I-601 Waiver for Fraud / Willful Misrepresentation Approved for Filipino Spouse

I-601 Waiver for Fraud / Willful Misrepresentation Approved for Filipino Spouse

We obtained approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for the Filipino husband of a U.S. citizen who was subject to a life-time bar for fraud/misrepresentation under INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).

INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) states:

Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act is inadmissible.

Our client entered the U.S. lawfully on a valid non-immigrant visa, met his U.S. citizen spouse, and fell in love.  They have been married for 14 years. He returned to the Philippines to pursue his studies, planning to return to the U.S. after graduation.  He failed to disclose a prior marriage on his original visa application and was consequently charged with fraud / willful misrepresentation pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) and deemed inadmissible at his immigrant visa interview.

I was contacted by the clients to assist them in preparing and obtaining approval of the I-601 waiver after the finding of inadmissibility by the U.S. embassy in Manila, Philippines.

An I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility requires a showing that the applicant’s U.S. citizen spouse or parent would suffer “extreme hardship” if the applicant is refused admission into the United States.

”Extreme hardship” has a special meaning under U.S. immigration law.  The factors considered relevant in determining extreme hardship include:

  • Health of the qualifying relative: ongoing or specialized treatment requirements for a physical or mental condition; availability and quality of such treatment in the foreign national’s country, anticipated duration of the treatment; whether a condition is chronic or acute, or long or short-term.
  • Financial considerations: future employability; loss due to sale of home or business or termination of a professional practice; decline in standard of living; ability to recoup short-term losses; cost of extraordinary needs, such as special education or training for children; cost of caring for family members (i.e., elderly and infirm parents).
  • Education: loss of opportunity for higher education; lower quality or limited scope of education options; disruption of current program; requirement to be educated in a foreign language or culture with ensuing loss of time in grade; availability of special requirements, such as training programs or internships in specific fields.
  • Personal considerations: close relatives in the United States and/or the foreign national’s country; separation from spouse/children; ages of involved parties; length of residence and community ties in the United States.
  • Special considerations: cultural, language, religious, and ethnic obstacles; valid fears of persecution, physical harm, or injury; social ostracism or stigma; access to social institutions or structures.
  • Any other information that explains how your personal circumstances may qualify as imposing extreme hardship on a qualifying U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative.

Spouses must demonstrate that their relationship will suffer more than the normal hardship or financial inconvenience caused by family separation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We prepared a comprehensive I-601 waiver application including a 29 page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of our clients’ lives met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship.”

In particular, this includes the day-to-day care that the U.S. citizen spouse provides to her elderly mother, who suffers from diabetes, hypertension, and arthritis.  The U.S. citizen spouse lives with her elderly mother and they are each dependent on one another to oversee and manage the medical care they both vitally need.  Although the elderly mother of the U.S. citizen is not a qualifying relative per se under the INA Section 212(i), her well-being is intimately tied to that of the U.S. citizen spouse (who is the qualifying relative) and was thoroughly presented in our brief.

To provide more detail – should the U.S. citizen spouse be forced to re-locate to the Philippines to be with her husband, her elderly mother would lose her primary support giver.  This could be potentially life-threatening to her elderly mother given her fragile state; and such an event would traumatically affect the psychological and physical health of the U.S. citizen spouse which is already compromised.  Alternatively, should the U.S. citizen spouse have to remain in the U.S. without the support of her husband, her personal condition would likewise continue to deteriorate, affecting the welfare of two U.S. citizens who desperately need the presence and support of the waiver applicant in their lives.  In these types of scenarios, it is always important to present and prove the hardships of close relatives whose well-being are intimately tied to that of the qualifying relative; and demonstrate how both parties would be impacted by the immigration consequences of their situations.

As a result of our efforts, our client was approved for the I-601 Waiver and consequently, this couple now reside lawfully in the U.S. together once again after a separation of more than 9 years apart.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The positive factors in this case included:

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

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

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

Exercise of Discretion by the USCIS Officer on Immigrant Waivers

Exercise of Discretion by the USCIS Officer on Immigrant Waivers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

• Significant health concerns that affect the qualifying relative.

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

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

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

• Reformation of character and rehabilitation.

• Community service beyond any imposed by the courts.

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

• Lack of reformation of character or rehabilitation.

