The White House plans to change the immigration rules to help shorten the time that illegal immigrant spouses are separated from citizen relatives while trying to come back legally. Under current law, illegal immigrants are banned from legally reentering the United States for three to 10 years. Illegal immigrants are also required to leave the United States before asking the government to waive the ban on family-based visas.
The new rules that the Obama administration is proposing will let children and spouses of citizens request a waiver before they return home to apply for a visa. Immigrants are still expected to return home to finish the visa process, but receiving a waiver in advance will likely lower the amount of time that they are out of the country.
It is important to remember that U.S. government policy is to encourage the use of the immigration process to facilitate family reunification. This means that relatives of U.S. citizens and permanent residents with green cards can receive family-based green cards. The time it takes to obtain a family-based green card varies depending on the familial relationship.
The strongest preference for green card awards go to unmarried children of U.S. citizens and also the spouses and parents of citizens. These individuals can usually obtain a green card within a year of the application if there are no complications. An experienced Washington D.C. immigration attorney can help facilitate the immigration process by making sure applications are properly completed and timely submitted, among other things.
Source: Associated Press, "New immigration rule to help citizen relatives," Jan. 6, 2011