By Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
DAVENPORT — Later this month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will expand its existing provisional waiver process to promote family unity. This new process allows certain individuals who are family members of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPR), and who are eligible for immigrant visas, to more easily navigate the immigration process, according to a USCIS press release.
Gricelda Garnica and Karina Garnica, immigration counselors with the Diocese of Davenport, said this is a very good opportunity for their clients who are eligible. Both women are Board of Immigration Appeals certified counselors.
Gricelda said that in 1996 new laws were announced that took effect in 1997. These laws, still in place until Aug. 29, bar anyone from the immigration process who has entered the United States without documentation or who overstayed their visa or permit. After six months of unlawful presence, the person is returned to their home country and barred from entering the U.S. for three years. If an undocumented individual has been in the U.S. for a year or more, there is a 10-year bar.
She noted that if a spouse of a permanent legal resident has never been deported, the spouse can petition for a stay, but there is still a waiting list. With the new law taking effect Aug. 29, a waiver lifts the 10-year bar. “But you still have to go to your home country for processing,” Gricelda said.
“People are coming here looking for a better life,” Karina said. The waiver isn’t necessarily easy to get as a family must prove “extreme hardship.” Examples can be health issues, violence in the home country, or supporting a family, Karina said. “For those without health issues or a family to support it will be harder.”
Under the new process, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens can apply for the provisional waivers, the press release from USCIS notes. If the waiver is approved, the family member can return to the U.S. and work toward obtaining a visa or becoming a legal permanent resident. “Without this new waiver, it is a very long process,” Gricelda said.
Both immigration counselors emphasized that not everyone will be approved and the process can be stopped for a number of reasons. “But we are excited about this new process,” Gricelda said.