I-601 Waiver Approved for Multiple Convictions of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

I-601 Waiver Approved for Multiple Convictions of Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

The applicant is a citizen of India who was found inadmissible under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (the Act), 8 U.S.C. § 1182(a)(2)(A)(i)(I), for having been convicted of two separate crimes involving moral turpitude: robbery and theft.

The applicant sought a waiver of inadmissibility under section 212(h) of the Act in order to reside in the United States with his U.S. citizen spouse.

Section 212(a)(2)(A) of the Act states, in pertinent parts:

(i) Any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of-

(I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime . . . is inadmissible.

(ii) Exception.-Clause (i)(I) shall not apply to an alien who committed only one crime if-

(I) the crime was committed when the alien was under 18 years of age, and the crime was committed (and the alien was released from any confinement to a prison or correctional institution imposed for the crime) more than 5 years before the date of the application for a visa or other documentation and the date of application for admission to the United States, or

(II) the maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted (or which the alien admits having committed or of which the acts that the alien admits having committed constituted the essential elements) did not exceed imprisonment for one year and, if the alien was convicted of such crime, the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of the extent to which the sentence was ultimately executed).

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held in Matter of Perez-Contreras, 20 I&N Dec. 615, 617-18 (BIA 1992), that:

[M]oral turpitude is a nebulous concept, which refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.. ..In determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude, we consider whether the act is accompanied by a vicious motive or corrupt mind. Where knowing or intentional conduct is an element of an offense, we have found moral turpitude to be present. However, where the required mens rea may not be determined from the statute, moral turpitude does not inhere.

Section 212(h) of the Act provides, in pertinent part, that:

(h) Waiver of subsection (a)(2)(A)(i)(I), (II), (B), (D), and (E).-The Attorney General [now the Secretary of Homeland Security, “Secretary”] may, in [her] discretion, waive the application of subparagraphs (A)(i)(I) … of subsection (a)(2) if-

(B) in the case of,an immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son, or daughter of a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if it established to the satisfaction of the [Secretary] that the alien’s denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to the United States citizen or lawfully resident spouse, parent, son, or daughter of such alien.

(2) the [Secretary], in [her] discretion, and pursuant to such terms, conditions and procedures as [she] may by regulations prescribe, has consented to the alien’s applying or reapplying for a visa, for admission to the United States, or adjustment of status.

Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning,” but “necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.” Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964). In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, the Board provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative. 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565 (BIA 1999). The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate. Id. The Board added that not all of the foregoing factors need be analyzed in any given case and emphasized that the list of factors was not exclusive. Id . at 566.

The Board has also held that the common or typical results of removal and inadmissibility do not constitute extreme hardship, and has listed certain individual hardship factors considered common rather than extreme. These factors include: economic disadvantage, loss of current employment, inability to maintain one’s present standard of living, inability to pursue a chosen profession, separation from family members, severing community ties, cultural readjustment after living in the United States for many years, cultural adjustment of qualifying relatives who have never lived outside the United States, inferior economic and educational opportunities in the foreign country, or inferior medical facilities in the foreign country. See generally Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. at 568; Matter of Pilch, 21 I&N Dec. 627, 632-33 (BIA 1996); Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. 880, 883 (BIA 1994); Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. 245, 246-47 (Comm’r 1984); Matter of Kim, 15 I&N Dec. 88, 89-90 (BIA 1974); Matter of Shaughnessy, 12 I&N Dec. 810, 813 (BIA 1968).

However, though hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually, the Board has made it clear that “[r]elevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of 0-J-0-, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882). The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.” Id.

The actual hardship associated with an abstract hardship factor such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differs in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships. See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Tsui Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).

For example, though family separation has been found to be a common result of inadmissibility or removal, separation from family living in the United States can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. Salcido-Salcido v. INS, 138 F.3d 1292, 1293 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983)); but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 24 7 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

Therefore, the AAO considers the totality of the circumstances in determining whether denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.

Some of the favorable factors that contributed to approval of this I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver for convictions of multiple crimes involving moral turpitude include the following:

  • The qualifying relatives for purposes of the I-601 waiver include the U.S. citizen spouse and two U.S. citizen children, all of whom reside in the United States
  • The U.S. citizen children are already developing behavioral problems due to separation from their father, including the youngest child refusing to eat and becoming critically underweight
  • The U.S. citizen wife has been diagnosed with psychological disorders, with a personal and family history of chronic illness and anxiety
  • The Indian husband’s income is not sufficient to support two households (his own and that of his family in the U.S.), and this is causing severe financial stress that is exacerbating the physical, psychological, and emotion state of the U.S. citizen wife and their children
  • The U.S. citizen wife suffers from a physical ailment, which only got worse during her attempted residence in India to be with her husband

Extreme hardship is a requirement for eligibility, but once established it is but one favorable discretionary factor to be considered. Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296, 301 (BIA 1996). For waivers of inadmissibility, the burden is on the applicant to establish that a grant of a waiver of inadmissibility is warranted in the exercise of discretion. Id. at 299. The adverse factors evidencing an alien’s undesirability as a permanent resident must be balanced with the social and humane considerations presented on his behalf to determine whether the grant of relief in the exercise of discretion appears to be in the best interests of this country. Id. at 300.  In Matter of Mendez-Moralez, in evaluating whether section 212(h)(1)(B) relief is warranted in the exercise of discretion, the BIA stated that:

The factors adverse to the applicant include the nature and underlying circumstances of the exclusion ground at issue, the presence of additional significant violations of this country’s immigration laws, the existence of a criminal record and, if so, its
nature, recency and seriousness, and the presence of other evidence indicative of an alien’s bad character or undesirability as a permanent resident of this country . . . . The favorable considerations include family ties in the United States, residence of long duration in this country (particularly where the alien began his residency at a young age), evidence of hardship to the alien and his family if he is excluded and deported, service in this country’s Armed Forces, a history of stable employment, the existence of property or business ties, evidence of value and service to the community, evidence of genuine rehabilitation if a criminal record exists, and other evidence attesting to the alien’s good character (e.g., affidavits from family, friends, and responsible community representatives). Id. at 301.

The BIA further states that upon review of the record as a whole, a balancing of the equities and adverse matters must be made to determine whether discretion should be favorably exercised. The equities that the applicant for relief must bring forward to establish that he merits a favorable exercise of administrative discretion will depend in each case on the nature and circumstances of the ground of exclusion sought to be waived and on the presence of any additional adverse matters, and as the negative factors grow more serious, it becomes incumbent upon the applicant to introduce additional offsetting favorable evidence. Id. at 301.

In this case, we also discussed and presented proof of every factor we determined to be important for purposes of securing approval of the I-601 waiver.  We determine these factors based upon close analysis of the clients’ personal situations as well as upon my experience of obtaining approval of I-601, I-212, I-601A, and 212(d)(3) waivers for the past 15 years.   These factors included but were not limited to:

  • A summary discussion of the convictions for crimes involving moral turpitude, as well as any extenuating circumstances that led to the violations and the corresponding the sentence received
  • The applicant’s employment for a prestigious multinational company
  • The applicant’s involvement in humanitarian efforts
  • The applicant’s acceptance at one of the most prestigious universities in the world for graduate-level study
  • Numerous sworn-affidavits by family, colleagues, and prominent officials in a position to judge the character and rehabilitation of the applicant

As a result of our efforts, the I-601 waiver was approved and this family now resides together lawfully inside the United States.

I-601 Waiver for Prostitution Approved for Wife of U.S. Citizen from Thailand

I-601 Waiver for Prostitution Approved for Wife for U.S. Citizen from Thailand

Our office received approval of the I-601 Waiver (Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility) for the Thai spouse of a U.S. citizen who was found inadmissible to the United States after being charged with engaging in prostitution due to her previous employment as a masseuse at a massage spa in Thailand.

The U.S. embassy in Bangkok, Thailand is well-known for engaging in rigorous consular interviews – conducting both procedural (checking a computerized database) and investigative checks on its applicants, and vigorously charging applicants with inadmissibility if they suspect certain types of conduct.

The U.S. citizen spouse contacted my office after his Thai spouse was charged with having engaged in prostitution in the past during her immigrant visa interview and deemed inadmissible to the United States pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(2)(D).

Section 212(a)(2)(D) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:

(D) Prostitution and commercialized vice.-Any alien who-

(i) is coming to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in prostitution, or has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status,

(ii) directly or indirectly procures or attempts to procure, or (within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status) procured or attempted to procure or to import, prostitutes or persons for the purpose of prostitution, or receives or (within such 10- year period) received, in whole or in part, the proceeds of prostitution, or

(iii) is coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution, is inadmissible.

Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a discretionary waiver for the following criminal grounds of inadmissibility:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (subparagraph 212(a)(2)(A)(I))
  • Multiple criminal convictions (212(a)(2)(B))
  • Prostitution and commercial vice (212(a)(2)(D))
  • Certain aliens who have asserted immunity from prosecution (212(a)(2)(E))
  • An offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II))

The Attorney General may waive the grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(D)(i)-(ii) of the Act with regard to prostitution if the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the alien’s admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S., and that the alien has been rehabilitated. INA 212(h)(1)(A).

INA 212(h)(1)(B) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), (D)-(E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who demonstrates that this removal from the United States would result in extreme hardship to his United States citizen or lawful resident parent, spouse, son, or daughter.

Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning, but necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.”  Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964 ).

In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565-66 (BIA 1999), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.  The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate.

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also made it clear that although hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually,  “relevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of O-J-O, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882).  The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also held that hardship factors such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differ in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships.   See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Tsui Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).

