it is very important to consult with experienced counsel before departing the U.S. and before making any immigration filings.