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-601A Provisional Waiver Approved Based on Medical, Psychological, and Financial Hardships

I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved Based on Medical, Psychological, and Financial Hardships

Our office recently received approval of the I-601A Provisional Waiver for our client who is married to a U.S. citizen spouse.  We were contacted after the U.S. citizen petitioner filed the I-130 Petition for Immediate Relative and was awaiting approval of the immigrant visa petition by the USCIS.

During this preliminary processing period,  we provided our clients with our Waiver Worksheets, which contains a comprehensive set of important questions to answer and supporting documents to gather, based on our 14+ years of experience preparing winning I-601, I-212, 212(d)(3), and other immigration waivers on behalf of our clients.

Our office subsequently drafted and submitted the I-601A Provisional Waiver application package which included: a complete set of USCIS forms requesting consideration for the I-601A Provisional Waiver; a 27 page waiver statement detailing relevant case law favorable to my client’s situation and presenting the extreme hardships that applied to this case; and a comprehensive collection of exhibits to prove the extreme hardships being presented.   Throughout the waiver, we incorporated an eloquent presentation of the couple’s life story that highlighted the unique facets of this case, personalized their plight, and showed why the U.S. citizen would be particularly vulnerable to the hardships triggered by separation or relocation.

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.

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

  1. Be 17 years of age or older.
  2. Be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (not a preference category immigrant who has a visa available).  An immediate relative is an individual who is the spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen.
  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 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).

The favorable factors of this case includes some of the following:

  • the U.S. citizen wife cannot not endure long-term separation from her spouse, were he required to leave the U.S., because she has become medically, psychologically, and emotionally dependent on him.
  • the U.S. citizen wife suffers from a variety of physical ailments and psychological disorders, that would be exacerbated by the stress of separation or relocation.
  • the U.S. citizen wife would be in danger of defaulting on her student loan and other debt payments should her physical and psychological state deteriorate further.
  • the U.S. citizen wife would live in fear of violent assault in the country of her husband should she be forced to re-locate to his home country.
  • the U.S. citizen wife would lose access to quality health care needed to monitor her various physical and mental disorders
  • the U.S. citizen wife would be wholly separated from her ill parents and family in the U.S.

It should be noted that the way extreme hardships are presented, discussed, and proven often “make or break” an I-601A Provisional Waiver Application.  Extreme hardships should be highlighted and elaborated upon in a realistic and credible manner.  Every hardship should also be shown to exist and possibly grow worse in two scenarios: if the qualifying relative is separated from the applicant and if the qualifying relative has to re-locate to another country in order to be with the applicant.  Every hardship statement made should be proven with objective evidence that is included in a comprehensive collection of Exhibits.

As a result of the comprehensive package we prepared and submitted on behalf of our client, this I-601A Provisional Waiver application was approved.

USCIS Expansion of the I-601A Provisional Waiver Program In-Depth

USCIS Expansion of the I-601A Provisional Waiver Program In-Depth

Selected discussions on the recent expansion of the I-601A Provisional Waiver process by the USCIS follow below:

The provisional unlawful presence waiver (“provisional waiver”) process allows certain individuals who are present in the United States to request from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) a provisional waiver of these grounds of inadmissibility before departing the United States for consular processing of their immigrant visas – rather than applying for a waiver abroad after their immigrant visa interviews using the Form I-601, Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (“Form I-601 waiver process”).

The provisional waiver process is designed to encourage unlawfully present individuals to leave the United States, attend their immigrant visa interviews, and return to the United States legally to reunite with their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) family members.

Having an approved provisional waiver helps facilitate immigrant visa issuance at DOS, streamlines both the waiver and the immigrant visa processes, and reduces the time that applicants are separated from their U.S. citizen or LPR family members, thus promoting family unity.

Generally, individuals who are in the United States and seeking lawful permanent resident (LPR) status must either obtain an immigrant visa abroad through what is known as “consular processing” with the Department of State (DOS) or apply to adjust their immigration status to that of an LPR in the United States, if eligible. Individuals present in the United States without having been inspected and admitted or paroled are typically ineligible to adjust their status in the United States.

To obtain LPR status, such individuals must leave the United States for immigrant visa processing at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad. But because these individuals are present in the United States without having been inspected and admitted or paroled, their departures may trigger a ground of inadmissibility based on the accrual of unlawful presence in the United States under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i).

Under subclause (I) of this provision, an individual who has been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days but less than one year, and who then departs voluntarily from the United States before the commencement of removal proceedings, is inadmissible for 3 years from the date of departure. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(I).

Under subclause (II), an individual who has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more and then departs the United States (before, during, or after removal proceedings), is inadmissible for 10 years from the date of the departure. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(II).

These “3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars” do not take effect unless and until the individual departs from the United States. See, e.g., Matter of Rodarte-Roman, 23 I. & N. Dec. 905 (BIA 2006).

The Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary) may waive this ground of inadmissibility for an individual who can demonstrate that the refusal of his or her admission to the United States would result in extreme hardship to his or her U.S. citizen or LPR spouse or parent. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v).

