Immigration Rule Change

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Obama administration officials announced a U.S. immigration rule change that will allow American citizens to avoid long separations from their immediate family members who are undocumented immigrants as they apply to become legal residents. Under the new rule, a U.S. citizen can petition for a waiver while the non-citizens remain in the U.S waiting for a decision. Attorney Delia Salvatierra, Chair of the Immigraton Section or the State Bar of Arizona talks about the rule.

Jose Cardenas: The Obama administration announced a new immigration rule to make it easier for undocumented immigrants who are immediate family members of American citizens to apply for permanent residency. Joining me to talk about this new rule is attorney Delia Salvatierra, chair of the immigration section for the state bar of Arizona. Welcome back to "Horizonte."

Delia Salvatierra: Thank you for having me.

Jose Cardenas: We have talked about a number of different things with you in connection with recent developments. This is the newest.

Delia Salvatierra: The newest and of great impact to those noncitizens who are married to U.S. citizens. And will be able to apply for permanent resident status. The benefit of the rule is based on the fact that when a noncitizen is applying for immigration benefits, that they enter the country without a Visa. In other words, illegally. They cannot obtain a green card in the United States. They must travel back to their home country in order to obtain that green card. But that usually requires lengthy separation from their U.S. citizen families.

Jose Cardenas: How long are we talking about in.

Delia Salvatierra: Anywhere from four months to a year or year and a half. So the process can take quite a while. Now, with the state side waiver process, it's only a change in process, not necessarily a change in law, but will allow the noncitizen to apply for the waiver inside the United States, obtaining an approval of that waiver for a lawful presence for having lived here without status before departing and returning home to obtain that immigrant Visa. It takes out the anxiety of returning home without knowing whether the waiver will be approved or not.

Jose Cardenas: So They still have to leave the country?

Delia Salvatierra: Absolutely.

Jose Cardenas: But they are gone for a much shorter period of time?

Delia Salvatierra: Yes. We will probably reduce that period of time two and three weeks. They will still have to attend a consular interview and determine if they have other areas of ineligibility. A fingerprint background check and a medical examination. So folks won't step up to the front of the line. They are already immediate relatives married to United States citizens. They will be able to return home with an approved waiver and come back in a matter of weeks.

Jose Cardenas: Does the overall length of the process to get the permanent residency, is the shorter or the same?

Delia Salvatierra: I am not sure at this point. I think that it may take a little bit longer because you will venture to say the Department of Homeland security will be swamped with these waivers and it may take longer than what the processing times was abroad. At the post. Now, all the waivers are going to be centralize in one location, and I think that's going to back log adjudication.

Jose Cardenas: What's the mows vagues for this change?

Delia Salvatierra: The Obama administration saw that it wanted to benefit U.S. citizens. And not penalize them by sending their immediate relatives outside the United States for a long period of of time. There are many children, families who are separated for months at end without a determination. And I think the Obama administration really heard the pleas of U.S. citizens who wanted to reduce that time. Again, this is a procedural change to alleviate family separation. It doesn't undermine or provide automatic approval of a green card by any means.

Jose Cardenas: And as I understand it it could actually expose somebody to expulsion if they don't check with somebody like you, a skilled immigration lawyer, to find out whether there might be other issues.

Delia Salvatierra: Yeah. Just because you have an approved I-601 doesn't sanitize other areas that you may have, that may disqualify you from the immigrant Visa. If you have a prior criminal history or have, you know, admitted to Visa fraud or made a false claim to U.S. citizenship. That person --

Jose Cardenas: Or tried to come across too many times and got caught.

Delia Salvatierra: Yes. And have been apprehended at the border several times. That's going to disqualify the individual. Before embarking, on this process, individuals need to consult with an experienced immigration attorney, not a notario. It's still serious. If the waiver us a approved but the Department of State finds another reason to disqualify them the waivers is automatically revoked.

Jose Cardenas: And you may be kicked off the country.

Delia Salvatierra: Permanently. And so, you know, like I said, doesn't change the law. It only changes the procedure. So you still have to make sure that you are eligible and that you are going to come back.

Jose Cardenas: Delia, is there anything else you want to make sure people know about this new process?

Delia Salvatierra: You only get one shot. If you file the waiver, you are only going to get one opportunity to file the state side waiver. You are not going to get multiple opportunities. It's a one-shot deal. Second, when you submit a waiver the most important aspect of the waiver is to demonstrate the U.S. citizen spouse, children, and family is going to suffer extreme hardship. It's not just an application. It's very much an involved process to demonstrate extreme hardship.

Jose Cardenas: Delia, we thank you once again for joining us to talk about this and all the other appearances you have had to explain some of these complex issues and very appreciative. Thank you very much.

Delia Salvatierra: Thank you for having me.

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