NEW IMMIGRATION POLICY: I-601A provisional waiver forgives unlawful presence

I-601A, New Immigration Policy

The green card process for immediate family members of US citizens is made easier with a new policy. Announced early January, the policy to forgive unlawful presence for green card applicants will be implemented March 4.

The policy hinges on the repurposing of a form already in place — I-601, Application for Waiver Grounds of Inadmissibility. Certain immigrant applicants currently use this form to forgive circumstances that may otherwise cause their immigrant application to be denied, making them inadmissible to the United States. I-601A is the new proposed form which will forgive accrued unlawful presence.

The I-601A is titled the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. It is to be used by immediate family members of US citizens who are living in the United States without proper documentation. It is available to both persons whose lawful status has expired, meaning they originally entered the country legally but stayed past the validity of their visa, and to persons who entered the country unlawfully, without ever obtaining a proper visa.

"This final rule facilitates the legal immigration process and reduces the amount of time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives who are in the process of obtaining an immigrant visa," said Secretary Napolitano Jan.2 upon announcing the new policy.

The policy will require that the family member leave the country to attend his/her visa interview in their country of citizenship. However, it does not require them to remain outside of the United States for the three to 10 year ban which is often implemented for unlawful presence.

Who can apply for I-601A?

To be eligible for the I-601A policy, you must:

  • Be an immediate family member (spouse, parent or child) of a US citizen;
  • Be physically present in the United States;
  • Be at least 17 years old;
  • Be the beneficiary of an approved visa petition classifying you as the immediate relative of a US citizen;
  • Have an immigrant visa case pending with the US Department of State; and
  • The only grounds for inadmissibility that pertain to you are those of unlawful presence.