On July 29, 2016, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced a final rule which expands the current provisional waiver process. When the provisional waiver process was established in 2013, only immediate relatives of U.S. citizens were eligible to seek a stateside provisional waiver before departing the United States for the processing of their immigrant visas. Otherwise, the waiver was applied for and processed while the applicant was outside of the U.S. The new rule, which goes into effect on Aug. 29, 2016, will now include certain individuals who are family members of lawful permanent residents (LPRs), and who are statutorily eligible for immigrant visas, to apply for an unlawful presence waiver before leaving the U.S.
The provisional waiver process is intended to promote family unity by reducing the time that individuals are separated from their family members while they complete immigration processing abroad. To qualify for a provisional waiver, applicants must have an approved family petition and establish that their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses or parents would experience “extreme hardship” if the applicants are not allowed to return to the United States.
USCIS also announced it expects to update its Policy Manual to provide guidance on how USCIS makes “extreme hardship” determinations. This information should be available in the coming weeks.