As an example, the Board of Immigration Appeals has found family separation, a common result of inadmissibility or removal, can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. See Salcido-Salcido, 138 F.3d at 1293 (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983; but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 247 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

We prepared a comprehensive 34-page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of my clients’ situation met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship”; thoroughly demonstrated “rehabilitation” of the Thai spouse; and showed that the Thai spouse’s admission would “not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.”  

As with all of our waiver cases, we went above and beyond the work that many law firms would engage in by demonstrating that our client met the legal standard of BOTH INA 212(a)(2)(D)(i)-(ii) and INA 212(h)(1)(B).  This brief was accompanied by supporting exhibits that provided credible proof of every vital and relevant statement made in the legal brief.

The positive factors in this case included:

  • Psychological disorders suffered by the U.S. citizen spouse which substantially impairs his ability to function in everyday life.  The psychological disorders are being being aggravated by the prolonged separation of the couple and the unique circumstances of their individual and collective lives.
  • Significant health issues suffered by the U.S. citizen spouse, including a pulmonary embolism in the past, which now requires regular medical check-ups and the taking of medication for the rest of his life
  • A serious medical condition suffered by the Thai spouse, which requires extremely complicated and high-risk surgery to correct.  Such  surgery is very difficult to obtain from a qualified surgeon in Thailand and complications from the surgery could include nerve damage and infertility.  This situation adds to the mental distress being experienced by the U.S. husband.
  • The U.S. citizen husband is financially responsible for three households: his own, his wife’s, and that of his wife’s parents.  Becoming incapacitated due to his various ailments would lead to financial collapse for the U.S. citizen husband as well as that of his extended family.
  • The U.S. citizen husband has served multiple long-term tours abroad in a civilian position to support the U.S. military in its “War on Terror.”  He has only recently re-united with his family in the U.S. and cannot bear the thought of leaving the U.S. once again.  He also does not speak Thai and would have no means for supporting himself financially in Thailand.
  • Country conditions of Thailand would make it difficult for the U.S. citizen husband to receive the standard of medical care he now receives in the U.S.  The current state of Thai medical care also makes it very difficult for his wife to receive the type of specialized surgery she needs for her serious condition.
  • Evidence of rehabilitation of the Thai spouse includes 14 affidavits of good moral character from members of her family; a Buddhist monk; a local government official; prominent members of the business community; and many others who can attest to her honesty, dedication to family, and character.  It also includes her complete honesty during her consular interview; her history of having studied massage therapy (including evidence of schooling in the field); and the reason for her employment at the massage parlor (which was to financially support her impoverished parents).

Although extreme hardship is only considered when suffered by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent, spouse, son, or daughter of the foreign applicant under INA 212(h)(1)(B), it is my experience that extreme hardship suffered by any close relative of the qualifying relative should be thoroughly discussed.  In this case, the extreme hardships to be suffered by the U.S. citizen’s spouse herself (the waiver applicant), would in turn impact the U.S. citizen and aggravate all of the conditions he presently suffers from.  This was carefully outlined in detail in our memorandum.  This connection can be made when the waiver applicant plays an integral role in the overall well-being of the U.S. citizen and is needed to assume a vital, day-to-day role in his physical, emotional, and psychological care and oversight.

As a result of the I-601 “prostitution waiver” expeditiously prepared and submitted by my office, the I-601 waiver application was approved by the USCIS.  The couple now happily reside together inside the U.S.

Exercise of Discretion by the USCIS Officer on Immigrant Waivers

Exercise of Discretion by the USCIS Officer on Immigrant Waivers

If an immigrant waiver applicant meets all other statutory and regulatory requirements of a waiver, the USCIS officer must determine whether to approve the waiver as a matter of discretion. 

If the applicant does not meet another statutory requirement of the waiver, USCIS denies the waiver and a discretionary analysis is not necessary.

However, an officer may still include a discretionary analysis if the applicant’s conduct is so egregious that a discretionary denial would be warranted even if the applicant had met the other statutory and regulatory requirements.  Adding a discretionary analysis to a denial is considered useful if an appellate body on review disagrees with the officer’s conclusion that the applicant failed to meet the statutory requisites for the waiver.

According to the USCIS Policy Manual up-to-date as of August 23, 2017, meeting the other statutory and regulatory requirements of an immigrant waiver alone does not entitle the applicant to relief. See Reyes-Cornejo v. Holder, 734 F.3d 636 (7th Cir. 2013). See Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. 560 (BIA 1999). See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296 (BIA 1996).

The discretionary determination is the final step in the adjudication of a waiver application. The applicant bears the burden of proving that he or she merits a favorable exercise of discretion. See Matter of De Lucia, 11 I&N Dec. 565 (BIA 1966). See Matter of T-S-Y-, 7 I&N Dec. 582 (BIA 1957).

We consider the exercise of discretion by the adjudicating USCIS officer to be an essential part of any waiver approval that my office has obtained on behalf of our clients for the past 15 years.  Consequently, I always make sure to include every favorable factor from our client’s lives and backgrounds, that in our experience, have proven significant and pivotal in the approval of immigrant (and non-immigrant waivers) for our clients.

The legal basis for the exercise of discretion in immigrant waiver applications commonly filed by my office is highlighted below:

  1. The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens (spouses, children, or parents) who are currently residing in the United States to apply for a provisional waiver while in the United States, provided they meet all eligibility requirements outlined in 8 CFR 212.7(e) and warrant a favorable exercise of discretion.
  2. INA 212(h)(1)(B) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), (D)-(E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who:
    1. has a parent, spouse, son, or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States; and
    2. the parent, spouse, son, or daughter would suffer “extreme hardship” on account of the alien’s ineligibility to immigrate
    3. Waiver applicants must also show that their application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in his or her case.
  3.  INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v) authorizes the Secretary to waive the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars for individuals seeking admission to the United States as immigrants if they can show that the refusal of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent, and provided that the applicant warrants a favorable exercise of discretion. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296, 301 (BIA 1996).

The below details some of the discretionary factors relevant to the waiver adjudication as set for by the USCIS Policy Manual:

Non-Exhaustive List of Factors that May Be Relevant in the Discretionary Analysis

CategoryFavorable FactorsUnfavorable Factors
Waiver Eligibility• Meeting certain other statutory requirements of the waiver, including a finding of extreme hardship to a qualifying family member, if applicable. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296 (BIA 1996) (relating to a criminal waiver under INA 212(h)(1)(B)). See Matter of Marin, 16 I&N Dec. 581 (BIA 1978) (relating to an INA 212(c) waiver). See Matter of Tijam, 22 I&N Dec. 408 (BIA 1998) (relating to a fraud or misrepresentation finding (INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)) and the discretionary waiver under former INA 241(a)(1)(H) [renumbered as INA 237(a)(1)(H) by IIRIRA]).

• Eligibility for waiver of other inadmissibility grounds.
Not applicable – Not meeting the statutory requirements of the waiver results in a waiver denial. A discretionary analysis is not necessary.
Family & Community Ties• Family ties to the United States and the closeness of the underlying relationships.

• Hardship to the applicant or to non-qualifying lawful permanent residents (LPRs) or U.S. citizen relatives or employers.

• Length of lawful residence in the United States and status held during that residence, particularly where the applicant began residency at a young age.

• Significant health concerns that affect the qualifying relative.

• Difficulties the qualifying relative would be likely to face if the qualifying relative moves abroad with the applicant due to country conditions, inability to adapt, restrictions on residence, or other factors that may be claimed.

• Honorable service in the U.S. armed forces or other evidence of value and service to the community.

• Property or business ties in the United States.
Absence of community ties.
Criminal History & Moral Character (or both)• Respect for law and order, and good moral character, which may be evidenced by affidavits from family, friends, and responsible community representatives.

• Reformation of character and rehabilitation.

• Community service beyond any imposed by the courts.

• Considerable passage of time since deportation or removal.
• Moral depravity or criminal tendencies reflected by an ongoing or continuing criminal record, particularly the nature, scope, seriousness, and recent occurrence of criminal activity.
 
• Repeated or serious violations of immigration laws, which evidence a disregard for U.S. law.

• Lack of reformation of character or rehabilitation.

• Previous instances of fraud or false testimony in dealings with USCIS or any government agency.

• Marriage to a U.S. citizen or LPR for the primary purpose of circumventing immigration laws.

• Nature and underlying circumstances of the inadmissibility ground at issue, and the seriousness of the violation
Public safety or national security concerns
OtherAbsence of significant undesirable or negative factors.Other indicators of an applicant's bad character and undesirability as a permanent resident of this country.

Discretionary Factors

The officer must weigh the social and humanitarian considerations against the adverse factors present in the applicant’s case.  See Matter of De Lucia, 11 I&N Dec. 565 (BIA 1966). See Matter of T-S-Y-, 7 I&N Dec. 582 (BIA 1957). The approval of a waiver as a matter of discretion depends on whether the favorable factors in the applicant’s case outweigh the unfavorable ones. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296 (BIA 1996).

Discretionary Determination

When making a discretionary determination, the officer should review the entire record and give the appropriate weight to each adverse and favorable factor.  Once the officer has weighed each factor, the officer should consider all of the factors cumulatively to determine whether the favorable factors outweigh the unfavorable ones. If the officer determines that the positive factors outweigh the negative factors, then the applicant merits a favorable exercise of discretion.

Example

A lengthy and stable marriage is generally a favorable factor in the discretionary analysis. On the other hand, the weight given to any possible hardship to the spouse that may occur upon separation may be diminished if the parties married after the commencement of removal proceedings with knowledge of an impending removal.  In particular, if a finding of extreme hardship is a statutory eligibility requirement, the finding of extreme hardship permits, but does not require, a favorable exercise of discretion. Once extreme hardship is found, extreme hardship becomes a factor that weighs in favor of granting relief as a matter of discretion.

