Undocumented spouses, parents or children of U.S. citizens will no longer have to leave their families and wait in their countries of origin, for months or even years, while they apply for U.S. residency.
The new federal immigration rule announced Wednesday, Jan. 2, by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will take effect on March 4, 2013.
The administrative change will reduce the amount of time that undocumented immigrants are separated from their family during the process to obtain legal status, cutting the timeline to as little as a few weeks outside of the U.S. ensuring a qualifying individual won't face the threat of a three- or ten-year bar.
The benefit is only available to qualifying undocumented immigrants who can prove that their absence would result in “extreme hardship” for immediate family members.
According to U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) statistics, as many as 25,000 immigrants apply for family unity waivers each year. A report of Los Angeles Times said the new immigration policy move would impact about one million of the roughly 11 million undocumented immigrants living in the U.S.