Prior to the creation of the provisional waiver process in 2013, any individual who was seeking an immigrant visa and became inadmissible under the 3- or 10-year unlawful presence bar upon departure from the United States, could apply for a waiver of such inadmissibility from DHS by filing an Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, Form I-601, with USCIS, but only after having attended the consular immigrant visa interview abroad. Those who applied for waivers under this “Form I-601 waiver process” were effectively required to remain abroad for at least several months while USCIS adjudicated their waiver applications.

For some individuals, the Form I-601 waiver process led to lengthy separations of immigrant visa applicants from their family members, causing some U.S. citizens and LPRs to experience the significant emotional and financial hardships that Congress aimed to avoid when it authorized the waiver. See INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v) (providing for an inadmissibility waiver, “if it is established to the satisfaction of the Attorney General that the refusal of admission to such immigrant alien would result in extreme hardship to the citizen or lawfully resident spouse or parent of such alien”).

For this reason, many relatives of U.S. citizens and LPRs who are eligible to obtain LPR status may be reluctant to travel abroad to seek immigrant visas and obtain such status. The Form I-601 waiver process also created processing inefficiencies for both USCIS and DOS through repeated interagency communication and through multiple consular appointments or interviews.

On July 22, 2015, DHS proposed to expand the class of individuals who may be eligible for provisional waivers beyond certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens to all statutorily eligible individuals regardless of their immigrant visa classification. DHS also proposed to expand the class of individuals who could obtain provisional waivers, consistent with the statutory waiver authority, by permitting consideration of extreme hardship not only to U.S. citizen spouses or parents, but also to LPR spouses or parents.

In this final rule, DHS adopts the changes discussed in the proposed rule with several modifications in response to comments submitted on the proposed rule. The new modifications include:

1) Clarifying that all individuals seeking provisional waivers, including those in removal proceedings before the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), must file applications for provisional waivers with USCIS.

2) Allowing individuals to apply for provisional waivers even if USCIS has a reason to believe that they may be subject to other grounds of inadmissibility.

3) Eliminating the proposed temporal limitations that would have restricted eligibility for provisional waivers based on DOS visa interview scheduling.

4) Allowing individuals with final orders of removal, exclusion, or deportation to be eligible for provisional waivers provided that they have already applied for, and USCIS has approved, an Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, Form I-212.

5) Clarifying that DHS must have actually reinstated a removal, deportation, or exclusion order in order for an individual who has returned to the United States unlawfully after removal to be ineligible for a provisional waiver on that basis.

In addition, DHS made several technical and non-substantive changes.

Newly eligible provisional waiver applicants and their U.S. citizen or LPR family members will benefit from this rule. Those applying for provisional waivers will receive advance notice of USCIS’ decision to provisionally waive their 3- or 10-year unlawful presence bar before they leave the United States for their immigrant visa interview abroad. This offers applicants and their family members the certainty of knowing that the applicants have been provisionally approved for waivers of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars before departing from the United States.

Individuals with approved provisional waivers may experience shortened periods of separation from their family members living in the United States while they pursue issuance of immigrant visas abroad, thus reducing any related financial and emotional strains on the families.

Eligibility for the Provisional Waiver

1. Categories of Eligible Individuals

The Secretary is authorized 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 INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v).

With this final rule, DHS is allowing all individuals who are statutorily eligible for an immigrant visa and who meet the legal requirements for a waiver under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v), to seek a provisional waiver in accordance with new 8 CFR 212.7(e). Consistent with the current provisional waiver process, provisional waivers are available only to those who are present in the United States, who must apply for immigrant visas at U.S. embassies or consulates abroad, and who at the time of the immigrant visa interview may be inadmissible based on the accrual of unlawful presence under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(i).

DHS can only expand the pool of individuals eligible for this process to those who fall within one of the current statutory immigrant visa classifications and who meet the requirements for the unlawful presence waiver described in INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v). DHS cannot expand eligibility to those who are not statutorily eligible for such waivers under current law.

Similarly, DHS cannot change who is statutorily eligible to adjust status in the United States. Intending immigrants who are present in the United States but ineligible to adjust status must depart the United States and obtain their immigrant visas through consular processing abroad; approval of a provisional waiver does not change this requirement. See INA sections 104, 202(a)(1)(B), 211, 221, 222 and 245; 8 U.S.C. 1104, 1152(a)(1)(B), 1181, 1201, 1202, and 1255. See generally 8 CFR part 245; 22 CFR part 42.

To clarify, in the proposed rule, DHS sought to include all beneficiaries of approved immigrant visa petitions who are statutorily eligible for a waiver of the 3- and 10-year unlawful presence bars, regardless of age, marital status, or immigration status. Individuals with approved immigrant visa petitions, including sons and daughters (married or unmarried) of U.S. citizens, as well as those who have been selected to participate in the Diversity Visa program, may participate in the provisional waiver process provided they meet the requirements stated in 8 CFR 212.7(e). Consistent with its statutory authority under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(B)(v), DHS will no longer limit the provisional waiver process to certain immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

2. Reason-to-Believe Standard

DHS has decided to eliminate the reason-to-believe standard as a basis for denying provisional waiver applications. Accordingly, when adjudicating such applications, USCIS will only consider whether extreme hardship has been established and whether the applicant warrants a favorable exercise of discretion.

However, although this final rule eliminates the reason-to believe standard, the final rule retains the provision that provides for the automatic revocation of an approved provisional waiver application if the DOS consular officer ultimately determines that the applicant is ineligible for the immigrant visa based on other grounds of inadmissibility. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(14)(i).