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

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

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

Discretionary Factors

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

Discretionary Determination

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

Example

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

Example

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

Example

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

Example

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

Cases Involving Violent or Dangerous Crimes

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

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

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

I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waiver Approved after Comprehensive Request for Evidence (RFE) Response

I-601 "Extreme Hardship" Waiver Approved after Comprehensive Request for Evidence (RFE) Response

I was contacted by a couple after their I-601 “extreme hardship” waiver application (prepared and filed by another law firm) was deemed insufficient for approval of their I-601 waiver.  The waiver applicant from Turkey previously overstayed in the United States by more than one year due to a misunderstanding of how long his authorized period of stay was granted for.  He later departed the U.S. due to a family emergency.  While abroad, he married his U.S. citizen fiancee and attempted to return to the United States, whereupon he was informed that he was subject to the 10 year unlawful presence bar.

The couple retained our law firm to prepare a thorough response to the Request for Evidence (RFE) issued by the USCIS.  We prepared a comprehensive 29 page response to the Request for Evidence (RFE), addressing each of the issues raised by the USCIS and providing supporting documentation to objectively prove every important assertion made in our response.

The Request for Evidence issued by the USCIS is instructive to examine in more detail as it shows the level of detail and preparation needed to obtain approval of an I-601 waiver.  Relevant portions of the RFE is provided below:

You have been found inadmissible to the United States under Section 212(a)(9)(8) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) because you had previously been unlawfully present in the United States in excess of either 180 days, or for one year or more.

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

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

Your application does not include sufficient evidence that your qualifying relative spouse would suffer extreme hardship if you are refused admission to the United States.

Although it appears your qualifying relative spouse is experiencing some type of hardship; we are unable to determine whether or not the hardship rises to the level of extreme hardship. An affidavit is not enough to establish extreme hardship because it lacks sufficient detail, is general in nature, and is absent accompanying documentation. The evidence should explain how the hardship is greater the common results of family separation due to a visa refusal.

An affidavit was not submitted by your qualifying relative spouse.  Therefore we do not have enough evidence to establish extreme hardship to your qualifying relative spouse.  Provide evidence to explain why it would be an “extreme hardship” for your qualifying relative spouse to be absent your financial support as well as evidence of any emotional problems you are experiencing that would rise to the level of an “extreme hardship” if you were not allowed to relocate to the U.S.  ln his affidavit he says that you will struggle on several levels; however, you did not submit any proof of financial obligations, a breakdown of your income and expenses and more detail of the hardship.

Absent from the record is an explanation of how traveling to visit you would rise to the level of an  “extreme hardship”.

The evidence does not indicate that your qualifying relative spouse is facing any one hardship that is extreme (in and of itself). It also does not establish that there are sufficient hardships (cumulatively) that would rise to the level of extreme in the aggregate. (If your spouse is facing additional hardships, please submit evidence of them.)

Note: Extreme Hardship is required for the approval of Form 1-601, not just hardship. Extreme hardship is a hardship that is unusual or beyond that which would normally be expected upon removal or exclusion.

Factors USCIS considers when determining extreme hardship include but are not limited to:

  • Health – Ongoing or specialized treatment required for a physical or mental condition; availability and quality of such treatment in the country to which removed; anticipated duration of the treatment; chronic vs. acute vs. long or short-term.
  • Financial Considerations – Future employability; loss due to sale of home or business or termination of a professional practice; decline in standard of living; ability to recoup short-term losses; cost of extraordinary needs such as special education or training for children; cost of care for family members (elderly and sick parents).
  • Education – Loss of opportunity for higher education; lower quality or limited scope of education options; disruption of current program; requirement to be educated in a foreign language or culture with ensuing loss of time or grade; availability of special requirements, such as training programs or internships in specific fields.
  • Personal Considerations – Close relatives in the United States and country of removal; separation from spouse/children; ages of involved parties; length of residence and community ties in the United States.
  • Special Factors – Cultural, language, religious. and ethnic obstacles; valid fears of persecution, physical harm, or injury; social ostracism or stigma; access to social institutions or structures (official or unofficial) for support, guidance, or protection.

1) Please submit a statement explaining in detail the hardships your qualifying relative would experience if you are denied admission to the United States. The statement should explain how the hardship is greater than the common results of family separation due to a visa refusal.

