Undocumented? A Waiver for Unlawful Presence Can Save Your Family

If you marry an undocumented immigrant in Spokane, your spouse will need to obtain a waiver for unlawful presence from the U.S. government if he or she wants to remain in our country. Don’t panic, though: Getting this waiver is often possible, but it may be it may not be as difficult as you might think.

Federal agencies would prefer, of course, that everyone living in the U.S. had followed all the rules in coming to our country and remaining here.

But life happens. Mr. or Ms. Right may have taken a wrong turn in the past, perhaps by illegally crossing a border into the U.S as a child. or, having a visa when first arriving in the country, let it expire and remained in the United States, anyway.

The good news is, the federal government can be forgiving, and allow the undocumented immigrant to live, and marry, here legally by issuing a provisional waiver for unlawful presence. The bad news is, these waivers can take quite a bit of time to obtain, and the waiver petitioner most likely will have to leave the country to complete the process.

A Waiver for Unlawful Presence is Easier Now than A Few Years Back

Thanks to recent immigration reforms under the Obama Administration, however, getting documented is easier now than ever. Form I-601A allows the petitioner to remain in the U.S. while waiting for approval, a major change. In the past, undocumented immigrants wanting to get a green card or become citizens had to leave the country, wait a year or two (sometimes more), then ask for clemency and a visa from the government before being allowed to return.

In these cases, the petitioner typically would have children, but would have to leave them in someone else’s care while waiting for a visa (or take them to the country of origin, which may be extremely difficult).

Now, though, the Provisional Waiver for Unlawful Presence allows the petitioner to remain in the country while awaiting forgiveness and a visa. The only catch is this: for the visa to be valid, the petitioner must leave the country, head to the nearest embassy, and submit to an inspection before getting a U.S. passport and visa. The time spent away from home and family could be a month or more.

Not everyone may qualify for the expedited Form I-601A, either. The petitioner must demonstrate that his or her absence would cause an undue burden on the qualifying U.S. citizens (usually the spouse).

Legal help is essential

These new provisional waivers can be difficult to procure. For instance, one of my clients, a citizen married to an undocumented woman, had to care for his autistic child without the mother’s help while she languished outside the country for a year, waiting for a visa. Why? She could not prove, even with the child’s medical records, that her absence created an “undue burden” on her family.

She could have come to me from the beginning, and I might have helped.

On the other hand, having a good attorney can also prevent monetary losses. One client didn’t tell me that he had a charge of fraud pending after trying in the past to enter the U.S. illegally. He’d falsely claimed at the border to be a U.S. citizen, an act of fraud which the government takes very seriously. Ignorant of his past, we went the arduous process of applying for a waiver — and his petition was denied. Had he been honest with our office, we would have advised him to not to apply, and saved him time and money.

The same applies to anyone with fraud in their past or a criminal record.

If you are denied

Does not getting a waiver for unlawful presence mean a couple must remain apart? Not necessarily. Those who are denied simply must leave the U.S., wait a year or two, then apply for clemency and a visa.

One thing you should not do, however, is attempt to apply for a waiver for unlawful presence on your own. In Spokane, Quiroga Law Office specializes in immigration law, and is here to help. If you’re in Spokane County and need an I-601A Provisional Waiver for Unlawful Presence, call us today at (509) 927-3840.

A Waiver for Unlawful Presence can Save Your Family | Copyrighted Material of the Quiroga Law Office, PLLC