There are serious consequences for foreign nationals who lose their immigrant status in the United States. For foreign nationals classified as an unlawful presence, it can take years to get another visa. Now, a recent expansion of the provisional I-601a waiver program could make it easier for foreign nationals to recover their status and return to the United States.

Find out how provisional waivers can shorten the amount of time you spend outside the United States and who is eligible.

The provisional waiver program was developed to make it easier for foreign nationals, who have family members who are lawful permanent residents or U.S. Citizens, and already eligible for an immigrant visa to get through the immigration process and be reunited with their families.

Who needs a provisional waiver?

Individuals who are not eligible to adjust their immigration status in the United States and are considered an unlawful presence should apply for a 601a provisional waiver before leaving the country.

There are three triggers that could cause a foreign national to lose their status and become classified as an unlawful presence:

1. Entering the United States without inspection by customs.

2. Termination of status by the United States government.

3. Overstaying the length of a visa

Once classified as an unlawful presence, individuals cannot change their status in the United States. They must leave the country and reapply after waiting a period of years. According to section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, individuals who overstayed their visa by 180 days to a year must wait three years before they are eligible to obtain a visa. Individuals who overstayed their visa by a year or more must wait 10 years before they are eligible to obtain a visa.

The only way to get around the waiting period is to obtain a provisional waiver before leaving the country and meeting with the foreign consulate in your home country.

Previously, provisional waivers were only available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents. As of August 26, 2016, the waivers are applicable to immediate relatives of lawful permanent residents.

Get help from an attorney

Having an immigration attorney on your side is incredibly important during this process. An immigration attorney does more than help you complete your immigration paperwork properly. Your immigration attorney can advise you of time and has the ability to obtain status updates and pursue a determination. This is especially helpful when a prolonged absence would cause substantial harm to a spouse or children in the United States.