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Path to green card to be made easier with rule change

The Obama administration announced a proposal to fix a frustrating catch found in the country's immigration laws. The change is intended to prevent long-term separations between American citizens and their illegal immigrant family members.

Immigration lawyers and immigrant advocates have praised the proposal, saying that this small regulatory tweak could prevent hundreds of thousands of Americans from being separated from their immediate family members while in the process of applying for a green card.

Under the current rules, some of these separations last months, while others last years, advocates said. It is also hoped that the change will encourage more illegal immigrants who are eligible for green cards to go through the process.

The executive director of the Coalition for Human Immigrant Rights in Los Angeles commented that this was a simple problem receiving a rational solution. This proposal does not require Congress' approval, and the Obama Administration said it hopes to have the new rule in effect by the end of the year.

Ultimately, the change will affect the process in which green cards are obtained. Currently, immigrants who apply for permanent residency are required to leave the country before they can obtain their green cards. But then they must wait between three and ten years before returning, unless they can prove "extreme hardship," which is difficult to do.

To many families, the thought of being separated for a decade is unconscionable. That is why it has been proposed that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will instead allow illegal immigrants to get a provisional waiver to get back into the United States before they leave to get their visas.

This is excellent news for the immediate family members of citizens who hope to become permanent residents of the United States. We will follow the rule change closely and provide updates.

Talk to an experienced immigration attorney in your area to find out how your family may be affected by the change.

Source: The New York Times, "Tweak in Rule to Ease a Path to Green Card," Julia Preston, Jan. 6, 2013

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