2) Please submit evidence to support the statements made. Such evidence may include but is not limited to:

  • Affidavits from the qualifying relative or other individuals with personal knowledge of the claimed hardships
  • Expert opinions
  • Evidence of employment or business ties such as payroll records or tax statements
  • Evidence of monthly expenditures such as mortgage, rental agreement, bills and invoices. etc.
  • Other financial records supporting any claimed financial hardships
  • Medical documentation and/or evaluations by medical professionals supporting any claimed medical hardships
  • Records of membership in community organizations, volunteer confirmation, and evidence of cultural affiliations
  • Birth/marriage/adoption certificates supporting any claimed family ties
  • Country condition reports
  • Any other evidence you believe supports the claimed hardships

Please note that USCIS will only consider hardships that affect the qualifying relative(s) upon which you are basing your eligibility. If you describe hardship to yourself or another individual, you must also explain how those factors affect the qualifying relative(s).

Your application does not include sufficient evidence that a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted in your case.

3) Please submit a statement explaining the favorable factors of your case and why you believe the favorable factors outweigh unfavorable factors in your case (including the initial inadmissibility finding).

4) Please submit any evidence to support your statement.

Favorable factors may include, but are not limited to:

  • Family ties in the United States and the closeness of the underlying relationships
  • Unusual hardship to yourself or to U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives and employers
  • Evidence of reformation and rehabilitation
  • Length of lawful residence in the United States and status held during that residence (particularly where the applicant began his or her residency at a young age)
  • Evidence of respect for law and order, good moral character, and intent to hold family responsibilities (such as affidavits from family, friends, and responsible community representatives)
  • Considerable passage of time since the activities occurred which were the basis of the inadmissibility finding
  • The absence of significant undesirable or negative factors

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

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

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

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

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

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

As part of our response to the USCIS-issued Request for Evidence (RFE), we demonstrated that the US citizen suffers from both physical and psychiatric disorders that significantly impairs her daily functioning at home, work, and in the community.  We also highlighted the fact that she has suffered from psychiatric disorder since childhood, with a long history of anxiety, depression, and substance abuse, which also runs in her family.

We showed how the U.S. citizen is at serious risk of lapsing back into substance abuse without the daily physical, emotional, and psychological support provided by her husband.  We also analyzed her household income, expenses, and debt, and showed the financial disaster she would suffer should she be forced to relocate to her husband’s home country of Turkey; or alternatively, remain in the U.S. without her spouse and be subject to the inevitable consequences of her worsening psychological and physical health without his daily support.  We also presented a detailed country conditions report of Turkey, demonstrating how the specific circumstances of our client’s health, financial status, and background would be impacted by her possible re-location to Turkey.

As a result of our efforts in responding to a very difficult Request for Evidence (RFE), this I-601 waiver was approved and the couple now reside lawfully inside the U.S.

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.

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

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

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

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

Legal Requirements of the § 212(h) Waiver

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Peruvian Wife Approved for I-601 “Unlawful Presence” Waiver Based on Extreme Hardship

Peruvian Wife Approved for I-601 "Unlawful Presence" Waiver Based on Extreme Hardship

We recently received approval of the I-601 “Extreme Hardship” Waiver for the Peruvian wife of  a U.S. citizen who was found to be inadmissible under section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), 8 U.S.C. §1182(a)(9)(B)(i)(II), for having been unlawfully present in the United States for more than one year before departing the U.S. for her home country of Peru.

That section of the INA reads:

(B) Aliens Unlawfully Present

(i) In general. – Any alien (other than an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence) who-

(I) was unlawfully present in the United States for a period of more than 180 days but less than 1 year, voluntarily departed the United States . . . and again seeks admission within 3 years of the date of such alien’s departure or removal, or

(II) has been unlawfully present in the United States for one year or more, and who again seeks admission within 10 years of the date of such alien’s departure or removal from the United States, is inadmissible.

We prepared the I-601 waiver pursuant to INA 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the INA, 8 U. S.C. § 1182(a)(9)(B)(v).  Section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the Act provides for a waiver of section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) inadmissibility as follows:

The Attorney General [now Secretary of Homeland Security] has sole discretion to waive clause (i) in the case of an immigrant who is the spouse or son or daughter of a United States citizen or of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, if it is established . . . 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.

A waiver of inadmissibility under section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) of the Act is dependent on a showing that the bar to admission imposes extreme hardship on a qualifying relative, which includes the U.S. citizen or lawfully resident spouse or parent of the applicant.  Hardship to the applicant and his children can be considered only insofar as it results in hardship to a qualifying relative.  The applicant’s U.S. citizen spouse is the only qualifying relative in this case. If extreme hardship to a qualifying relative is established, the applicant is statutorily eligible for a waiver, and USCIS then assesses whether a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. See Matter of Mendez-Moralez, 21 I&N Dec. 296, 301 (BIA 1996).

