Horsemen Note Revised Immigration Rule

Undocumented individuals will be able to apply for a waiver after March 4.

A new federal immigration rule will benefit the Thoroughbred industry, the National Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association said Jan. 28.

The Obama administration said the rule will take effect in early March. It will allow undocumented spouses and children of United States citizens to apply for a waiver while in the U.S., and if the waiver is granted, the foreign national will then briefly leave the U.S. to apply for his or her immigrant visa abroad.

The move comes as Congress is taking up broad immigration reform.

"This change has the potential to be very beneficial to the whole Thoroughbred industry," said Phil Hanrahan, chief executive officer of the National HBPA. "It can have a very positive impact on many hundreds if not thousands of dedicated grooms, farm workers, and their families, and could help to address the need for skilled workers both at the track and on horse farms."

The in-country waiver repeals the previous rule by which the husband or wife of a U.S. citizen was barred from applying for a green card in the U.S. if they originally entered without a visa, the horsemen's group said. To obtain lawful status, the immigrant had to leave the U.S. and apply for a visa at a U.S. embassy in their home country.

Leaving the U.S., however, barred the immigrant from returning for up to 10 years unless he or she could prove their U.S. citizen or legal resident spouse would suffer extreme hardship in their absence.

Will Velie of Horseman Labor Solutions, which assists the National HBPA, said applications must be filed by March 4, and that applicants must have an approved 1-130 petition. The petition, according to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, allows for a "citizen or lawful permanent resident of the U.S. to establish the relationship to certain alien relatives who wish to immigrate to the U.S."