DHS thus cautions and reminds individuals that even if USCIS approves a provisional waiver application, DOS may still find the applicant inadmissible on other grounds at the time of the immigrant visa interview. If DOS finds the applicant ineligible for the immigrant visa or inadmissible on grounds other than unlawful presence, the approval of the provisional waiver application is automatically revoked. In such cases, the individual may again apply for a waiver of the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility, in combination with any other waivable grounds of inadmissibility, by using the Form I-601 waiver process.

As in all discretionary matters, DHS also has the authority to deny provisional waiver applications as a matter of discretion even if the applicant satisfies the eligibility criteria. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(2)(i). Additionally, USCIS may reopen and reconsider its decision to approve or deny a provisional waiver before or after the waiver becomes effective if it is determined that the decision was made in error. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(13) and 8 CFR 212.7(a)(4)(v).

As has always been the case, DHS will continue to uphold the integrity and security of the provisional waiver process by conducting full background and security checks to assess whether an individual may be a threat to national security or public safety. If the background check or the individual’s immigration file reveals derogatory information, including a criminal record, USCIS will analyze the significance of the information and may deny the provisional waiver application as a matter of discretion.

Finally, the extreme hardship and discretionary eligibility assessments made during a provisional waiver adjudication could be impacted by additional grounds of inadmissibility and other information that was not known and therefore not considered during the adjudication.

Accordingly, USCIS is not bound by these determinations when adjudicating subsequent applications filed by the same applicant, such as an application filed to waive grounds of inadmissibility, including a waiver of the unlawful presence grounds of inadmissibility. In other words, because separate inadmissibility grounds and material information not before USCIS at the time of adjudication may alter the totality of the circumstances present in an individual’s case, a prior determination that an applicant’s U.S. citizen or LPR spouse would suffer extreme hardship if the applicant were refused admission (and that the applicant merits a provisional waiver as a matter of discretion) does not dictate that USCIS must make the same determination in the future, although the factors and circumstances underlying the prior decision may be taken into account when reviewing the cases under the totality of the circumstances.

3. DHS is eliminating the restrictions based on the date that DOS acted to schedule the immigrant visa interview.

USCIS will adjust its processing of petitions and applications so that neither DOS nor USCIS will be adversely affected by the elimination of this restriction. Please note, however, that elimination of these date restrictions does not alter other laws and regulations relating to the availability of immigrant visas. Applicants will still be unable to obtain immigrant visas until an immigrant visa number is available based on the applicant’s priority date. Applicants will need to act promptly, once DOS notifies them that they can file their immigrant visa application. If applicants do not apply within one year of this notice, DOS has authority to terminate their registration for an immigrant visa. See INA section 203(g), 8 U.S.C. 1153(g); see also 22 CFR 42.8(a). That action will also result in automatic revocation of the approval of the related immigrant visa petition. 8 CFR 205.1(a)(1).

In such a situation, applicants will have two options for continuing to pursue a provisional waiver. One option is for an applicant to ask DOS to reinstate the registration pursuant to 22 C.F.R. 42.83(d). If DOS reinstates the registration, approval of the immigrant visa petition is also reinstated. Once such an applicant has paid the immigrant visa processing fee for the related immigrant visa application, the applicant can apply for a provisional waiver. A second option is for the relevant immigrant visa petitioner to file a new immigrant visa petition with USCIS. If USCIS approves the new immigrant visa petition, the beneficiary could then apply for the provisional waiver after paying the immigrant visa processing fee based on the new petition if otherwise eligible.

4. Individuals in Removal Proceedings

On November 20, 2014, the Secretary directed the Department’s immigration components—USCIS, ICE, and CBP—to exercise prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, as early as possible in proceedings to ensure that DHS’s limited resources are devoted to the greatest degree possible to the pursuit of enforcement priorities.  Prosecutorial discretion applies not only to the decision to issue, serve, file, or cancel an NTA, but also to other broad
ranges of discretionary measures.  To promote docket efficiency and to ensure that finite enforcement resources are used effectively, ICE carefully reviews cases pending before the Department of Justice’s Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR) to ensure that all cases align with the agency’s enforcement and removal policies. As such, once an NTA is issued, ICE attorneys are directed to review the case, at the earliest opportunity, for the potential exercise of prosecutorial discretion.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) likewise instructs its immigration judges to use available docketing tools to ensure fair and timely resolution of cases, and to ask ICE attorneys at master calendar hearings whether ICE is seeking dismissal or administrative closure of a case.  In general, those who are low priorities for removal and are otherwise eligible for LPR status may be able to apply for provisional waivers.  Among other things, ICE may agree to administratively close immigration proceedings for individuals who are eligible to pursue a provisional waiver and are not currently considered a DHS enforcement priority.  ICE also works to facilitate, as appropriate, the timely termination or dismissal of administratively closed removal proceedings once USCIS approves a provisional waiver.

