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The secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a memo in November of 2014 calling for the USCIS to change its regulations and make it easier to access the provisional presence waiver program. This is a big step, and it has drawn quite a bit of attention in the immigration community. This memorandum brings attention to one of the immigration programs with the most potential, and then calls for more of the potential to be exposed. This program has a lot to offer, and this memo is certainly a step in the right direction to fixing our immigration system.
Now the big question of course, what are these changes? The main change that is called for is simply the correction of general problems. For example, there are certain terms that are used but not explained properly, which makes them easier to exploit.
- One of these terms is “reason to believe,” which is most commonly used in the context of crime. What is basically means is that if an agent has a “reason to believe” that a crime has been committed making you inadmissible into the U.S. then they can deny your application. This term needs to be better explained, as right now there are no specific guidelines as to how it may be used.
- A second term is “extreme hardship” which is used to describe why someone can obtain a waiver. Someone who has a qualifying family relative who would suffer extreme hardship if the foreign national is not allowed to enter or stay in the U.S. can apply for a waiver. However, there is no definition for “extreme hardship,” immigration attorneys have learned from trial and error and past litigation. If this term were to be defined, the program could help more people. In all, many of these terms exist, and many need to be fixed.
- Lastly, is a change in the burden of proof. This is the yardstick that immigration will use to determine if you proved your allegation of extreme hardship. At the end of the day, it isn’t what you say to be true but you can prove to be true. There are varying standards that are used, few are precisely defined. By choosing to reduce the burden proof and provided additional guidance through examples would go a long a way to providing clarity to the immigration process.
These changes would make the program much stronger, and they would also increase the amount of people eligible for the program. In the end, that is the truly important thing, making sure as many people as possible can be helped by the program. For the moment, we are still waiting for the promised clarifications to be made.
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