Example

In general, when reviewing an applicant’s employment history, an officer may consider the type, length, and stability of the employment. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296 (BIA 1996). See Ghassan v. INS, 972 F.2d 631 (5th Cir. 1992).

Example

In general, when reviewing an applicant’s history of physical presence in the United States, the officer may favorably consider residence of long duration in this country, as well as residence in the United States while the applicant was of young age. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296 (BIA 1996).

Example

When looking at the applicant’s presence in the United States, the officer should evaluate the nature of the presence. For example, a period of residency during which the applicant was imprisoned may diminish the significance of that period of residency. See Diaz-Resendez v. INS, 960 F.2d 493 (5th Cir. 1992).

Cases Involving Violent or Dangerous Crimes

If a foreign national is inadmissible on criminal grounds involving a violent or dangerous crime, an officer may not exercise favorable discretion unless the applicant has established, in addition to the other statutory and regulatory requirements of the waiver that:

  • The case involves extraordinary circumstances; or
  • The denial would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship. See Douglas v. INS, 28 F.3d 241 (2nd Cir. 1994).

Extraordinary circumstances involve considerations such as national security or foreign policy interests.  Exceptional and extremely unusual hardship is substantially beyond the ordinary hardship that would be expected as a result of denial of admission, but it does not need to be so severe as to be considered unconscionable. See INA 212(h). See 8 CFR 212.7(d). See Matter of Jean, 23 I&N Dec. 373 (A.G. 2002) (relating to a waiver of inadmissibility granted in connection with INA 209(c), refugee or asylee adjustment of status).  Depending on the gravity of the underlying criminal offense, a showing of extraordinary circumstances may still be insufficient to warrant a favorable exercise of discretion. See Matter of Monreal, 23 I&N Dec. 56 (BIA 2001).

I-601 Waiver Pursuant to INA 212(h) Approved for South Korean Applicant

I-601 Waiver Pursuant to INA 212(h) Approved for South Korean Applicant

Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for a client who was subject to a lifetime ban from being admitted to the United States pursuant to  INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).  Our client was charged and convicted of misappropriating monies from the bank account of another individual in 1998, for which offense she was fined the equivalent of USD$2000, which fine she has paid. [Exh. B, R]. That conviction triggered the lifetime inadmissibility bar pursuant to INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) “Crimes involving moral turpitude.”

The U.S. citizen sibling petitioner contacted me after her sister was denied admission to the U.S. following her consular interview at the U.S. embassy in Seoul, South Korea.  A comprehensive waiver package was subsequently prepared by our office based on the fact that more than 15 years have passed since she was convicted of criminal offense in her home country of South Korea; the clear evidence that her admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety or security of the United States; and that she has been fully rehabilitated.

Legal Requirements of the § 212(h) Waiver

Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a discretionary waiver for the following criminal grounds of inadmissibility:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (subparagraph 212(a)(2)(A)(I))
  • Multiple criminal convictions (212(a)(2)(B))
  • Prostitution and commercial vice (212(a)(2)(D))
  • Certain aliens who have asserted immunity from prosecution (212(a)(2)(E))
  • An offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II))

INA 212(h)(1)(A) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), and (E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that:

  • the activities for which she is inadmissible occurred more than fifteen years before the date of the alien’s application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status;
  • the admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.; and
  • the alien has been rehabilitated;

INA 212(h)(1)(B) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), (D)-(E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who:

  • has a parent, spouse, son, or daughter who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States; and
  • the parent, spouse, son, or daughter would suffer “extreme hardship” on account of the alien’s ineligibility to immigrate

Waiver applicants must also show that their application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in his or her case.

In support of my client’s I-601 waiver application, I prepared a comprehensive legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of her situation met the legal standards of INA 212(h)(1)(A).

I thoroughly demonstrated that my client was rehabilitated and her admission not contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S., based upon her long-history as a successful small business owner; her membership and participation in various church and charitable programs; as well as her selfless dedication to the education of her children, which played an integral role in allowing her son to attend medical school after the death of his father.

I showed that following her conviction and later, after the death of her husband, she reached a profound “turning point” in her life.  She was baptized into the Christian faith and became a devout and ardent member of her church.  She committed herself to a number of charitable activities while also working tirelessly to support her children and their education.   Her conduct as well as a myriad of affidavits by friends, colleagues, and family proved that she posed absolutely no risk to the safety or welfare of the U.S., and in fact, would contribute to it if admitted as a permanent resident.

It is often important in waiver applications to demonstrate (when possible) an important turning point in an applicant’s life, which provides a marker that the USCIS officer can point to and remember has having effected a fundamental change in the applicant’s outlook and conduct.

An extensive table of exhibits also listed a variety of evidence in support of a showing of good moral character and rehabilitation.

As a result of our efforts, our client was approved for the 601 waiver and subsequently, received her lawful permanent residence to join her family in the United States.

Requests for Evidence (RFEs) Commonly Issued by USCIS on Waiver Applications

Requests for Evidence (RFEs) Commonly Issued by USCIS on Waiver Applications

I am often contacted by applicants who have received a Request for Evidence from the USCIS and are understandably concerned and unsure how to respond.

While some Requests for Evidence are procedural and relatively simple to handle (e.g. a request for a copy of a marriage certificate, birth certificate, etc.), others are more serious and accompanied by a Notice of Intent to Deny as well.  This typically occurs because the adjudicating USCIS officer believes that the applicant failed to meet the legal threshold of the waiver being applied for.

Below are Requests for Evidence commonly issued by the USCIS to waiver applicants.  Our office has successfully responded to such requests from the USCIS on behalf of our clients for the past 12+ years.  Should such a request be issued, I recommend contacting an experienced I-601 and I-212 waiver attorney and get guidance on how to proceed.  It is extremely important that such requests be carefully and fully complied with to ensure successful approval of your waiver application.

100 RFE 601- Waiver Requirements for Unlawful Presence – INA 212(a)(9)(B)(v)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you had previously been unlawfully present in the United States in excess of either 180 days, or for one year or more.

To be eligible for a waiver under section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the INA, you must show that:

• You have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent, or a U.S. citizen fiance( e) who petitioned for your K visa, who would experience extreme hardship if you were denied admission, and
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

101 RFE 601- Waiver Requirements for Criminal & Related Grounds – INA 212(h)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because of your involvement in: [ISO inserts applicable basis for inadmissibility finding]

• A crime involving moral turpitude (other than purely political offense).
• A controlled substance violation according to the laws and regulations of any country related to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.
• Two or more convictions, other than purely political ones, for which you received sentences of confinement amounting to 5 years or more.
• Prostitution, including having procured others for prostitution or having received the proceeds of prostitution.
• Unlawful commercialized vice whether or not related to prostitution.
• Serious criminal activity but you asserted immunity from prosecution.

This office may approve a waiver of the inadmissibility ground(s) under section 212(h) of the INA, if you can show that either:

You are only inadmissible for participation in prostitution; and

• You have been rehabilitated; and
• Your admission to the United States will not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States; and
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

The criminal activities for which you are inadmissible occurred more than 15 years ago; and

• You have been rehabilitated; and
• Your admission to the United States will not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States;
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

You have a qualifying relative who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States; and

• Your qualifying relative would suffer extreme hardship on account of your ineligibility to immigrate; and
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

You are the fiance( e) of a K visa petitioner; and

• The K visa petitioner would suffer extreme hardship on account of your ineligibility to immigrate; and
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

You are a VA WA self-petitioner

In addition to the above requirements, if an applicant has been convicted of a violent or dangerous crime, USCIS will not waive the inadmissibility as a matter of discretion unless the individual can show an extraordinary circumstance, such as:

  • One involving national security or policy considerations; or
  • If the denial of your admission would result in exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.

102 RFE 601 – Waiver Requirements for Fraud/Misrepresentation – INA 212(i)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you sought to procure an immigration benefit by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact.

To be eligible for a waiver under section 212(i) of the INA, you must show that:

• You have a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent, or a U.S. citizen fiance( e) who petitioned for your K visa, who would experience extreme hardship if you were denied admission, or
• You are a VA WA self-petitioner, and that you or your U.S. citizen, lawful permanent resident, or qualified parent or child would experience extreme hardship if you were denied admission; and ‘
• Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

103 RFE 601 – Waiver Requirements for Communicable Disease – INA 212(g)(1)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212( a)(1)(A)(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you have a medical condition that will not allow you to enter or remain in the United States. USCIS may waive this inadmissibility ground under section 212(g)(1) of the INA as a matter of discretion after consulting with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

To be eligible for this waiver, you must show that you are one of the following:

  • The spouse, parent, unmarried son or daughter, or minor unmarried lawfully adopted child of
    • A U.S. citizen; or
    • An alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence; or
    • An alien who has been issued an immigrant visa
  • A self petitioner under the Violence Against Women Act (VA WA)
  • The fiance( e) of a U.S. citizen or the fiance(e)’s child.

104 RFE 601 – Waiver Requirements for Missing Vaccinations – INA 212(g)(2)(C)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(1)(A)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you have not received the vaccines required for entry into the United States. USCIS may waive this inadmissibility ground under section 212(g)(2)(C) of the INA as a matter of discretion if you can establish that:

  • You are opposing vaccinations in any form (that is, you are not just opposed to one vaccine but that you oppose the practice of vaccination in general); and
  • Your objection is based on religious beliefs or your moral convictions; and
  • Your belief or conviction is sincere (that you actually live according to your belief and conviction, and that you do not just have the belief or conviction because you do not want to be vaccinated).

105VWR – Waiver Requirements for Physical or Mental Disorder- INA 212(g)(3) 

You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(1)(A)(iii) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you were determined to have a mental or physical disorder that poses or may pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of you or others; or because you have a history of a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior that poses or may pose a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of you or others because the disorder is likely to reoccur.