DHS believes the aforementioned steps being undertaken by ICE and EOIR to determine whether cases should be administratively closed effectively balances the commenters’ provisional waiver eligibility concerns and agency resources in considering the exercise of prosecutorial discretion. Consequently, this rule has not changed the provisional waiver process and will not permit individuals in active removal proceedings to apply for or receive provisional waivers, unless their cases are administratively closed. The Department believes that current processes provide ample opportunity for eligible applicants to seek a provisional waiver, while improving the allocation of government resources and ensuring national security, public safety, and border security.

5. Individuals Subject to Final Orders of Removal, Deportation, or Exclusion

As a preliminary matter, DHS notes that requiring the filing of separate Forms I-601A and I-212 simply reflects the fact that they are intended to address two separate grounds of inadmissibility, each with different waiver eligibility requirements. In response to the comments, however, DHS has amended the rule to allow individuals with final orders of removal, deportation, or exclusion to apply for provisional waivers if they have filed a Form I- 212 application seeking consent to reapply for admission and such an application has been conditionally approved.

Anyone who departs the United States while a final order is outstanding is considered to have executed that order. See INA section 101(g), 8 U.S.C. 1101(g); 8 CFR 241.7. The execution of such an order renders the individual inadmissible to the United States for a period of 5-20 years under INA section 212(a)(9)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(A). Certain individuals, however, may seek consent to reapply for admission to the United States before the period of inadmissibility has expired. See INA section 212(a)(9)(A)(iii), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(A)(iii).

DHS regulations provide a process for those in the United States to apply for such consent by filing a Form I-212 application before departing the United States. See 8 CFR 212.2(j). As with the provisional waiver process, the pre-departure approval of a Form I-212 application is conditioned on the applicant subsequently departing the United States.

Thus, if an individual who is inadmissible under INA section 212(a)(9)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1182(a)(9)(A), obtains a conditional approval of his or her Form I-212 application while in the United States and thereafter departs to attend the immigrant visa interview abroad, he or she generally is no longer inadmissible under that section at the time of the immigrant visa interview and can be issued an immigrant visa.

Given that an applicant still has to demonstrate visa eligibility, including admissibility, at the time of the immigrant visa interview and that DHS has decided to eliminate the reason-to-believe standard, the Department believes the goals of the provisional waiver process are supported by making it available to those with final orders only if they already have conditionally approved a Form I-212 application. The final rule thus extends eligibility for provisional waivers to such individuals. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(4)(iv).

Such an individual, however, must have the conditionally approved Form I-212 application at the time of filing the provisional waiver application. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(4)(iv). USCIS will deny a provisional waiver application if the applicant’s Form I-212 application has not yet been conditionally approved at the time the individual files his or her provisional waiver application. Additionally, if during the immigrant visa interview the consular officer finds that the applicant is inadmissible on other grounds that have not been waived, the approved provisional waiver will be automatically revoked. See 8 CFR 212.7(e)(14)(i).

Finally, DHS notes that approval of Forms I-601A and I-212 does not waive inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(9)(C), 8 U.S.C 1182(a)(9)(C), for having returned to the United States without inspection and admission or parole after a prior removal or prior unlawful presence. See INA section 212(a)(9)(C)(ii), 8 U.S.C 1182(a)(9)(C)(ii); Matter of Briones, 24 I&N Dec. 355 (BIA 2007); Matter of Torres-Garcia, 23 I&N Dec. 866 (BIA 2006).

6. Individuals Granted Voluntary Departure

DHS has determined that individuals granted voluntary departure will not be eligible for provisional waivers. First, if an individual obtains voluntary departure while in removal proceedings, the immigration judge is required by law to enter an alternate order of removal. See 8 CFR 1240.26(d). DHS cannot execute the alternate order of removal during the voluntary departure period because such an order is not yet in effect. But if the individual does not depart as required under the order of voluntary departure, the alternate order of removal automatically becomes fully effective without any additional proceeding. See 8 CFR 1240.26(d). Thus, an individual who fails to leave as required under a grant of voluntary departure will have an administratively final order of removal, and will thus be ineligible for a provisional waiver. See INA section 240B(d)(1), 8 U.S.C. 1229c(d)(1); 8 CFR 212.7(e)(4)(iv).

Under current law, removal proceedings for such individuals are considered to have ended when the grant of voluntary departure, with an alternate removal order, becomes administratively final. See INA sections 101(a)(47), 240(c)(1)(A), 8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(47), 1229(a)(c)(1)(A); 8 CFR 241.1, 1003.39, 1241.1; Matter of Shih, 20 I&N Dec. 697 (BIA 1993).

Second, a fundamental premise for a grant of voluntary departure is that the individual who is granted voluntary departure intends to leave the United States as required. See INA section 240B(b)(1)(D), 8 U.S.C. 1229c(b)(1)(D); Dada v. Mukasey, 554 U.S. 1, 18 (2008).  Allowing an individual whose voluntary departure period has not expired to apply for a provisional waiver would suggest that the individual is excused from complying with the order of voluntary departure. This result would contradict the purpose of voluntary departure— allowing the subject to leave promptly without incurring the future inadmissibility that results from removal. For these reasons, DHS did not modify the rule to allow those with grants of voluntary departure to apply for provisional waivers.

I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Nicaraguan Based on Psychological & Financial Hardships

I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Nicaraguan Applicant Based on Proving Extreme Psychological & Financial Hardship to U.S. Citizen Wife.

