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Changes proposed to the process of obtaining a green card

The ability for an American citizen to obtain a green card for an immigrant spouse, child or parent may be getting a little easier. Recently, the Citizenship and Immigration Services published a formal notice in The Federal Register regarding the proposed change. The reason behind this change in the green card process is twofold. First, it should lessen the burden on current citizens. Second, by streamlining the process, the associated costs will likely be reduced.

Under the current process, if someone is in the country illegally and a member of his or her immediate family is a citizen, that citizen can apply for a green card on behalf of the person who is in the U.S. illegally. An immediate relative is defined as a spouse, a child or parent.

When an immediate relative that is a U.S. citizen completes that application, to receive his or her visa, the person who is in the country illegally most often has to return to his or her home country to await green card interviews at the U.S. Embassy in that country.

Currently, once there however, that person usually cannot reenter the United States for a minimum of three years. Sometimes that period of time stretches to 10 years. Because the current process can drag out for such a long period of time, some families have decided to forego applying for the green card and instead remain in the U.S. illegally and live in hiding.

Under the proposed change, people who are in the country illegally would be allowed to obtain a provisional waiver in the U.S. before returning to their home country to get their visa. The waiver would remove the waiting period and could potentially allow those immigrants to return to the U.S. in weeks rather than years.

The change would not affect those living in the U.S. illegally without immediate members of their family who are American citizens.

It is likely that the proposed change would prompt many individuals who are in the country illegally and have been hiding to come forward and seek a green card. Because all immigration matters can be complicated, an experienced immigration attorney can be helpful.

Source: The New York Times, "Tweak in Rule to Ease a Path to Green Card," Julia Preston, Jan. 6, 2012

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