After consultation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), USCIS may waive this inadmissibility ground under section 212(g)(3) of the INA as a matter of discretion to ensure that you have arranged for suitable health care in the United States so that your condition will no longer pose a threat to you or others.

106 RFE 601- Waiver Requirements for Membership in a Totalitarian Party – INA 212(a)(3)(D)(iv)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(3)(D) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you had been a member of the Communist Party or another totalitarian party (or subdivision or affiliate thereof).

To be eligible for a waiver under section 212(a)(3)(D)(iv) of the INA, you must show that:

  • You are:
    • A parent, spouse, son, daughter, brother, or sister of a citizen of the United States, or
    • A spouse, son, or daughter of a lawful permanent resident of the United States; and
  • Your application should be granted to serve humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or because it is otherwise in the public interest; and
  • You are not a threat to the security of the United States; and
  • Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

107 RFE 601 – Waiver Requirements for Smuggling-INA 212(d)(11)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(6)(E) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you had engaged in alien smuggling.

To be eligible for a waiver under section 212(d)(11) of the INA, you must show that:

  • You are:
    • An alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence who temporarily proceeded abroad voluntarily and not under an order of removal, and are otherwise admissible to the United States as a returning resident under section 211(b) of the INA, or
    • Seeking admission or adjustment of status as an immediate relative under section INA 201(b)(2)(A) or as an immigrant under section 203(a) of the INA (first, second, and third family-based preference, but not fourth preference) or as the fiance(e) (or child of the fiance(e))’of a U.S citizen; and
    • You have encouraged, induced, assisted, abetted, or aided only an individual who at the time of such action was your spouse, parent, son, or daughter (and no other individual) to enter the United States in violation of the law; and
    • Your application should be granted to serve humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or because it is otherwise in the public interest; and

Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

108 RFE 601- Waiver Requirements for Subject of Civil Penalty- INA 212(d)(12)
You have been found inadmissible to the United States under section 212(a)(6)(F) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you have been the subject of a final order for violation of section 274C of the INA (Document Fraud).

To be eligible for a waiver under section 212(d)(12) of the INA, you must show that:

  • You are
    • An alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence who temporarily proceeded abroad voluntarily and not under an order of deportation or removal and who is otherwise admissible to the United States as a returning resident under section 211(b) of the INA, or
    • Seeking admission or adjustment of status as an immediate relative under section 201(b)(2)(A) of the INA or as an immigrant under section 203(a) of the INA (first, second, and third family-based preference, but not fourth preference) or as the fiance(e) (or child of the fiance(e)) of a U.S. citizen; and
    • This is the only civil money penalty order against you under INA 274C; and
    • You committed the offense only to assist, aid, or support your spouse or child (and not another individual); and
    • Your application should be granted to serve humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or because it is otherwise in the public interest; and

Your application should be granted as a matter of discretion, with the favorable factors outweighing the unfavorable factors in your case.

109 RFE 601 – Applicant Previously Removed – INA 212(a)(9)(A)(iii)
The record indicates that in addition to the inadmissibility ground for which you have filed Form I-601, you are also inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(A) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) due to a previous removal or deportation.

An individual who is inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(A) of the INA may file an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission to the United States After Deportation or Removal (Form I-212).

Your application is missing evidence that you have filed Form I-212 with USCIS. Please submit a USCIS receipt notice for Form I-212 as evidence that you have filed the required application.

110 RFE 601-No Evidence of Visa Refusal or Pending I-485/I-821
An individual who is outside the United States may file Form I-601 if he or she has been found inadmissible by a U.S. Consular Officer after having applied for an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant K or V visa.

An individual who is inside the United States may file Form I-601 along with an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485) or an Application for Temporary Protected Status (Form I-821 ), or while the Form I-485 or Form I-821 is pending.

Your application is missing evidence that your waiver application is based on either:

  • An immigrant visa application (or nonimmigrant K or V visa application) filed with the Department of State (DOS), for which you were found ineligible due to an inadmissibility ground; or
  • A pending Form I-485 or Form I-821.

Please provide the following evidence to support your application:

  • If you are outside the United States, submit evidence that you have a pending immigrant visa application (or nonimmigrant K or V visa application), such as a copy of a DOS notice identifying your Consular Case Number.
  • If you are inside the United States and have a pending Form I-485 or Form I-821, submit evidence that you have a pending application, such as a copy of your USCIS receipt notice (Form I-797).

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Client Approval: I-601 Waiver for Prostitution Approved for K-1 Fiancée at U.S. Embassy Bangkok

Client Approval: I-601 Waiver for Prostitution Approved for K-1 Fiancée at U.S. Embassy Bangkok

Our office received approval of the I-601 Waiver (Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility) for the Thai fiancée of a U.S. citizen that we expeditiously prepared and submitted on behalf of the couple.

The Thai fiancée was found inadmissible to the United States after being charged with engaging in prostitution during her K-1 fiancée visa consular interview (despite not having any such criminal conviction on her formal record).  The U.S. embassy in Bangkok, Thailand is well-known for engaging in rigorous consular interviews – conducting both procedural (checking a computerized database) and investigative checks on its applicants, and vigorously charging applicants with inadmissibility if they suspect certain types of conduct.

The U.S. citizen fiancée contacted my office after his Thai fiancée was charged with having engaged in prostitution in the past and deemed inadmissible to the United States pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(2)(D).

Section 212(a)(2)(D) of the Immigration and Nationality Act states:

(D) Prostitution and commercialized vice.-Any alien who-

(i) is coming to the United States solely, principally, or incidentally to engage in prostitution, or has engaged in prostitution within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status,

(ii) directly or indirectly procures or attempts to procure, or (within 10 years of the date of application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status) procured or attempted to procure or to import, prostitutes or persons for the purpose of prostitution, or receives or (within such 10- year period) received, in whole or in part, the proceeds of prostitution, or

(iii) is coming to the United States to engage in any other unlawful commercialized vice, whether or not related to prostitution, is inadmissible.

Section 212(h) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides a discretionary waiver for the following criminal grounds of inadmissibility:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (subparagraph 212(a)(2)(A)(I))
  • Multiple criminal convictions (212(a)(2)(B))
  • Prostitution and commercial vice (212(a)(2)(D))
  • Certain aliens who have asserted immunity from prosecution (212(a)(2)(E))
  • An offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana (212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II))

The Attorney General may waive the grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(D)(i)-(ii) of the Act with regard to prostitution if the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the alien’s admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S., and that the alien has been rehabilitated. INA 212(h)(1)(A).

INA 212(h)(1)(B) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), (D)-(E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who demonstrates that this removal from the United States would result in extreme hardship to his United States citizen or lawful resident parent, spouse, son, or daughter.

Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning, but necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.”  Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964 ).

In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565-66 (BIA 1999), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.  The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate.

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also made it clear that although hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually,  “relevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of O-J-O, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882).  The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also held that hardship factors such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differ in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships.   See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Tsui Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).

As an example, the Board of Immigration Appeals has found family separation, a common result of inadmissibility or removal, can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. See Salcido-Salcido, 138 F.3d at 1293 (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983; but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 247 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

In support of my client’s I-601 waiver, I prepared a comprehensive legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of my clients’ situation met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship”; “rehabilitation” of the K-1 fiancée; and that the K-1 fianceé admission would “not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.”  

In other words, as with all of our waiver cases, we went above and beyond the work that many law firms would engage in by demonstrating that our client met the legal standard of BOTH INA 212(a)(2)(D)(i)-(ii) and INA 212(h)(1)(B).  This brief was accompanied by supporting exhibits that provided credible proof of every vital and relevant statement made in the legal brief.

The positive factors in this case included:

  • Psychological disorders suffered by the U.S. citizen fiancé which includes Dysthymic Disorder and Bipolar Depression, both of which were being aggravated by the prolonged separation of the couple.
  • Various physical ailments and medical conditions suffered by the U.S. citizen fiancé.
  • Various physical ailments and medical conditions suffered by the U.S. citizen fiancé’s father, who relies upon  his son to oversee his medical care.  The U.S. citizen fiancé is also expected to take over day-to-day care of his father in the future when his father’s wife is no longer able to carry out these duties due to her own age and health status.
  • Various physical ailments and a serious psychological disorder suffered by the U.S. citizen fiancé’s brother.  The U.S. citizen fiancé coordinates the medical care of his brother and visits him at the facility where he is hospitalized several times a week.
  • The role of the U.S. citizen fiancé in caring for indigent and low-income individuals through his professional work.  We presented and discussed the irreparable negative impact on the local community should the U.S. citizen fiancé be forced to depart from the U.S. in order to live with his beloved fiancée abroad in Thailand.
  • Country conditions of Thailand including the inability of the U.S. citizen fiancé to obtain proper psychological care for himself in Thailand; his inability to speak the local language; and his inability to practice his specialized profession there due to language-based licensing requirements.
  • Evidence of rehabilitation of the Thai fiancée including a letter of good moral character from the local chief of police; her reformed life as a business owner who continues to supports her family financially; her complete honesty in admitting to her past misconduct during her K-1 visa consular interview; and the reason for her past misconduct (which was to financially support her impoverished mother and siblings).

Although extreme hardship is only considered when suffered by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident parent, spouse, son, or daughter of the foreign applicant under INA 212(h)(1)(B), it is my experience that extreme hardship suffered by any close relative of the qualifying relative should be thoroughly discussed.  In this case, the extreme hardships to be suffered by the U.S. citizen’s father and U.S. brother in the event of my client’s departure from the U.S., would in turn impact the U.S. citizen himself and aggravate all of the conditions he presently suffers from.  This was carefully outlined in detail in our memorandum.  This connection can be made when the qualifying relative plays an integral role in taking care of the close relative, either in daily care, financial support, and/or medical oversight.