Our office received approval of the I-601A Provisional Waiver for a Nicaraguan applicant married to a U.S. citizen wife.  As part of the Provisional Waiver process, we first provided our clients with a detailed letter going over every step of the immigrant visa process (including a checklist of supporting documents to gather and return to our office).  We then expeditiously prepared the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and filed it with the USCIS on behalf of our clients.

The I-130 Petition for Alien Relative was approved by the USCIS approximately 5 months after submission by our office.  About 1 month after USCIS approval of the I-130 Petition, the National Visa Center received the approved immigrant visa case from the USCIS and issued its Immigrant Visa and Affidavit of Support fee bills.  After payment of the Immigrant Visa fee by the applicant, our office submitted the I-601 Provisional Waiver application package which included: a complete set of USCIS forms requesting consideration for the I-601A Provisional Waiver; a 31 page waiver statement detailing relevant case law favorable to my client’s situation and presenting the extreme hardships that applied to this case; and a comprehensive collection of exhibits to prove the extreme hardships being presented.

Approval of the I-601 Provisional Waiver application was received just 4 months after submission by our office.

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.

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

  1. Be 17 years of age or older.
  2. Be an immediate relative of a U.S. citizen (not a preference category immigrant who has a visa available).  An immediate relative is an individual who is the spouse, child or parent of a U.S. citizen.
  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 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).

In this case, the applicant is a Nicaraguan national who entered the United States without inspection to earn money and support his mother back in his home country.  The favorable factors of this case includes some of the following:

  • The Nicaraguan husband has extensive familial ties in the United States including his daughter, his father, his step-mother, his paternal grandmother, his uncles, and several nephews and nieces, all of whom reside legally in the U.S.
  • The U.S. citizen wife is responsible for the daily living and medical needs of her ill mother, who suffers from severe hearing loss and has a long history of mental illness.  She also assists her mother financially as best she can.
  • The married couple have a significant amount of debt and the Nicaraguan husband’s monthly income constitutes over 50% of the family’s total monthly income.  Without the money the husband earns, the U.S. citizen wife would default on her mortgage, student loans, and credit card debt, as well as on the secured loans on their car and house.
  • The U.S. citizen wife has a history of serious illness that required surgery in the past.  She needs regular check-ups as her illness may return.
  • The Nicaraguan husband has no criminal record, volunteers at his local church, and has a history of productive employment in the U.S.
  • The psychological state of the U.S. citizen wife is fragile and she risks serious mental decompensation and psychotic symptoms should she be separated from husband.
  • The married couple have an infant daughter who they raise together who would also be impacted emotionally by re-location or separation from her father.
  • Re-location of the family to Nicaragua would place the U.S. citizen wife (and their daughter) at risk of psychological distress, financial collapse, and victimization to crime.  It would seroiusly endanger the well-being and lives of three U.S. citizens.

It should be noted that the way extreme hardships are presented, discussed, and proven often “make or break” an I-601A Provisional Waiver Application.  Extreme hardships should be highlighted and elaborated upon in a realistic and credible manner.  Every hardship should also be shown to exist and possibly grow worse in two scenarios: if the qualifying relative is separated from the applicant and if the qualifying relative has to re-locate to another country in order to be with the applicant.  Every hardship statement made should be proven with objective evidence that is included in a comprehensive collection of Exhibits.

As a result of the comprehensive package we prepared and submitted on behalf of the Applicant, this I-601A Provisional Waiver application was approved.

Client Approval: I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Honduran Spouse

Client Approval: I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved for Honduran Spouse

We recently received approval of the I-601A Provisional Waiver that we prepared and submitted on behalf of a Honduran client who is married to his U.S. citizen spouse.

The 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 31 page waiver statement detailing relevant case law favorable to my client’s situation as well as the presenting the extreme medical, psychological, financial, and other hardships that compelled approval of our I-601A Provisional Waiver application;
  • an expert emphasis on the unique and favorable discretionary factors that applied to this case based on our 12+ years of preparing winning “extreme hardship” waivers on behalf of our clients; and
  • a comprehensive collection of organized 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 Honduran national who grew up in poverty, having lost both his parents at a young age and raised by his older sister.  He later entered the U.S. to escape the abject poverty and unchecked crime and violence of his home country.  He has worked productively in the U.S. upon his entrance to the country, has no criminal record whatsoever, and is the father of a U.S. citizen child who he raises together with his U.S. citizen wife.

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

  • U.S. citizen wife suffers from Type I Diabetes, a life-long condition carrying serious, potentially lethal consequences, if not properly treated or managed
  • Specific instances of our Honduran client having saved his U.S. citizen wife’s life as she slipped into a hypoglycemic coma due to an imbalance of sugar and insulin in her body
  • The U.S. citizen wife’s history of psychological disorders including Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Dysthymic Disorder
  • The vital financial support provided by our Honduran client to his U.S. citizen wife, without which she would be unable to pay her household and child-related expenses, make payments on her significant debt (including credit bills, home mortgage, and student debt), nor afford her medical expenses
  • The serious medical condition of the wife’s U.S. citizen grandparents,  who she and her husband care for and watch over as best they can
  • In-depth research and discussion of the country conditions of Honduras 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 this extended family of wife, husband, daughter, and grandparents, that would lead to a spiral of psychological distress and medical risk upon four U.S. citizens should the Honduran husband not be allowed to remain in the U.S.

