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-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Peruvian with Multiple DUI Convictions

I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Peruvian with Multiple DUI Convictions

Our law office received approval of the I-601A Provisional Waiver that we prepared and submitted on behalf of a Peruvian client with multiple driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol convictions on his record.

Our I-601A Provisional Waiver application package prepared by our law firm included a complete set of USCIS forms requesting consideration of the I-601A Provisional Waiver; a 27 page waiver statement detailing relevant case law favorable to my client’s situation presenting the extreme hardships that applied to this case; a waiver statement that went into compelling detail about the unique and favorable discretionary factors that applied to this case; and a comprehensive collection of exhibits to prove the extreme hardships and favorable discretionary factors being presented.

To be eligible for the I-601A Provisional Waiver for Unlawful Presence, an applicant must fulfill ALL of the following conditions:

  1. Be 17 years of age or older.
  2. Be the spouse, child, or adult child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident.
  3. Have an approved Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, or Form I-360, Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant.
  4. Have a pending immigrant visa case with the Dept. of State for the approved immediate relative petition and have paid the Dept. of State immigrant visa processing fee.
  5. Be able to demonstrate that refusal of your admission to the United States will cause extreme hardship to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent spouse or parent.
  6. Be physically present in the United States to file your application for a provisional unlawful presence waiver and provide biometrics.
  7. Not have been scheduled for an immigrant visa interview by Dept. of State before January 3, 2013.
  8. You are inadmissible ONLY for unlawful presence in the United States for more than 180 days but less than 1 year during a single stay (INA Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I)), or unlawful presence in the United States for 1 year or more during a single stay (INA Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II).

An applicant is NOT eligible for the I-601A Provisional Waiver for Unlawful Presence if any of the following conditions apply:

  1. You are subject to one or more grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence.
  2. You have a pending Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with the USCIS
  3. You are in removal proceedings, unless your removal proceedings have been administratively closed and have not been placed back on the Dept. of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review calendar to continue your removal proceedings at the time you file the Form I-601A.
  4. You are subject to a final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion, or to the reinstatement of a prior order of removal, deportation, or exclusion
  5. You are subject to a Dept. of Homeland Security (DHS) order reinstating a prior order of removal, deportation, or exclusion
  6. Dept. of State initially acted before January 3, 2013, to schedule your Immigrant Visa (IV) interview for the approved immediate relative petition upon which your provisional unlawful presence waiver application is based, even if your immigrant visa interview has been canceled, you failed to appear for the interview, or your interview was rescheduled on or after Jan. 3, 2013.
  7. You fail to establish that the refusal of your admission would result in extreme hardship to your U.S. citizen spouse or parent, or that your application should be approved as a matter of discretion

In this case, the applicant is a Peruvian national who grew up in a crime-ridden, drug-lord controlled region of Peru. His father, a police officer, was killed in the line of duty when he was a young child.  His mother abandoned his family when he was a teenager.  He undertook the tremendous responsibility to care for his siblings (and later, other young relatives) as a teenager and did so without falling prey to the illicit activities that surrounded him.

He later entered the U.S. to provide a more secure for the family members (still in Peru).  He was convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol in two separate incidents.  Since those incidents, he entered into a treatment program that he completed with a stellar recommendation from his rehabilitation group counselor; attended school when not working to learn English; volunteered as a tutor at a local community college; became involved with a non-profit organization; and works diligently to this day to support his U.S. citizen wife and child.

All of this was presented in a powerful and persuasive manner, together with the extreme hardship factors, to convey the unique nature of this case.  As with all of our I-601, I-601A, I-212, and 212(d)(3) waiver cases, we specialize in going beyond the legal standard and presenting the compelling human element of each case so that our client’s case does not become “just another case file” in the eyes of the adjudicating USCIS officer.

The extreme hardship factors discussed and documented in detail by our office includes:

  • The medical condition of the U.S. citizen wife that includes a serious medical illness with severe physical repercussions
  • The debilitating psychological disorders of the U.S. citizen wife
  • The total dependence of the U.S. citizen wife on her husband for financial and child-care assistance, without which she would suffer financial collapse
  • The serious medical condition of her U.S. citizen father, who the U.S. citizen wife will be called upon to support and care for at any time, as his state inevitably worsens
  • In-depth research and discussion of the country conditions of Peru and the variety of hardships and dangers likely to be faced by this family should they re-locate there
  • The close-knit and interrelated relationships between the family members that would lead to a spiral of psychological distress upon the entire family should the applicant be forced to return to Peru

As a result of our efforts, the I-601A provisional waiver was approved for our client despite multiple DUI convictions on his record.  Our client will now be able to obtain U.S. lawful permanent resident status and more importantly, provide a better life for his wife, child, and family members still remaining in Peru.