As a result of the I-601 “prostitution waiver expeditiously prepared and submitted by my office within 2 weeks of my client having first contacted our office, the I-601 waiver application was approved by the USCIS.  The couple now happily reside together inside the U.S.

I-601 Waiver Approved for U.S. Military Spouse Inadmissible due to Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

I-601 Waiver Approved for U.S. Military Spouse Inadmissible due to Crimes Involving Moral Turpitude

Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for the foreign wife of a member of the U.S. Armed Forces  who is subject to a life-time bar from being admitted to the United States for convictions of two separate crimes involving moral turpitude under INA Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).  The foreign wife was also convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in a separate incident.

The U.S. citizen husband is an active member of the U.S. Armed Forces, works on base in the United States, and became separated from his foreign wife and U.S. citizen son after a finding of inadmissibility by the US embassy during his wife’s immigrant visa consular interview.

He contacted our office due to our 12+ year history of securing approval of I-601 and I-212 immigrant waivers in sensitive and critical situations such as this one.

Section 212(a)(2)(A) of the Act states, in pertinent parts:

(i) Any alien convicted of, or who admits having committed, or who admits committing acts which constitute the essential elements of-

(I) a crime involving moral turpitude (other than a purely political offense) or an attempt or conspiracy to commit such a crime . . . is inadmissible.

(ii) Exception.-Clause (i)(I) shall not apply to an alien who committed only one crime if-

(I) the crime was committed when the alien was under 18 years of age, and the crime was committed (and the alien was released from any confinement to a prison or correctional institution imposed for the crime) more than 5 years before the date of the application for a visa or other documentation and the date of application for admission to the United States, or

(II) the maximum penalty possible for the crime of which the alien was convicted (or which the alien admits having committed or of which the acts that the alien admits having committed constituted the essential elements) did not exceed imprisonment for one year and, if the alien was convicted of such crime, the alien was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment in excess of 6 months (regardless of the extent to which the sentence was ultimately executed).

The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) held in Matter of Perez-Contreras, 20 I&N Dec. 615, 617-18 (BIA 1992), that:

[M]oral turpitude is a nebulous concept, which refers generally to conduct that shocks the public conscience as being inherently base, vile, or depraved, contrary to the rules of morality and the duties owed between man and man, either one’s fellow man or society in general.. ..In determining whether a crime involves moral turpitude, we consider whether the act is accompanied by a vicious motive or corrupt mind. Where knowing or intentional conduct is an element of an offense, we have found moral turpitude to be present. However, where the required mens rea may not be determined from the statute, moral turpitude does not inhere.

Section 212(h) of the Act provides, in pertinent part, that:

(h) Waiver of subsection (a)(2)(A)(i)(I), (II), (B), (D), and (E).-The Attorney General [now the Secretary of Homeland Security, “Secretary”] may, in [her] discretion, waive the application of subparagraphs (A)(i)(I) … of subsection (a)(2) if-

(B) in the case of,an immigrant who is the spouse, parent, son, or daughter of a citizen of the United States or an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence if it established to the satisfaction of the [Secretary] that the alien’s denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to the United States citizen or lawfully resident spouse, parent, son, or daughter of such alien.

(2) the [Secretary], in [her] discretion, and pursuant to such terms, conditions and procedures as [she] may by regulations prescribe, has consented to the alien’s applying or reapplying for a visa, for admission to the United States, or adjustment of status.

Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning,” but “necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.” Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964). In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, the Board provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative. 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565 (BIA 1999). The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate. Id. The Board added that not all of the foregoing factors need be analyzed in any given case and emphasized that the list of factors was not exclusive. Id . at 566.

The Board has also held that the common or typical results of removal and inadmissibility do not constitute extreme hardship, and has listed certain individual hardship factors considered common rather than extreme. These factors include: economic disadvantage, loss of current employment, inability to maintain one’s present standard of living, inability to pursue a chosen profession, separation from family members, severing community ties, cultural readjustment after living in the United States for many years, cultural adjustment of qualifying relatives who have never lived outside the United States, inferior economic and educational opportunities in the foreign country, or inferior medical facilities in the foreign country. See generally Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. at 568; Matter of Pilch, 21 I&N Dec. 627, 632-33 (BIA 1996); Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. 880, 883 (BIA 1994);Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. 245, 246-47 (Comm’r 1984); Matter of Kim, 15 I&N Dec. 88, 89-90 (BIA 1974); Matter of Shaughnessy, 12 I&N Dec. 810, 813 (BIA 1968).

However, though hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually, the Board has made it clear that “[r]elevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of 0-J-0-, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882). The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.” Id.

The actual hardship associated with an abstract hardship factor such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differs in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships. See, e.g.,, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).

For example, though family separation has been found to be a common result of inadmissibility or removal, separation from family living in the United States can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. Salcido-Salcido v. INS, 138 F.3d 1292, 1293 (9th Cir. 1998) (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983)); but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 24 7 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

Therefore, the AAO considers the totality of the circumstances in determining whether denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.

Immediately after this case was opened, we initiated our immigrant waiver preparation process.

We always provide a comprehensive waiver worksheet containing a thorough array of questions for our clients to answer about their lives.  This allows us to “brainstorm” every relevant factor (such as medical, physical, psychological, financial, legal, or other hardships) that may apply. We then analyze each factor and decide upon the most effective way to present it to the USCIS in our waiver application.

Our waiver worksheet also contains a long checklist of supporting documents to gather and present based upon our experience with successful waiver applications submitted during the past 12+ years.

Overall, our waiver preparation process is constantly improved upon since we regularly prepare and submit winning immigrant waiver applications for clients who come from countries throughout the word.  We are proud to receive multiple approvals on I-601, I-601A, I-212, and 212(d)(3) waiver applications filed on behalf of our clients every single month.

The favorable factors we highlighted in this I-601 Waiver case includes the following:

  • the U.S. citizen husband is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces who works on the maintenance and operation of sophisticated military vehicles.  In my experience, spouses and immediate relatives of members of the U.S. Armed Forces are generally given preference on their waiver applications.  However, it is still important to discuss the duties carried out by the member of the U.S. Armed Forces; their role in the defense of the interests of the United States; as well as how their ability to carry out their duties is impacted by the immigration-related consequences of separation (or re-location).
  • the U.S. citizen husband suffers from mood disorders and physical ailments that are documented to be worsening as a result of separation from his foreign wife and U.S. citizen son.  He is a victim of verbal and physical abuse from childhood, and carries the emotional scars from the prior abuse to this day.
  • the U.S. citizen husband helps to care for his elderly mother, who is also victim of past domestic abuse.  It would be emotionally traumatic to force him to choose between life with his family abroad at the cost of abandoning his mother who needs her son nearby.
  • the U.S. citizen husband is attempting to pay for two homes during this separation with his wife and son.  The expenses involved in doing this (combined with travel to a foreign country to visit his family) is outstripping his income and causing severe financial hardship.
  • the U.S. citizen husband does not know the native language of his wife’s country of origin, would face difficulty obtaining appropriate psychological treatment in English there, and would have to resign from the U.S. military to re-locate abroad to be with his family.  Being forced to resign from life-long service to the U.S. Armed Forces would aggravate his precious psychological state and worsen every aspect of his life.

Due to our efforts on behalf of this family, the I-601 Waiver application was approved and this family can soon reside together in the United States.  The U.S. citizen husband can also continue his service to the United States Armed Forces and play an integral role in safe-guarding the lives of his fellow servicemen.

Client Approval: I-601 Waiver Approved for Marijuana Possession Conviction

I-601 "Extreme Hardship" Waiver Approved for K-1 Fiancee Inadmissible due to Marijuana Possession Conviction Pursuant to INA 212(h)(1)(B).

Our law firm and our clients were pleased to receive two separate “extreme hardship” immigrant waiver approvals in one day.

The first waiver approval was for a I-601 Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility for the K-1 fiance of a U.S. citizen (from Japan) who was deemed inadmissible for life due to a conviction for simple possession of marijuana.

The second waiver approval received the same day was for a I-601A Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver for the Peruvian husband of a U.S. citizen spouse.

I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waiver Approved for K-1 Fiance of U.S. Citizen Deemed Inadmissible for Conviction of Possession of Marijuana

INA 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(II) deems inadmissible those convicted of, or who admit to having committed, or who admit to committing acts which constitute the essential elements of a a violation or conspiracy to violate any law or regulation of a State, the United States or a foreign country relating to a controlled substance as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. 802).

An immigrant waiver is available pursuant to INA 212(h)(1)(A) if

  • the alien’s admission to the United States would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the United States;
  • alien has been rehabilitated;
  • the inadmissible act occurred more than 15 years before the visa application; and
  • the violation relates to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

Alternatively, an immigrant waiver is available pursuant to INA 212(h)(1)(B) if:

  • the alien is the spouse, parent, son, or daughter to a U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident;
  • in the opinion of the Secretary of Homeland Security, refusing the waiver would result in extreme hardship to the qualifying U.S. citizen or U.S. lawful permanent resident relative; and
  • the violation relates to a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana.

Furthermore, even if the applicant demonstrates that he merits a grant of discretion under the waiver, he must also establish that he meets the terms, conditions, and procedures of the regulations promulgated by the Attorney General. INA 212(h)(2).

The applicant is in our case has long-standing ties to the United States, where he met his U.S. citizen fiancee with whom he has been in a relationship for over 10 years.

Our client attended boarding school in the United States, graduated from a U.S. university, and has no other criminal conviction aside from a single conviction for possession of marijuana for which he completed all court-imposed requirements.

We first prepared, filed, and obtained approval of the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancee.  As with all of our K-1 fiancee visa cases, we provided our clients with a detailed letter going over the process from start to finish.  We also provided a checklist of supporting documents to gather and provide to ensure approval of their K-1 fiancee visa petition.

