On January 6, 2012, the Department of Homeland security published a proposed rule that would change the process for how certain undocumented relatives of United States citizens apply for a waiver of the time they were in the United States without permission. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stated that they received over 4,000 comments on the proposed rule. A year later, on Wednesday January 2, 2013, the final rule was issued!
Many undocumented relatives of U.S. citizens who are applying for permanent residence must leave the United States and complete the process at a consulate in their country of birth. The Catch-22 of the process has been that once the person departs the United States, the immigration law says that the person must wait in their birth country for ten years as punishment for the time they were unlawfully in the U.S. The person can apply for a waiver of this punishment, but, prior to the change under the final rule, the application for the waiver could only be made at the consulate abroad after the interview. The processing of those waiver applications often takes a year or more. During that time the husband and wife, parent and child, etc. are often separated. The result of the waiver processing abroad has been that many families found the risks of having the undocumented family member leave the United States to complete the processing of the permanent resident application and waiver was too great and decided not to apply, adding to the numbers of undocumented people living in the U.S.