I-601 Waivers for Physical or Mental Disorders with Associated Harmful Behavior

Waivers for Physical or Mental Disorders with Associated Harmful Behavior

The USCIS has issued updated guidance to its adjudicating officers on the health-related grounds of inadmissibility and their associated waivers.  A common inadmissibility that I am contacted for involves INA 212(a)(2)(A)(iii), which deems an alien inadmissible if he/she is determined:

(I) to have a physical or mental disorder and behavior associated with the disorder that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others; or

(II) to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior;

The USCIS guidance referenced below is addressed to adjudicating officers.

Please keep in mind that waiver applicants should prepare and submit a comprehensive waiver application, that includes an up-to-date psychological evaluation; a statement from an approved U.S. facility or specialist agreeing to evaluate the applicant upon entry into the U.S. and agreeing to file a report with the CDC; evidence of medical insurance to pay for the costs of the mental disorder; among other supporting documents relevant to the case.

Physical or Mental Disorders with Associated Harmful Behavior

Applicants who have physical or mental disorders and harmful behavior associated with those disorders are inadmissible.  The inadmissibility ground is divided into two subcategories:

  • Current physical or mental disorders, with associated harmful behavior.
  • Past physical or mental disorders, with associated harmful behavior that is likely to recur or lead to other harmful behavior.

There must be both a physical or mental disorder and harmful behavior to make an applicant inadmissible based on this ground.  Neither harmful behavior nor a physical/mental disorder alone renders an applicant inadmissible on this ground.  Harmful behavior is defined as behavior that may pose, or has posed, a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the applicant or others.

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USCIS Issues Field Guidance on I-601A Provisional Waiver Applicants with Criminal Arrests or Convictions

USCIS Issues Field Guidance on I-601A Provisional Waiver Applicants with Criminal Arrests or Convictions

On March 4, 2013, the USCIS began a new provisional unlawful presence waiver program for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens whose only ground of inadmissibility is unlawful presence in the United States under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I) and (II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA).

The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who are currently residing in the United States to apply for a provisional waiver while in the United States, provided they meet all I-601A Provisional Waiver eligibility requirements and warrant a favorable exercise of discretion.

There are several circumstances that may render an individual ineligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver.  For example, individuals with final orders of exclusion, deportation, or removal; individuals who are currently in removal proceedings that are not administratively closed at the time of filing; and individuals who have a pending application with USCIS for lawful permanent resident status are not eligible to apply for the provisional unlawful presence waiver.  Individuals for whom there is a reason to believe that they may be subject to grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence at the time of the immigrant visa interview with a  Department of State (DOS) consular officer also are ineligible for the provisional unlawful  presence waiver. See 8 CFR 212.7(e) (2013).

If a USCIS officer determines, based on the record, that there is a reason to believe that the applicant may be subject to a ground of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence at the time of his or her immigrant visa interview with a DOS consular officer, USCIS will deny the request for a provisional unlawful presence waiver. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(4)(i) (2013).

Since the commencement of the I-601A Provisional Waiver program, the USCIS denied I-601A waiver applications when the applicant had any criminal history.  In these cases, if the record contained evidence that an applicant was charged with an offense or convicted of any crime (other than minor traffic citations such as parking violations, red light/stop sign violations, expired license or registration, or similar offenses), regardless of the  sentence imposed or whether the offense is a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude (CIMT), USCIS denied the I-601A waiver application.

The USCIS has now issued guidance to its officers to review all evidence in the record, including any evidence submitted by the applicant or the attorney of record.

If, based on all evidence in the record, it appears that the applicant’s criminal offense: (1) falls within the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exception under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii) at the time of the I-601A adjudication, or (2) is not a Crime Involving Moral Turpitude under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) that would render the applicant inadmissible, then USCIS officers should not find a reason to believe that the individual may be subject to inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(i)(I) at the time of the immigrant visa interview solely on account of that criminal offense.

The USCIS officer should continue with the adjudication to determine whether the applicant meets the other requirements for the provisional unlawful  presence waiver, including whether the applicant warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.

This news has been much-anticipated by potential waiver applicants who have certain convictions such as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) on their record.  Assuming the applicant’s criminal conviction(s) does not trigger a ground of inadmissibility, or their criminal conviction falls under the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exception, waiver applicants may now proceed with their I-601A Provisional Waiver applications.

