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Obama signs family-based immigration reform, effective March 4

In a recent display of executive power, the Obama administration issued a new rule making it easier for families to remain together while an immigrant family member applies for permanent residence.

In the past, many undocumented immigrants have been reluctant to apply for permanent residency because it meant they would have to leave the country to do so. But starting on March 4, if an undocumented immigrant can show that being away from his or her U.S.-citizen family members would constitute an "extreme hardship," the application process can start within the U.S.

Applicants will still have to pick up their visas in their native countries, but not having to leave the U.S. until that time will be a great relief for many immigrants. The new measure is designed to reduce the amount of time families have to spend apart during the application process.

Too many immigration cases in past years have ended when a relative of a U.S. citizen was killed in another country while awaiting a decision on immigration status.

About one million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. could make use of the new rule.

On March 4, a "hardship waiver" could also be given to undocumented immigrants who have overstayed their visas. Before the new law, it was necessary for those who overstayed their visas to leave the country to apply for permanent residency.

"The change will have a significant impact on American families by greatly reducing the time family members are separated from those they rely upon," said the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Many questions arise when it comes to family-based immigration. Family members who are seeking an adjustment of status or a green card would do well to consult with an immigration attorney who can clarify exactly what options are available.

Source: Los Angeles Times, "White House eases path to residency for some illegal immigrants," Brian Bennett, Jan. 2, 2013

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