In 2013, the Department of Homeland Security announced that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin a new process that will allow certain immediate relatives (spouses, children, and parents) of a U.S. citizen to apply for a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, or hardship waiver, without departing the United States.
In the past, certain immediate relatives had to travel and remain abroad, separated from their spouses, parents, and children, while USCIS processes their waiver applications. In some cases, the waiver application processing can be lengthy, prolonging the family's separation. Since March 4, 2013, however, USCIS allows the unlawful immigrant to file their hardship waiver while still in the United States before leaving the country to obtain their immigrant visa. If the waiver is approved, applicants will be required to depart the United States and attend the immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate abroad.
In order to qualify for a hardship waiver, you must be physically present in the U.S., be at least 17 years of age at the time of filing, be the beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition classifying you as the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen, have an immigrant visa case pending with the U.S. Department of State, believe you are inadmissible based on having accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the U.S., establish that the refusal of your admission to the U.S. would result in extreme hardship to your U.S. citizen family member, and meet all other requirements of the provisional unlawful presence waiver.
USCIS anticipates that this new process will significantly reduce the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives. [Read more on the new Hardship Waiver process].