If a relative comes to visit you in the United States and enters the country without a valid visa and without inspection at a port of entry, they are unlawfully present in the country and, therefore, considered “inadmissible” to the United States. Because a relative’s very presence in the United States violates U.S. immigration law, they can face serious consequences. They risk removal (also known as deportation) and may not be allowed back into the United States for up to 10 years. The consequences of a relative’s unlawful presence can be devastating to families. But there’s a silver lining. If you are a naturalized U.S. citizen (USC), you can help your family member remain in the country legally even if your family member is currently residing in the United States without having been inspected or admitted at a port of entry.

A provisional waiver to the unlawful presence inadmissibility ground – known as the I-601A – gives individuals who are unlawfully present in the United States a chance to apply for an immigrant visa and wait for the outcome of their application while still residing in the United States. As a citizen, you can request an I-601A waiver for your family member, making it possible for you to stay together. With this waiver, your loved one will only have to leave the United States to have a visa interview at an embassy or consulate in his or her home country. This process does not take more than a couple of weeks – sometimes, even a few days. Further, a relative of a U.S. citizen who is granted the I-601A waiver, and is determined to be otherwise admissible to the United States at the consulate interview abroad, does not need to worry about being let back into the United States. The provisional waiver allows the relative to return to the United States and await the receipt of his or her permanent Green Card.

An individual who is present in the United States unlawfully cannot request this life-saving provisional waiver unless they are the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen. Conversely, only people with U.S. citizenship have the ability to keep their family members close and apply for the waiver. An “immediate relative of a U.S. citizen” includes the U.S. citizen’s spouse, unmarried children under the age of 21, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21).

In sum, when you become a naturalized citizen, you not only gain benefits for yourself, but you also gain rights and protections for your loved ones. Naturalization can mean the difference between keeping your family together and being separated for years. If you are worried about fees, exams, or other barriers to citizenship, contact an immigration attorney for a consultation. An immigration attorney can guide you through the process one step at a time and help you secure the rights to which you are already eligible.

This blog posting is offered for informational purposes only. It does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Also, keep in mind that this is an INTERNET BLOG. You should not rely on anything you read here to make decisions which impact your life. Meet with an attorney in person to obtain competent personal and professional guidance.