We meticulously prepared every USCIS form needed, assembled the initial USCIS petition, and expeditiously submitted the petition to the USCIS on behalf of our clients.

As a result of our efforts up-front, we were able to obtain approval of the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancee from the USCIS within 2 months of submission.

In the meantime, we prepared the I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility pursuant to INA 212(h)(1)(B) by demonstrating extreme hardship to our client’s U.S. citizen fiancee and highlighting every favorable discretionary factor from our clients’ lives.

A US citizen fiancé(e) may also be a qualifying relative for purposes of the waiver according to 9 FAM 41.81 N9.3(a) and 8 CFR 212.7(a)(1)(i).

Legal Analysis of Extreme Hardship

Extreme hardship is “not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning, but necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.”  Matter of Hwang, 10 I&N Dec. 448, 451 (BIA 1964 ).

In Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. 560, 565-66 (BIA 1999), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) provided a list of factors it deemed relevant in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.  The factors include the presence of a lawful permanent resident or United States citizen spouse or parent in this country; the qualifying relative’s family ties outside the United States; the conditions in the country or countries to which the qualifying relative would relocate and the extent of the qualifying relative’s ties in such countries; the financial impact of departure from this country; and significant conditions of health, particularly when tied to an unavailability of suitable medical care in the country to which the qualifying relative would relocate.

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also made it clear that although hardships may not be extreme when considered abstractly or individually,  “relevant factors, though not extreme in themselves, must be considered in the aggregate in determining whether extreme hardship exists.” Matter of O-J-O, 21 I&N Dec. 381, 383 (BIA 1996) (quoting Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. at 882).  The adjudicator “must consider the entire range of factors concerning hardship in their totality and determine whether the combination of hardships takes the case beyond those hardships ordinarily associated with deportation.”

The Board of Immigration Appeals has also held that hardship factors such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, et cetera, differ in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships.   See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Tsui Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).

As an example, the Board of Immigration Appeals has found family separation, a common result of inadmissibility or removal, can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. See Salcido-Salcido, 138 F.3d at 1293 (quotingContreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983; but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 247 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

Therefore, the totality of the circumstances is considered in determining whether denial of admission would result in extreme hardship to a qualifying relative.

Our Client’s Extreme Hardship and Discretionary Factors 

The factors discussed and documented (with ample objective evidence) in the I-601 “Extreme Hardship” waiver prepared for our client includes:

  • the U.S. citizen fiancee suffering from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder, including being prescribed anti-anxiety medication to alleviate her symptoms;
  • the U.S. citizen fiancee suffering from medical issues that elevates her risk of cancer (requiring regular check-ups) and makes it medically advisable to start a family sooner rather than later;
  • the U.S. citizen fiancee’s foreseeable need to help financially support her U.S. citizen father, who will soon no longer able to work due to back pain
  • the U.S. citizen fiancee’s special duties as an educator of young children, and the impairment of these duties due to the psychological symptoms of her disorders (made worse by her continued separation from her fiance and related stress factors)
  • documented psychological and financial hardships suffered by the U.S. citizen fiancee (and her U.S. citizen mother) during her prior periods of residence in her fiance’s home country
  • the country conditions of her fiance’s home country including persistent gender inequality and the prohibitive cost of living in the capital city (and its resultant impact upon the financial health of the U.S. citizen fiancee and her ability to visit her immediate family in the U.S.)
  • the good moral character, rehabilitation, and other favorable discretionary factors in the life of the waiver applicant

As a result of our effort, our client was approved for the I-601 waiver and will be allowed to enter the U.S. to marry his beloved fiancee and begin a life together as a married couple.

USCIS Draft Guidance on Adjudication of Extreme Hardship Waivers

USCIS Issues Draft Guidance on Adjudication of Extreme Hardship Waivers

Selected USCIS draft guidance concerning the adjudication of applications for those discretionary waivers of inadmissibility that require showings of “extreme hardship” to certain U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) family members of the applicant follows below.

Admissibility is generally a requirement for admission to the United States, adjustment of status, and other immigration benefits.  Several provisions of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), however, authorize discretionary waivers of particular inadmissibility grounds for those who demonstrate “extreme hardship” to specified U.S. citizen or LPR family members (referred to here as “qualifying relatives”).

Each of these provisions conditions a waiver on both a finding of extreme hardship to a qualifying relative and the more general favorable exercise of discretion.  All of these waiver applications are adjudicated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (and in some cases by the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review).

The various statutory provisions specify different sets of qualifying relatives and permit waivers of different inadmissibility grounds. They include:

  • INA 212(a)(9)(B)(v) – This provision can waive the three-year and ten-year inadmissibility bars for unlawful presence.  Eligible qualifying relatives include the applicant’s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent.
  • INA 212(h)(1)(B) – This provision can waive inadmissibility for crimes involving moral turpitude, multiple criminal convictions, prostitution and commercialized vice, and certain serious criminal offenses for which the foreign national received immunity from prosecution.  It can also waive inadmissibility for controlled substance convictions, but only when the conviction was for a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana. Eligible qualifying relatives include the applicant’s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse, parent, son, or daughter.
  • INA 212(i)(1) – This provision can waive inadmissibility for certain types of immigration fraud. Eligible qualifying relatives include the applicant’s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent.

Common Consequences of Inadmissibility

Common consequences of an applicant’s refusal of admission, in and of themselves, do not warrant a finding of extreme hardship. The BIA has held that these common consequences include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Family separation;
  • Economic detriment;
  • Difficulties of readjusting to life in the new country;
  • The quality and availability of educational opportunities abroad;
  • Inferior quality of medical services and facilities; and
  • Ability to pursue a chosen employment abroad.

Even though these common consequences alone would be an insufficient basis for a finding of extreme hardship, they are still factors that must be considered when aggregating the total hardships to the qualifying relative.

When combined with other factors that might also have been insufficient when taken alone, even these common consequences might cause the sum of the hardships to reach the “extreme hardship” standard.

For example, if a qualifying relative is gravely ill, elderly, or incapable of caring for himself or herself, the combination of that hardship and the common consequences of a refusal of the applicant’s admission might well cause extreme emotional or financial hardship for the qualifying relative.

Examples of Factors that Might Support Finding of Extreme Hardship

FactorsConsiderations
Family Ties and ImpactPresence of qualifying relative’s ties to family members living
in the United States, including age, status, and length of
residence of any children
Responsibility for the care of any family members in the
United States, in particular children and elderly or disabled
adults
Presence or absence of qualifying relative’s ties outside of the
United States, including to family members living abroad and
how close the qualifying relative is to these family members
Nature of relationship between the applicant and the
qualifying relative, including any facts about the particular
relationship that would either aggravate or lessen the
hardship resulting from separation
Qualifying relative’s age
Length of qualifying relative’s residence in the United States
Length of qualifying relative’s prior residence in the country of relocation, if any
Military service of qualifying relative, where the stresses and
other demands of such service aggravate the hardship
ordinarily resulting from family separation
Impact on the cognitive, social, or emotional well-being of a
qualifying relative who is left to replace the applicant as
caregiver for someone else, or impact on the qualifying
relative (for example, child or parent) for whom such care is
required
Social and Cultural ImpactLoss of access to the U.S. courts and the criminal justice
system, including the loss of opportunity to request criminal
investigations or prosecutions, initiate family law proceedings,
or obtain court orders regarding protection, child support,
maintenance, child custody, or visitation
Fear of persecution
Existence of laws and social practices in home country that
punish the qualifying relative because he or she has been in
the United States or is perceived to have Western values
Access or lack of access to social institutions and structures
(official and unofficial) for support, guidance, or protection
Social ostracism or stigma based on characteristics such as
gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race,
national origin, ethnicity, citizenship, age, political opinion, or
disability
Qualifying relative’s community ties in the United States and
in the country of relocation
Extent to which the qualifying relative has assimilated to U.S.
culture, including language, skills, and acculturation
Difficulty and expense of travel/communication to maintain
ties between qualifying relative and applicant, if the qualifying
relative does not relocate
Qualifying relative’s present inability to communicate in the
language of the country of relocation, taking into account the
time and difficulty that learning that language would entail
Availability and quality of educational opportunities for
qualifying relative (and children, if any) in country of
relocation
Economic ImpactFinancial impact of applicant’s departure on the qualifying
relative(s), including the applicant’s or the qualifying relative’s
ability to obtain employment in the country to which the
applicant would be returned and how that would impact the
qualifying relative
Qualifying relative’s need to be educated in a foreign
language or culture
Economic and financial loss due to the sale of a home or
business
Economic and financial loss due to termination of a
professional practice
Decline in the standard of living, including high levels of
unemployment, underemployment, and lack of economic
opportunity in country of nationality
Ability to recoup losses
Cost of extraordinary needs such as special education or
training for children
Cost of care for family members, including children and
elderly, sick, or disabled parents
Health Conditions
& Care
Significant health conditions and impact on the qualifying
relative, particularly when tied to unavailability of suitable
medical care in the country or countries to which the
applicant might relocate
Health conditions of the applicant’s qualifying relative and the
availability and quality of any required medical treatment in
the country to which the applicant would be returned,
including length and cost of treatment
Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to either
separation from the applicant or departure from the United
States, including separation from other family members living
in the United States
Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to the
suffering of the applicant, taking into account the nature of
the relationship and any other relevant factors
Country ConditionsConditions in the country or countries to which the applicant
would relocate, including civil unrest or generalized levels of
violence, ability of country to address crime/high rates of
murder/other violent crime, environmental catastrophes like
flooding or earthquakes, and other socio-economic or political
conditions that jeopardize safe repatriation or lead to
reasonable fear of physical harm
Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation
Danger Pay for U.S. citizens stationed in the country of
nationality
Withdrawal of Peace Corps from the country of nationality for
security reasons
DOS Travel Warnings issued for the country of nationality

Special Circumstances that Strongly Suggest Extreme Hardship

The preceding list identifies factors that bear generally on whether a refusal of admission would result in extreme hardship to one or more qualifying relatives.