As a result of our efforts, the I-601A provisional waiver was approved.  Our client will now be able to obtain U.S. lawful permanent resident status and more importantly, continue to play an integral role in caring for the well-being of his wife, daughter, and extended family.

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.

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.

BIA Precedent Decisions on Extreme Hardship for Purposes of the I-601 Waiver and I-601A Provisional Waiver

BIA Precedent Decisions on Extreme Hardship for Purposes of the I-601 and I-601A Provisional Waiver

Provided below is a list of precedent decisions by the Board of Immigration Appeals on “extreme hardship.”  These decisions are provided as a reference to adjudicating officers of the I-601 and I-601A Provisional Waiver units.

All of the waivers prepared by my office, including the I-601 Waiver and I-601A Provisional Waiver, incorporate relevant case law that pertain to the specific facts of our client’s case.

We constantly monitor administrative, legal, and other changes to the waiver process so that our clients’ waiver applications can be maximized for success.

We begin the waiver preparation process by providing an “extreme hardship” worksheet to our clients.  This worksheet helps us identify all of the hardships being suffered by the qualifying relative(s) and the families we represent.  This is important because while any single hardship may not be considered “extreme” in and of itself, multiple hardships can “add up” to become “cumulative” and meet the “extreme hardship” standard.

We also provide a detailed checklist of supporting documents to our clients so that every hardship we analyze and discuss can be objectively proven to the satisfaction of the adjudicating waiver officer.

We have a long-standing relationship with a clinical psychologist who is well-versed in preparing psychological evaluations for purposes of the I-601 Waiver and I-601A Provisional Waiver and offers a discounted fee to our clients.  Should you decide to get evaluated by your own psychologist, I provide a sample psychological evaluation template so that the evaluation can be drafted in a clear and effective manner by those unfamiliar with the extreme hardship waiver process.

Our completed waiver memos are typically 25-30 pages in length.  To this, we add Exhibits to prove every relevant statement made in the waiver.  I always forward a draft of the waiver to my clients for review before anything is submitted to the USCIS.  We also prepare all of the USCIS forms, organize the Exhibits, and meticulously assemble the waiver package before submitting it to the USCIS on behalf of our clients.

BIA DecisionSummary of Decision on Extreme Hardship
Matter of Sangster, 11 I&N Dec. 309 (BIA 1965)Economic detriment, in absence of other substantial equities, does not establish extreme hardship. No evidence that suitable employment was unavailable.
Matter of Saekow, 17 I&N Dec. 138 (BIA 1979)In reference to applicant's suspension of deportation, the Immigration Judge determined that the respondent failed to demonstrate that his
deportation would result in extreme hardship to himself or to a specified family member.
Matter of Pilch, 21 I&N Dec. 627 (BIA 1996)• The term "extreme hardship" refers to hardship that is unusual or beyond that which would normally be expected upon deportation; the common results of deportation and exclusion are not sufficient to prove extreme hardship.

• Emotional hardship caused by the severing of family and community ties is a common result of deportation and does not constitute extreme hardship.

• To endure the hardship of either separation when it can be avoided by joining the applicant abroad, or of relocation when it can be avoided by remaining in the United States, is a matter of choice and not the result of removal or inadmissibility.
Matter of Piggott, 15 I&N Dec. 129 (BIA 1974)Immigration Judge finding that the respondents would not be able to provide for their own necessities in Antigua and that their children would suffer as a result of the parents' inability to provide them with proper food, living facilities, and education in that country. Youngest child has rheumatic fever. She is being treated in the US, and equal medical is not available in Antigua. Extreme hardship requirement met.
Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. 245 (Comm. 1984)The approval of an application for a waiver pursuant to section 212(h) of the INA is dependent in part upon showing of extreme hardship, and thus only in cases of great actual or prospective injury to the qualifying family member will the bar be removed.
Matter of Louie, 10 I&N Dec. 223 (BIA 1963)Elderly US Citizen father with no other relatives in the US. Respondent takes him to weekly doctors' appointments. In view of the father's advanced age and physical condition it would be extremely harsh, to both the respondent and his father, to deport the respondent from
the US. Extreme hardship met.
Matter of Lopez-Monzon, 17 I&N Dec. 280 (Comm 1979)• Eligibility under section 212(i) of the INA to apply for a waiver of grounds of excludability is limited to aliens who are spouses, parents or children of US citizens or Lawful Permanent Residents. Congressional intent was to provide for the unification of families and avoid the hardship of separation.

