The Obama Administration announced plans to change a long standing policy in immigration processing. As of March, immigrants who are here without lawful status will be able to apply for a waiver of their unlawful status while here in the United States. Previously, those individuals would have to leave the United States, which would activate a 3 or 10 year bar to reentry, and then would have to apply at the embassy for a waiver of that bar. This process could take many years and keep families apart for long periods of time.
Now, immigrants that have accrued unlawful status will be able to apply for a waiver here in the United States, which will dramatically reduce the amount of time they will have to spend outside the country.
As with most immigration applications, there will be a processing fee charged by the government of $585. The waiver does not change the requirements of the waiver, which requires the applicant to establish that their removal from this country would cause extreme hardship to their United States Citizen immediate relative. This has historically been a difficult, although not insurmountable, task.
It remains to be seen how the President’s policy change will work in the real world.
See the New York Times article discussing this issuehere.