USCIS has also determined that the circumstances below would often weigh heavily in favor of finding extreme hardship. These sorts of special circumstances are beyond the qualifying relative’s control and ordinarily cause suffering or harm greater than the common consequences of separation or relocation.

An applicant who is relying on one or more of these special circumstances must submit sufficient evidence that such circumstances exist. As always, even when these or other special circumstances are present, the ultimate determination of extreme hardship is based on the totality of the circumstances in the individual case.

It must be emphasized that the special circumstances listed below are singled out only because they are especially likely to result in findings of extreme hardship. Many other hardships will also be extreme, even if they are very different from, or less severe than, those listed below. Further, even the factors discussed are not exclusive; they are merely examples of factors that can support findings of extreme hardship, depending on the totality of the evidence in the particular case. Other factors not not discussed could support a finding of extreme hardship, under a totality of the circumstances.

Eligibility for an immigration benefit ordinarily must exist at the time of filing and at the time of adjudication. Given the underlying purpose of considering special circumstances, a special circumstance does not need to exist at the time of filing the waiver request. As long as the qualifying relative was related to the applicant at the time of filing, a special circumstance arising after the filing of the waiver request also would often weigh heavily in favor of finding extreme hardship.

1. Qualifying Relative Previously Granted Asylum or Refugee Status

If a qualifying relative was previously granted asylum or refugee status in the United States from the country of relocation and the qualifying relative’s status has not been revoked, those factors would often weigh heavily in favor of a finding that relocation would result in extreme hardship.

As the family member of a foreign national who has been granted asylum or refugee status, the applicant might also face dangers similar to those that gave rise to the qualifying relative’s grant of asylum or refugee status. In such a case, the qualifying relative could suffer psychological trauma in knowing the potential for harm if the applicant returns to the country of nationality, particularly if the qualifying relative fears returning to that country even to visit the applicant, and could thereby suffer extreme hardship.

2. Qualifying Relative or Related Family Member’s Disability

If the Social Security Administration or other qualified U.S. Government agency made a formal disability determination for the qualifying relative, the qualifying relative’s spouse, or a member of the qualifying relative’s household for whom the qualifying relative is legally responsible, that factor would often weigh heavily in favor of a finding that relocation would result in extreme hardship.

Absent a formal disability determination, an applicant may provide other evidence that a qualifying relative or related family member suffers from a medical or physical condition that makes either travel to, or residence in, the relocation country detrimental to the qualifying relative or family member’s health or safety.

In cases where the qualifying relative or related family member requires the applicant’s assistance for care because of the medical or physical condition, that factor would often weigh heavily in favor of a finding that separation would result in extreme hardship to the qualifying relative.

3. Qualifying Relative’s Active Duty Military Service

If the qualifying relative (who might be a spouse or other qualifying relative) is on active duty with any branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, relocation will generally be unrealistic, because the qualifying relative ordinarily will not be at liberty to relocate.

If the applicant and the qualifying relative have been living together – for example, on a military base that accommodates families or in a private facility off base – the removal of the applicant can therefore create separation. Under those circumstances, the qualifying relative might well suffer psychological and emotional harm associated with the separation.

The resulting impairment of his or her ability to serve the U.S. military could exacerbate that hardship. In addition, even if the qualifying relative’s military service already separates him or her from the applicant, the applicant’s removal overseas might magnify the stress of military service to a level that would constitute extreme hardship.

4. DOS Warnings Against Travel to or Residence in Certain Countries

DOS issues travel warnings to notify travelers of the risks of traveling to a foreign country. Reasons for issuing a travel warning include, but are not limited to, unstable government, civil war, ongoing intense crime or violence, or frequent terrorist attacks. Travel warnings remain in place until the situation changes. In some of these warnings, DOS advises of travel risks to a specific region or specific regions of a country.

In other travel warnings, DOS does more than merely notify travelers of the risks; it affirmatively recommends against travel or residence and makes its recommendation countrywide.

These travel warnings might contain language in which:

  • DOS urges avoiding all travel to the country because of safety and security concerns;
  • DOS warns against all but essential travel to the country;
  • DOS advises deferring all non-essential travel to the country; and/or
  • DOS advises U.S. citizens currently living in the country to depart.

Generally, the fact that a qualifying relative who is likely to relocate would face significantly increased danger in the country of relocation would often weigh heavily in favor of a finding of extreme hardship. If the country of relocation is currently subject to a DOS country-wide travel exists and, therefore, that relocation would result in extreme hardship.

If the travel warning covers only part of the country of relocation, but the officer finds that that part is one to which the qualifying relative plans to return despite the increased danger (for example, because of family relationships or employment opportunities), then that fact would similarly tend to weigh heavily in favor of finding that relocation would result in extreme hardship.

Alternatively, if it is more likely than not that the qualifying relative would relocate in a part of the country that is not subject to the travel warning (either because of the danger in the area covered by the travel warning or for any other reason), the officer should evaluate whether relocation in the chosen area would itself result in extreme hardship to that qualifying relative.

Conversely, if the applicant were to return to this particular country but the qualifying relative would be more likely than not to remain in the United States, the separation might well result in psychological trauma for the qualifying relative.

5. Substantial Displacement of Care of Applicant’s Children

USCIS recognizes the importance of family unity and the ability of parents and other caregivers to provide for the well-being of children. Moreover, depending on the particular facts, either the need to assume someone else’s care-giving duties or the continuation of one’s existing care-giving duties under new and difficult circumstances can be sufficiently burdensome to rise to the level of extreme hardship for the caregiver. The children do not need to be U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents for that to be the case.

At least two different scenarios can occur.

In one scenario, the primary or sole breadwinner is refused admission, and the caregiver, who is a qualifying relative, remains behind to continue the caregiving. The fact that the breadwinner’s refusal of admission would cause economic loss to the caregiver is not by itself sufficient for extreme hardship. Economic loss is a common consequence of a refusal of admission.

But, depending on the facts of the particular case, economic loss can create other burdens that in turn are severe enough to amount to extreme hardship. For example, if the qualifying relative must now take on the combined burdens of breadwinner and ensuring continuing care of the children, and that dual responsibility would threaten the qualifying relative’s ability to meet his or her own basic subsistence needs or those of the person(s) for whom the care is being provided, that dual burden would tend to weigh heavily in favor of finding extreme hardship. In addition, depending on the particular circumstances, the qualifying relative may suffer significant emotional and psychological impacts from being the sole caregiver of the child(ren) that exceed the common consequences of being left as a sole parent.

If the refusal of admission would result in a substantial shift of care-giving responsibility from the applicant to a qualifying relative, and that shift would disrupt family, social, and cultural ties, or hinder the child(ren)’s psychological, cognitive, or emotional development, or otherwise frustrate or complicate the qualifying relative’s efforts to provide a healthy, stable, and caring environment for the child(ren), the additional psychological and economic stress for the qualifying relative could exceed the levels of hardship that ordinarily result from family separation – depending, again, on the totality of the evidence presented. If that is found to be the case, such a consequence would tend to weigh heavily in favor of a finding of extreme hardship to the qualifying relative, provided the applicant shows:

  • The existence of a bona fide parental or other care-giving relationship between the applicant and the child(ren);
  • The existence of a bona fide relationship between the qualifying relative and the child(ren); and
  • The qualifying relative would become the primary caretaker for the child(ren) or otherwise would take on significant parental or other care-giving responsibilities.

To prove a bona fide relationship to the child(ren), the applicant and qualifying relative should have emotional and/or financial ties or a genuine concern and interest for the child(ren)’s support, instruction, and general welfare. Evidence that can establish such a relationship includes:

  • Income tax returns;
  • Medical or insurance records;
  • School records;
  • Correspondence between the parties; or
  • Affidavits of friends, neighbors, school officials, or other associates knowledgeable about the relationship.

To prove the qualifying relative either would become the primary caretaker for the child(ren) or relative needs to show an intent to assume those responsibilities. Evidence of such an intent could include:

  • Legal custody or guardianship of the child, such as a court order;
  • Other legal obligation to take over parental responsibilities;
  • Affidavit signed by qualifying relative to take over parental or other care-giving responsibilities; or
  • Affidavits of friends, neighbors, school officials, or other associates knowledgeable about the qualifying relative’s relationship with the children or intentions to assume parental or other care-giving responsibilities.would otherwise take on significant parental or other care-giving responsibilities, the qualifying relative’s relationship with the children or intentions to assume parental or other care-giving responsibilities.

Hypothetical Case Examples

Scenario #1: AB has lived continuously in the United States since entering without inspection 7 years ago. He and his U.S. citizen wife have been married for 4 years. If AB is refused admission, it is reasonably foreseeable that his wife would relocate with him. His wife is a sales clerk. A similar job in the country of relocation would pay far less. In addition, she does not speak the language of the relocation country, lacks experience in the country, and lacks the ties that would facilitate social and cultural integration and opportunities for employment. AB himself is an unskilled laborer who similarly would command a much lower salary in the country of relocation. The couple has no children.

Analysis: These facts alone generally would not favor a finding of extreme hardship. The hardships to the qualifying relative, even when aggregated, include only common consequences of relocation – economic loss and the social and cultural difficulties arising mainly from her inability to speak the language.

