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Law and Waiver reform still tough to flag down

It has been necessary from time to time to provide updates on the status of U.S. Immigration waivers.The changes surrounding this topic have been caused by the failure of the U.S. Immigration and Natu...

It has been necessary from time to time to provide updates on the status of U.S. Immigration waivers.

The changes surrounding this topic have been caused by the failure of the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) to carry through its announcement a few years ago of introducing a waiver with a five-year term.

With the new proposed system on the horizon, the INS made announcements regarding the termination of the old system, in anticipation of the new.

However, the failure of the INS to institute the new system requires some periodic updating on the status of previously issued waiver documents.

By way of background, a U.S. Immigration waiver is a document that is needed to waive, or overcome, certain grounds of inadmissibility to the U.S.

Also, a waiver is not an automatic thing; persons with recent criminal convictions may find they are required to wait a few years before becoming eligible.

The basic waiver document is an INS approval printed on a letter-size sheet of paper, granting U.S. admissibility to the individual for a term of one year.

The annual renewal process is cumbersome for both the applicant and the INS, and up until four or five years ago, the INS addressed that problem by issuing a document with no expiration date, called a border crossing card (BCC).

The BCC was generally issued after the applicant already had one or more one-year waivers. It is a more durable, credit-card sized document containing the person’s photo and identification information.

Approximately five years ago, the INS determined the permanent or indefinite nature of the BCC required some review, and announced its intention to issue a waiver with a five-year validity, as a compromise between the benefits of the BCC and the inconvenience associated with annual waiver renewals.

In the spring of 2000, in anticipation of an announcement of the five-year waiver document, the INS prematurely issued waivers with a five-year validity, as opposed to one year.

Approximately 1,000 of these five-year waivers were issued before INS headquarters in Washington discontinued the program.

It now appears clear that the five-year waiver is not a high priority with INS.

Based on recent discussion with top INS officials, the following is the current status of the waiver system as of May, 2002:

The five-year waiver document is not something we will be seeing soon. Due to other more pressing concerns at the INS, the five-year waiver “is not even on the radar screen,” according to an INS official.

New applicants, and holders of one-year waiver documents, must continue to follow procedures for annual, one-year renewals.

The five-year waiver document will expire on Sept. 30. INS border officials are currently re-stamping the waiver with this expiration date, and advising holders of those documents they must apply for a renewal.

Anyone holding a five-year waiver document should begin renewal procedures immediately in order to be assured a valid waiver by Oct. 1.

BCCs continue to be valid indefinitely. Contrary to other published reports, BCCs will not expire on Sept. 30.

Unfortunately, there is no way to apply for a new BCC, and holders who lose their BCC cannot obtain a replacement.

If you are lucky enough to have a BCC make sure you take care of it – loss or damage means you’re going to be forced into the one-year waiver with most everyone else.

– Daniel Joyce can be reached at Hirsch and Joyce, Attorneys at Law, at 716-564-2727.

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