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

The Board has also held that the common or typical results of removal and inadmissibility do not constitute extreme hardship, and has listed certain individual hardship factors considered common rather than extreme.  These factors include: economic disadvantage, loss of current employment, inability to maintain one’s present standard of living, inability to pursue a chosen profession, separation from family members, severing community ties, cultural readjustment after living in the United States for many years, cultural adjustment of qualifying relatives who have never lived outside the United States, inferior economic and educational opportunities in the foreign country, or inferior medical facilities in the foreign country. See generally Matter of Cervantes-Gonzalez, 22 I&N Dec. at 568; Matter of Pilch, 21 I&N Dec. 627, 632-33 (BIA 1996); Matter of Ige, 20 I&N Dec. 880, 883 (BIA 1994); Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. 245,246-47 (Comm’r 1 984); Matter of Kim, 15 I&N Dec. 88, 89-90 (BIA 1974); Matter of Shaughnessy, 12 I&N Dec. 810, 813 (BIA 1968).

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

The actual hardship associated with an abstract hardship factor such as family separation, economic disadvantage, cultural readjustment, etcetera, differs in nature and severity depending on the unique circumstances of each case, as does the cumulative hardship a qualifying relative experiences as a result of aggregated individual hardships. See, e.g., Matter of Bing Chih Kao and Mei Twi Lin, 23 I&N Dec. 45, 51 (BIA 2001) (distinguishing Matter of Pilch regarding hardship faced by qualifying relatives on the basis of variations in the length of residence in the United States and the ability to speak the language of the country to which they would relocate).  For example, though family separation has been found to be a common result of inadmissibility or removal, separation from family living in the United States can also be the most important single hardship factor in considering hardship in the aggregate. See Salcido-Salcido, 138 F.3d 1292, 1293 (quoting Contreras-Buenfil v. INS, 712 F.2d 401, 403 (9th Cir. 1983)); but see Matter of Ngai, 19 I&N Dec. at 247 (separation of spouse and children from applicant not extreme hardship due to conflicting evidence in the record and because applicant and spouse had been voluntarily separated from one another for 28 years).

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

In order to secure approval of this I-601 “unlawful presence” waiver, we prepared a comprehensive 30-page legal memorandum (the I-601 “waiver letter”) that includes in-depth discussion of waiver case law that supports approval of our client’s case.

As we do with all of our waiver cases, we initially provided a Waiver Worksheet to our clients which contains a thorough list of questions for our clients answer and return to us.  The answers provided by our clients help us identify the most important hardship and discretionary factors to be presented to the USCIS in our waiver package.

Our Waiver Worksheet also contains a checklist of suggested documents for our clients to gather.  The questions on our Waiver Worksheet and the checklist of supporting documents is regularly updated and reflects our knowledge of the best ways to secure approval of I-601, I-212, and 212(d)(3) waivers.  Our knowledge in the specialized field of immigration waivers for grounds of inadmissibility has been earned through over 12 years of successfully obtaining waiver approvals on behalf of our clients located throughout the world.

In this case, we also performed detailed country conditions research to demonstrate that the U.S. citizen husband would suffer a variety of hardships if he is forced to move to Peru to reside with his wife.  We cited respected sources and journals such as Peru Economic Outlook; The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom; The World Bank Group; and the United States Department of State – Bureau of Consular Officers, to establish the financial, medical, and physical hardships and risks the U.S. citizen husband and his wife would be subject toif they were forced to reside in Peru due to the applicant’s inadmissibility.  We particularly stressed the physical dangers inherent in residing long-term in Peru since the Peruvian wife has already been the victim of kidnapping.

Other special factors presented that supported approval of this I-601 waiver includes:

  • The U.S. citizen husband has joint-custody over a son who resides in the United States.  He makes regularl child support payments and maintains a close relationship with his child.  Re-location to Peru would endanger our client’s ability to make child support payments and effectively sever the father-son relationship for the severe detriment of both parties.
  • The U.S. citizen husband carries significant financial debt, recently lost his job, and suffers from medical conditions that prevent him from continuing with the physical labor inherent in his chosen occupation.   He requires his wife’s daily support and financial assistance in the United States so that he can transition to a different career given his vulnerable physical condition.
  • The U.S. citizen husband is suffering crippling levels of anxiety during his wife’s absence from the United States.  His wife’s kidnapping (which occurred several years ago when she last resided in Peru) makes him especially worried for her safety.