Scenario #2: The facts are the same as in Scenario # 1 except that now the couple has a 9-year old U.S. citizen daughter who would relocate with them if AB is refused admission. The child was born in the United States and has lived here her entire life. AB’s wife and daughter both have close relationships with AB’s wife’s U.S. citizen sister and brother-in-law, who are the child’s aunt and uncle, and this couple’s U.S. citizen children, who are the child’s cousins, as well as other members of the family. They all live in close proximity with one another, have close emotional bonds, and visit each other frequently, and the aunt and uncle help care for the child. Neither AB’s wife’s family nor (for this particular waiver) the child are qualifying relatives, but AB’s wife, who is a qualifying relative, would suffer significant emotional hardship from seeing the suffering of both her young child and her sister’s family (the child’s aunt, uncle and cousins), all separated from one another, as well as separated from other family members, and from losing the emotional bonds she and her child have with her sister’s family and other family members, and financial benefit she receives from the care that her sister and brother-in-law provide. In addition, the child (like her mother) does not speak the language of the relocation country.

Analysis: Depending on the totality of the evidence, these additional facts would generally support a finding of extreme hardship. The aggregate hardships to the U.S. citizen wife now include not only the economic losses, diminution of professional opportunities, and social, cultural, and linguistic difficulties – all common consequences – but also the extra emotional hardship she would experience as a result of seeing the suffering of her young child and also her sister and the sister’s family, and other members of the family because of the additional separation, the child’s inability to speak the language, as well as loss of emotional bonds between all these family members and financial benefit from their contribution to the care of the child. That is the case even though neither the child nor the aunt, uncle and cousins, or family members are qualifying relatives for the particular waiver, because their suffering will in turn cause significant emotional suffering for the U.S. citizen wife, who is a qualifying relative. Note that even though the common consequences are not alone sufficient to constitute extreme hardship, they must be added to the other hardships to determine whether the totality adds up to extreme hardship.

Scenario #3: Again the facts are the same as in Scenario # 1, except this time AB himself has LPR parents who live in the United States and who would suffer significant emotional hardship as a result of separation from their son and their daughter-in-law, with whom they have close family relationships.

Analysis: Depending on the totality of the evidence, the addition of these facts would generally favor a finding of extreme hardship. There are now 3 qualifying relatives – AB’s wife and both his parents. Although the aggregated hardships to AB’s wife alone (under Scenario # 1) include only the common consequences of a refusal of admission, further aggregating them with the emotional hardships suffered by the two LPR parents would generally tip the balance in favor of a finding of extreme hardship, depending, again, on the totality of the evidence.

Scenario #4: CD has lived continuously in the United States since entering without inspection 4 years ago. She has been married to her U.S. citizen husband for 2 years. It is reasonably foreseeable that he would choose to remain in the United States in the event she is refused admission. He has a moderate income, and she works as a housecleaner for low wages. Upon separating they would suffer substantial economic detriment; in addition to the loss of her income, he is committed to sending her remittances once she leaves, in whatever amounts he can afford. They have no children, and there are no extended family members in the United States.

Analysis: These facts alone generally would not favor a finding of extreme hardship. The qualifying relative, and the hardships to him, even when aggregated, include only common consequences – separation from his spouse and economic loss.

Scenario #5: EF and GH, a married couple from Taiwan, entered the United States on student visas 19 and 17 years ago, respectively. They overstayed their visas and have lived here ever since. They have five U.S. citizen children, all of whom were born in the United States and have lived here their entire lives. In the event that the parents are removed to Taiwan, it is reasonably foreseeable that the children would relocate with them. The children range in age from 6 to 15 and are fully integrated into the American lifestyle. None of the children are fluent in Chinese, and they would have to attend Chinese language public schools if they relocate because the family would not be able to afford private school. The 15-year-old child in particular would experience significant disruption to her education in light of her current age and her inability to speak or understand Chinese. The family of seven would be able to afford only a one-bedroom apartment upon relocation.

Analysis: This is the fact situation of Matter of Kao, 23 I. & N. Dec. 45 (BIA en banc 2001). The Board in that case, sitting en banc, held that these facts constitute extreme hardship for the 15-year-old daughter, who was one of the qualifying relatives. The Board therefore did not need to decide whether the other qualifying individuals would also suffer extreme hardship upon relocation. A key factor in that decision was the daughter’s age. In addition to the common consequences (integration into the American lifestyle, current inability to speak the language of the country of relocation, lesser educational opportunities, and economic loss), the Board found that because of her age and the time it would take to become fluent in the language of the country of relocation, the daughter’s education would be significantly disrupted and she would experience extreme hardship as a result.

Scenario #6: KL has lived continuously in the United States since entering without inspection six years ago. She married a U.S. citizen four years ago and seeks a waiver of the 10-year inadmissibility bar for unlawful presence based on extreme hardship to her husband. If she is refused, she would be removed to a country for which the U.S. State Department has issued travel warnings for specific regions, including the region where her family lives. It is reasonably foreseeable that her husband would relocate with her, and that because of the danger they would relocate in one of the areas for which no travel warnings have been issued. Unemployment throughout the country is extremely high, however, and without the family connections that they would forfeit by living outside the region of their family’s residence, the job prospects for both spouses are dim and their basic subsistence needs would be threatened.

Analysis: The fact that parts of the country of relocation are dangerous does not, by itself, constitute extreme hardship. Similarly, economic loss alone is not extreme hardship. But economic detriment that is severe enough to threaten a person’s basic subsistence can rise to the level of extreme hardship. Therefore, if the dangers in parts of the relocation country would induce the qualifying relative to relocate in other parts of the country where economic subsistence would be threatened (or if relocation in such parts is reasonably foreseeable for any other reason), the resulting economic distress would generally favor a finding of extreme hardship, depending on the totality of the evidence. Conversely, if it were reasonably foreseeable that because of the economic realities the qualifying relative, despite the danger, would relocate in a region for which travel warnings have been issued, then that danger would weigh heavily in favor of finding extreme hardship.

Client Approval: I-601 Extraordinary Circumstances Waiver Approved by Showing Exceptional or Extremely Unusual Hardship

Client Approval: I-601 Extraordinary Circumstances Waiver Approved by Showing Exceptional or Extremely Unusual Hardship

Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for a citizen of Japan who was subject to a life-time bar from being admitted to the United States for conviction of a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT) under INA Section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I).

Our client was previously convicted of two separate charges of assault, one of which was considered by the USCIS to be a “violent and dangerous criminal act.”

The court in Matter of Jean, 23 I. & N. Dec. 373 (AG 2002) heightened the standard that requires the government to deny relief to people convicted of violent or dangerous crimes, except in extraordinary circumstances, such as those involving national security or foreign policy considerations, or where the denial of relief would result in exceptional or extremely unusual hardship.

The standard announced in Matter of Jean was subsequently adopted into regulations at 8 CFR § 1212.7(d) (governing 212(h) waivers).

INA 212(h)(1)(A) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), and (E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that:

  • the activities for which he is inadmissible occurred more than fifteen years before the date of the alien’s application for a visa, admission, or adjustment of status;
  • the admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.; and
  • the alien has been rehabilitated.

The Attorney General may also waive the grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(D)(i)-(ii) of the Act with regard to prostitution if the alien establishes to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the alien’s admission would not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S., and that the alien has been rehabilitated. INA 212(h)(1)(A).

INA 212(h)(1)(B) provides that certain grounds of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I)-(II), (B), (D)-(E) of the Act may be waived in the case of an alien who demonstrates that his removal from the United States would result in extreme hardship to his United States citizen or lawful resident parent, spouse, son, or daughter.

Our office was contacted after the Japanese waiver applicant and her U.S. citizen husband (a member of the U.S. Armed Forces) filed for the I-601 Waiver on their own after the applicant was deemed inadmissible at her consular interview.  Their “self-prepared” I-601 Waiver triggered a Request for Additional Evidence which stated that the couple had failed to show extraordinary circumstances that would warrant approval of their I-601 waiver application.

In order to meet this heightened standard of review (which is even more difficult to achieve than for a standard “extreme hardship” waiver) , we initiated our firm’s comprehensive process for preparation of powerful and effective immigration waiver applications.

We reviewed all of the material the couple previously submitted to the USCIS, forwarded our Extreme Hardship Worksheet to the couple (which contains questions designed to elicit extreme hardships and other persuasive factors), and provided a comprehensive checklist of supporting documents to gather and return to our office .

We also recommended the couple to a psychologist well-versed in preparing psychological evaluations for immigration waivers and who offers a significantly discounted fee for my clients (please refer to my post on the elements of a powerful psychological evaluation for I-601 waiver applications for more details).

Once we identified the most important factors of the case, we prepared a comprehensive 20 page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of our client’s situation not only met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship,” but rose to the level of “exceptional or extremely unusual hardship”.  We also argued that national security and policy considerations warranted approval of the I-601 waiver based upon the important duties and meritorious service undertaken by the U.S. citizen spouse who is a member of the U.S. Armed Forces.

We presented our own case law that was relevant to the facts and circumstances of our case and supported approval of our waiver application.  Additionally, a table of exhibits referenced a variety of objective evidence in support of a showing of “exceptional and extremely unusual hardship.

We discussed and elaborated upon evidence of the waiver applicant’s rehabilitation, good moral character, and her overall dedication as a wife and mother who is integral to the emotional support of her U.S. citizen husband (who suffers from Anxiety Disorder, triggered by heavy combat and fatalities of unit members experienced during his multiple tours of duty in Afghanistan).

We also highlighted the’ waiver applicant’s role in helping her U.S. citizen husband care for his elderly U.S. citizen parents, who suffer from serious life-threatening medical conditions (including Type II Diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, among other conditions), and who rely upon their son for financial support and overall care.

We made sure every single facet of our client’s case was documented and that the objections raised by the USCIS in their previous denial was fully addressed to maximize the chances of approval.

As a result of our efforts, the couple’s I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waiver Application was approved and this family now lawfully resides together in the United States.