By Elizabeth R. Blandon, Esq. published in the October issue of the Broward County Bar Association’s Barrister Magazine.

Marvin C. came to the United States after two of his childhood friends were killed in Guatemala. Afraid that he would be next, Marvin hastily left his homeland for the safety of this one. Over 630,000 undocumented foreign nationals like Marvin live in the state and South Florida is the home for more than 41% of them. Until now, many undocumented foreigners were forced to live a life of uncertainty. This was the case for Marvin: he found a job; met and married his wife; and the couple had a baby. His new family relied on his income and returning to dangerous Guatemala was not an option. Although foreigners can be married to (and have children wo are) US citizens, those relationships do not result in legal status for persons who entered without authorization. Deportation always looms as a real possibility.

Thanks to a new process, however, Marvin became a legal permanent resident. He has the much-coveted green card. Like him, those who qualify under the Provisional Waiver Program can emerge from the shadows. This is a path to citizenship, but not amnesty. No one is cutting any line. They can become legal; permanent residents (the step before citizenship) regardless of whether they entered the United States illegally, have orders of deportation, or have been in the country for more than six months with-out permission.

As of August 29,2016 anyone who is eligible for an immigrant visa can apply for a Provisional Waiver if they have a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident spouse or parent. This includes those who are eligible through employment or through the following family relation-ships:

  • Adult and married US citizens
  • Spouses and unmarried children (any age) of Legal Permanent Residents
  • Siblings of US citizens
  • Parent, spouse and child of US citizens

First a petition has to be filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIR). Second the approved petitions are sent to the National Visa Center. Finally, after CIS approves the Provisional Waiver, the case is sent to the Department of State for an interview abroad. Cases of persons with deportation orders will require additional work with the Immigration Courts.

This expansion could be a game-changer for millions of individuals who are in the United States without authorization, but the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney is critical. Not only does the case depend on making a strong legal argument, but parts of the regulations are still unclear. For example, some foreigners with orders of deportation who have accepted voluntary departure may not be eligible for a green card. As for Marvin, he continues working hard to support his family, which recently welcomed a second child.