For hundreds of thousands if not millions of immigrants, the route to being a legal U.S. resident means going back to their home country and applying for residency there, which risked people being shut out when they wanted to return to their families here.
That will soon change, and immigrants with spouses or parents who are U.S. citizens who depend on them can apply for a waiver before leaving the United States.
"We're not going to be seeing those separations we've been seeing for so many years. and this is a great opportunity for them," said Maria Carrasco, with Derechos Humanos.
"First of all, it will streamline the process. secondly, it will eliminate that fear and hopefully more people will apply and we won't have as many people basically living in the shadows in the united states," said immigration attorney Maurice Goldman.
Goldman has had to advise clients to consider the risk of being separated from their families for years, up to a decade, as a punishment for living in this country without documentation.
But starting in March, if their absence is a hardship on those immediate relatives who are U.S. citizens, those immigrants can find out before they leave the country if they can get a waiver and return here after applying for residency.
"It'll allow them to become residents, get their social security number, maybe open up a business, you know it opens up many opportunities and it could have a significant impact and a trickle-down effect on our economy," Goldman said.
"They want to work, they want to have a proper job to support their families," Carrasco said.
Copyright 2013 Tucson News Now. All rights reserved.