• U.S. Citizen child did not reside in the US. The father (who resided in Guatemala) had custody of the child. No evidence was presented to indicate applicant would obtain custody of the child and no persuasive evidence that the applicant intended to bring the child to reside in the US. Approval of the waiver would not have reunited a family; favorable exercise of discretion was not granted.
Matter of Loo, 15 I&N Dec. 601 (BIA 1976)Applicant has 25 years residence in the US, a Lawful Permanent Resident daughter, and a small investment in a US business in which he was employed. Extreme hardship met.
Matter of Liao, 11 I&N Dec. 113 (BIA 1965)Hardship claim of fear of persecution and diminished employment opportunities. Applicant did not establish that his deportation would result in extreme hardship because he refused to return to that country after completing the program of military training for which he entered the US and expressed political views which are not looked upon with favor by the Nationalist Government of China on Formosa.
Matter of lge, 20 I&N Dec. 880 (BIA 1994)Assuming a United States citizen child would not suffer extreme hardship if he accompanies his parent abroad, any hardship the child might face if left in the United States is the result of parental choice, not of the parent's deportation.
Matter of Leon, 10 I&N
Dec. 274 (BIA 1963)
Respondent has US military service with a service connected
disability (30% ), is a US high school graduate, employed, and most of his adult years were spent in the US. Earning ability has been impaired by the service connected disability. Extreme hardship met.
Matter of Kojoory, 12 I&N Dec. 215 (BIA 1967)Extreme hardship not established in relation to applicant's claim of fear of persecution if returned to Iran, limited economic opportunities, lack of opportunities in his own field, and difficulty adjusting to the standard of living.
Matter of Kim, 15 I&N Dec. 88 (BIA 1974)Suspension of deportation under section 244(a)(1) of the INA based on 7 years physical presence in the US will not be granted on a claim of extreme hardship, where the only facts presented tended to show better economic and educational opportunities for her US citizen children in the US than in Korea.
Matter of H-, 14 I&N Dec. 185 (RC 1972) - sec. 212(h)Extreme hardship within the meaning of section 212(h) of the INA is established where the applicant's spouse is 81 years old and has already endured a 15-year exile from the US to reside with the applicant in Mexico. The applicant established complete reformation from the activities that rendered her excludable and the stability between her US Citizen spouse was satisfactorily demonstrated; Therefore, a waiver pursuant to 212(h) was granted.
Matter of Gibson, 16 I&N Dec. 58 (BIA 1976)Even though the alien meets the physical presence and Good Moral Character requirements of the statute, suspension of deportation was ordered denied because economic detriment which may result from deportation does not meet the test of extreme hardship within the contemplation of section 244(a)(1) of the INA. Alien was employed as a custodian and should have no difficulty in finding suitable employment abroad. No relatives in the US.
Matter of Da Silva, 217 I&N Dec. 288 (Comm 1979)• A discretionary decision must be based on the weight factors present in the case, both adverse and favorable. Questionable factors should not be considered at all, or should be resolved in favor of the applicant.

• A waiver application under section 212(i) of the INA will be approved in the interest of family reunification where the requisite relationship exists and the favorable factors outweigh the unfavorable factors.
Matter of Chumpitazi, 16 I&N Dec. 629 (BIA 1978)The loss of job and the financial loss incurred is not "extreme hardship" within the meaning of section 211 of the INA, despite a 11-year stay in the US.
Matter of Cervantes -Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. 560 (BIA 1996)Outlines hardship factors to consider in determining whether an alien has established extreme hardship pursuant to section 212(i) of the INA.
Matter of Anderson 16 I&N Dec. 596 (BIA 1978)While political and economic conditions in an alien's homeland are relevant factors in determining extreme hardship under section 244(a)(1) of the INA, they do not justify a grant of relief unless other factors such as advanced age, severe illness, family. ties, etc. combine with economic detriment to make deportation extremely hard on the alien or the citizen or permanent resident members of his family.
Matter of Alonzo, 17 I&N Dec. 292 (Comm 1979)• The birth of a US Citizen child, whether or not born during a lawful stay of the parents in the US, is a favorable factor and must accorded considerable weight in the adjudication of an application for the relief of a waiver of grounds of excludability under section 212(i)
of the INA.

• The section 212(i) waiver should be granted in the exercise of discretion, where favorable factors are present, and there is an absence of countervailing adverse factors.

• No statutory or other requirement that extreme hardship be shown
in a section 212(i) waiver case.

• Applicant sought waiver of excludability for obtaining visas by
fraud and misrepresentation. The violation was not held as an adverse factor action because it was the violation for which the alien seeks to be forgiven.
Matter of Uy, 11 I&N Dec. 159 (BIA 1965)Applicant did not establish his deportation would result in extreme hardship, merely because he would suffer some economic hardship due to limited opportunities in his field of training.

Tips for Arguing Financial Hardship in I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waiver and I-601A Provisional Waiver Cases

Tips for Arguing Financial Hardship in I-601A Waiver Cases

The AILA National Benefits Center Committee recently provided tips on  establishing that a U.S. citizen spouse would suffer financial hardship in an I-601A, provisional unlawful presence waiver case.  It should be noted that these tips also generally apply when arguing financial hardship in I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver cases.

Demonstrating that a U.S. citizen (USC) spouse would suffer financial hardship can help support a provisional unlawful presence waiver application (Form I-601A).  The applicant must show that the USC spouse will not have the income to support him/herself or close family members as a result of the applicant’s departure from the U.S. or if the USC were to accompany the applicant to his or her home country.

It is critical that the applicant provide clear documentary evidence to substantiate a claim of extreme financial hardship.