Keep in mind that it is extremely important for applicants with criminal conviction(s) in their background to prepare and submit a memorandum, together with their I-601A waiver package, clearly describing why their criminal conviction(s) does not trigger a ground of inadmissibility; or why their criminal conviction falls under the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exception of INA section 212(a)(2)(A)(ii).

Client Approval: 212(d)(3) Waiver, F-1 Visa and Driving Under the Influence (DUI)

212(d)(3) Non-Immigration Waiver Approved for DUI

I recently prepared and submitted a 212(d)(3) non-immigrant waiver on behalf of a Brazilian client.  She subsequently received approval for extension of her F-1 visa.  My client was previously arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol while inside the United States.  During her visit to see family in Brazil, she applied for extension of her F-1 student visa.  She was informed by the U.S. consulate that she would have to undergo a medical examination.  At the medical examination, she was classified as having a “Class A” condition due to the recency of the DUI conviction and strict Technical Guidelines of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.  Consequently, she was informed that she would be inadmissible to the United States based on being subject to the health ground of inadmissibility pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II):

Any alien who is determined (in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services in consultation with the Attorney General)–…(II) to have had a physical or mental disorder and a history of behavior associated with the disorder, which  behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior…is inadmissible

My client is an outstanding graduate student who is the recipient of a prestigious tuition scholarship, has received numerous honors and awards in the past, and is involved in a variety of extracurricular activities related to her field of specialization.  This was her first DUI conviction and she completed her Diversion Agreement program in full including paying the court fee; completing a drug and alcohol assessment and recommended treatment program; attending a victim impact panel;  and not using any drugs or alcohol during the term of her Diversion Agreement program.  By completing the Diversion Agreement, she is scheduled to have the DUI conviction dismissed by the court in 2014.  However, she was scheduled to begin the academic semester in the fall of 2013.

I prepared a comprehensive 212(d)(3) non-immigrant waiver  in the form of a legal brief discussing the three legal factors set forth by Matter of Hranka, 16 I&N Dec. 491 (BIA 1978).

In the case, Matter of Hranka, 16 I&N Dec. 491 (BIA 1978), the Board of Immigration Appeals reversed a district director’s denial of a waiver application filed by a Canadian woman who had been deported for engaging in prostitution and admitted to previous heroin use.  She filed her application only two years after having been deported.  She requested entry to visit relatives and engage in various tourist activities.

In overturning the district director’s decision to deny the application, the BIA accepted as proof of rehabilitation letters from the applicant’s mother, and the principal of the high school the applicant had attended, who is a psychologist.  It held that the applicant’s reasons for entering the United States need not be compelling.  The BIA articulated three criteria for granting a waiver under INA 212(d)(3)

1.      The risks of harm in admitting the applicant;

2.      The seriousness of the acts that caused the inadmissibility; and

3.      The importance of the applicant’s reason for seeking entry.

 Both Department of State and the Foreign Affairs Manual specify that any nonimmigrant may request a waiver as long as his or her presence would not be detrimental to the United States.  They provide that “while the exercise of discretion and good judgment is essential, generally, consular officers may recommend waivers for any legitimate purpose such as family visits, medical treatment (whether or not available abroad), business conferences, tourism, etc.” See 22 CFR 40.301 Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) 40.301 N3.  Furthermore, the Admissibility Review Office has confirmed that it will follow and adhere to Matter of Hranka in adjudicating requests for INA 212(d)(3) waivers.

In my client’s case, I addressed each of the factors laid out by Matter of Hranka while emphasizing the importance of the studies she was pursuing (which held direct ramifications for benefiting the welfare of communities within the United States); her successful completion of all aspects of her DUI Diversion Agreement Program; her track record of academic excellence and achievement which would be derailed if she missed the start of her fall academic semester; the potential consequences of missing the start of her fall academic semester, which included loss of her tuition scholarship; and her history of law-abiding and ethical behavior which was supported by numerous affidavits from her professors and colleagues.

More importantly, I argued in the alternative that my client should not be deemed subject to the health ground of inadmissibility since INA Section 212(a)(1)(A)(iii)(II) applies to those whose “behavior has posed a threat to the property, safety, or welfare of the alien or others and which behavior is likely to recur or to lead to other harmful behavior…”  I set forth arguments and supporting documents demonstrating that there is no likelihood of my client’s DUI recurring, given the importance she places on her studies, her history of good conduct, and other evidence of complete rehabilitation.

Based upon these factors, my client was approved for the F-1 extension and is now in the United States successfully continuing her studies with no loss of school time whatsoever.