Wednesday saw officials from the Obama administration unveil new rules that could allow hundreds of thousands of American citizens to avoid being separated from members of their immediate family who are illegal immigrants for long periods of time as they put in an application for legal residency in the United States.
Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced the new rules, which create a waiver to bypass an arcane immigration law that had seen Americans facing the prospect of being separated from immigrant children, spouses or parents for up to ten years while they apply for a green card. Until now those immigrants had to leave the United States in order to go back home to get their US visa, something that presented so great a risk to many that numerous families decided they would not even apply, which only added to the number of illegal immigrants residing in the country.
Immigration authorities will start accepting waiver applications on the 3rd March. The policy change was first announced a year ago, though they have been making revisions and accepting public comments prior to publishing the final rules.
It is usually fairly straightforward for American citizens to be able to obtain green cards for foreign underage children or spouses but if they were illegal immigrants they had to go back home in order to get their US visas, only to then be barred from returning for between three to ten years. Now the time spent out of the US will be reduced to just weeks.