Below are recommendations on how to present a claim of financial hardship:

  • Compare monthly income against expenses. Do not rely on USCIS to sort through the couple’s income and expenses for you. Itemize the monthly expenses and all sources of income and explain how the USC would not be able to cover all fixed expenses without the support of the applicant. Be sure to include supporting documentation, such as billing/credit card statements, receipts, paystubs, and tax returns.
  • Do not rely on recently acquired large expenses that could have been avoided. A reviewing officer may not be persuaded by the potential of a US Citizen (“USC”) losing their home if it was purchased recently and relied partially or wholly on the applicant’s U.S.-based income.
  • Show additional expenses related to raising children without the applicant’s care. It may not be sufficient to simply state that the applicant’s absence would result in a burden to the USC because the USC would be solely responsible for childcare. Explain if and why alternatives such as a nanny, daycare, or after school care are either not available or are insufficient. Document why the USC cannot afford the expense of childcare alternatives and address why other family members cannot help with childcare. Also address why the children cannot go with the applicant to the foreign country if he or she is their primary caretaker. This is number crunching at its finest; you must closely weigh all sides to the financial argument.
  • Do not rely on expenses that are not considered “basic necessities.” USCIS officers may not be convinced if the household expenses include items such as cable television; dining out, hotels, vacations, private school tuition, high cell phone bills, electronics, gym memberships, etc.
  • Explain the additional financial burden to the USC to support two households. It may be helpful to show the extra financial burden that would result from helping to maintain a household for the immigrant abroad as well as a household for the family in the U.S. Document the typical expenses the applicant would have in the foreign country (rent, utilities, transportation, etc.) and explain why family members in the home country would not be able to house the applicant. Also explain why the applicant would be unable to support him/herself, for example a lack of employment opportunities, lack of skills or education, etc.
  • Address why the USC would be unable to find work abroad. Though the USC spouse will of course have to give up his or her job if forced to relocate to the applicant’s home country, it might not be viewed as “extreme” hardship if the USC could find work in another field. Discuss the challenges the USC may face finding work abroad given language barriers, physical limitations, and financial needs and provide evidence to support your claim. For example, if the USC is a mechanical engineer who suffers from severe back problems, an argument could be made that she will have difficulty finding work because she does not have the language skills to use the necessary technical words and is unable to perform physical labor because of her back problems. This would need to be supported by medical records and recent job postings in the foreign country that describe the necessary skills for the position.
  • Review all receipts and financial records before filing. Carefully analyze all supporting documentation prior to filing. It is very difficult to respond to a Request for Evidence that points to documents that undermine your arguments.

I provide all of my I-601, I-601A, I-212, and 212(d)(3) waiver clients with extremely detailed Waiver Worksheets customized to their particular case type.  The Waiver Worksheets contain a comprehensive list of questions for my clients to answer.  It also contains a full checklist of supporting documents I recommend they gather to be used in support of their waiver application.

This process helps me identify all of the relevant hardship and persuasive factors to be discussed in their waiver, including a mathematical calculation of financial hardships and the impact separation (or relocation) caused by inadmissibility would have upon the qualifying relative and his/her immediate family.

As the above tips show, it is crucial that each and every hardship be analyzed in minute detail and that the impact on extreme hardship discussed in an organized, methodical, and comprehensive manner.

Client Approval: I-601A Provisional Waiver Approved within 3 Months for Mexican Client

I-601A Provisional Waiver Based on Extreme Hardship to U.S. Citizen Husband Approved within 3 Months of Submission to USCIS for Mexican Wife.

We recently received approval of the I-601A Provisional Waiver that we prepared and submitted for a Mexican applicant married to a U.S. citizen husband within 3 months of its submission to the USCIS.

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 25 page waiver statement detailing relevant case law favorable to my client’s situation and presenting the extreme hardships that applied to this case; and a comprehensive collection of exhibits to prove the extreme hardships 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 Mexican national who entered the U.S. without inspection at the age of 19 to find a more secure life in the United States.  Since entering the U.S., she learned English, obtained gainful employment, and has remained law-abiding to the present day.  She met her U.S. citizen husband, fell in love with him, and had a son together.

The favorable factors of this case discussed in detail in our I-601A Provisional Waiver application include:

  • The medical condition of the couple’s U.S. citizen son who suffers from anemia.
  • The medical condition of the U.S. citizen husband who suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder, partly as a result of the burden he has taken on to financially support his younger brother and his parents.
  • The financial crisis that this family is undergoing, including declaration of bankruptcy by the U.S. citizen husband’s parents.  The parents subsequently rely upon the joint-income of their son and daughter-in-law (the U.S. citizen husband and his Mexican wife, respectively) who work to support the parents, themselves, their son, as well as the U.S. citizen husband’s younger brother.
  • The financial strain placed upon the U.S. citizen husband as he and his wife struggle to pay his parent’s mortgage for the family home where the entire family all reside
  • The employer-provided health insurance that the U.S. citizen husband and their infant son rely on to receive treatment for their medical conditions, and its termination should he be forced to re-locate to Mexico to be with his wife
  • The extensive family ties of the U.S. citizen husband in the U.S. including three brothers, two sisters, and an extended family of cousins, aunts, and uncles, all who reside in close proximity with each other.
  • 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 Mexico

This case is an important one because it demonstrates that cumulative hardships and individual circumstances can “add up” to meet the extreme hardship standard.  While any single hardship in this case may not be considered “extreme” in and of itself, it was only by meticulously demonstrating how they interrelate with each other and create “downward spiral of expanding and worsening hardships” (my description) that we obtained approval of this I-601A Provisional Waiver.