The final rule, published in the Federal Register, establishes a process that allows specific individuals to apply for a "provisional unlawful presence waiver" before they leave the United States for immigrant visa interviews in their home countries, the department said in a release Wednesday.
The process will be effective March 4, the department said. More information about the filing process will be available soon at www.uscis.gov.
"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," Secretary Janet Napolitano said.
Under current law, immediate relatives of U.S. citizens not eligible to adjust their status in the United States to become lawful permanent residents must leave the United States and obtain an immigrant visa abroad. Those with more than six months of unlawful presence while in the United States must get a waiver so they can return to the United States after getting an immigrant visa from their home country.
To obtain a provisional unlawful presence waiver, the applicant must be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, inadmissible only because of unlawful presence, and demonstrate the denial of the waiver would result in extreme hardship for the U.S. citizen spouse or parent, the department said.
Under the new provisional waiver process, immediate relatives must still leave the United States for the immigrant visa process, but they can apply for a provisional waiver before they leave.