It took a year, but the Obama administration has now changed immigration rules to make it easier for illegal aliens with U.S. relatives to remain in the country while seeking a visa.

Illegal immigrants who have family members — a spouse, children, or parents — who are already U.S. citizens usually have to return to their home country in order to apply for a visa to stay in the U.S. Those who had already been in the U.S. for more than 6 months illegally would also have to apply for a waiver to ignore their unlawful presence before their visa application could be considered.

In practice, this meant that those wishing to remain in the U.S. were forced to leave the country for as long as a year while waiver paperwork was processed. It also meant that many illegal immigrants refused to take the risk of applying for legal status when they had passed the 6-month mark, since applying for status meant leaving the country for an extended period of time and being separated from family members who were citizens.

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