As a result of the I-601 “unlawful presence” waiver package we prepared on behalf of our clients, this waiver application was approved by the USCIS.  The Peruvian wife can now lawfully residence inside the United States as a U.S. lawful permanent resident, and apply for naturalization to U.S. citizenship in about 3 years.

 

Client Approval: I-601 Waiver for Fraud/Misrepresentation Approved for Same Sex Couple

Client Approval: I-601 Waiver for Fraud/Misrepresentation Approved for Same Sex Couple

Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for an Indian client in a same sex marriage who is subject to a life-time bar for fraud/misrepresentation under INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).

INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) states:

Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act is inadmissible.

Our client entered the U.S. lawfully on a valid non-immigrant visa and has remained in the United States for over 17 years.  During his stay in the U.S., he married a U.S. citizen and applied for Adjustment of Status to permanent residence.  He inadvertently failed to disclose a prior marriage he entered into for a short period of time in his Adjustment of Status package.  He was consequently charged with fraud/misrepresentation pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).  He subsequently divorced his spouse, met and married his current same-sex spouse, and applied again for Adjustment of Status.

An I-601 Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility requires a showing that the applicant’s U.S. citizen spouse or parent would suffer “extreme hardship” if the applicant is refused admission into the United States.

”Extreme hardship” has a special meaning under U.S. immigration law.  The factors considered relevant in determining extreme hardship include:

  • Health of the qualifying relative: ongoing or specialized treatment requirements for a physical or mental condition; availability and quality of such treatment in the foreign national’s country, anticipated duration of the treatment; whether a condition is chronic or acute, or long or short-term.
  • Financial considerations: future employability; loss due to sale of home or business or termination of a professional practice; decline in standard of living; ability to recoup short-term losses; cost of extraordinary needs, such as special education or training for children; cost of caring for family members (i.e., elderly and infirm parents).
  • Education: loss of opportunity for higher education; lower quality or limited scope of education options; disruption of current program; requirement to be educated in a foreign language or culture with ensuing loss of time in grade; availability of special requirements, such as training programs or internships in specific fields.
  • Personal considerations: close relatives in the United States and/or the foreign national’s country; separation from spouse/children; ages of involved parties; length of residence and community ties in the United States.
  • Special considerations: cultural, language, religious, and ethnic obstacles; valid fears of persecution, physical harm, or injury; social ostracism or stigma; access to social institutions or structures.
  • Any other information that explains how your personal circumstances may qualify as imposing extreme hardship on a qualifying U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relative.

Spouses must demonstrate that their relationship will suffer more than the normal hardship or financial inconvenience caused by family separation.

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

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

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

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

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

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

We prepared a comprehensive I-601 waiver application including a 34 page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of our clients’ lives met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship.”  We also thoroughly discussed and presented evidence of  the U.S. citizen spouse’s unique background which made him particularly vulnerable to medical and psychological hardship.  This includes the suicide of his father; the drug addiction of his brother; rejection by his family of his sexual orientation; as well as the psychological breakdown these events triggered and that he has suffered from throughout his adult life.

This case was also challenging because the waiver applicant was previously married to members of the opposite sex in the past.  We went beyond the legal standard of extreme hardship to prove the validity and genuine nature of this same sex marriage, and the vital and loving role each spouse plays in ensuring the other’s welfare and well-being.

The supporting documents submitted as part of this I-601 waiver application included:

  • Medical history and diagnosis of the U.S. citizen spouse, including the possibility of a life-threatening medical crisis in the future
  • Psycho-social evaluation of the U.S. citizen spouse which confirms  his Dysthymic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
  • Proof of significant financial debt owed by the household and the minimal income earned by the U.S. citizen spouse before meeting and marrying his current spouse
  • Proof of academic achievement and professional accomplishments of the Indian spouse, demonstrating his good moral character and his history of contribution to the economy of the United States
  • Detailed break-down of the family’s household income, expenses and debt/liabilities
  • Proof of financial support provided by the married couple to the elderly mother of the Indian spouse (a U.S. lawful permanent resident), who financially relies on the couple for all of her basic needs
  • Detailed country conditions of India, particularly as it relates to income, job opportunities, medical care, mental health treatment, stigma against homosexuality, and its non-recognition of same sex marriages.
  • Letters of good moral character and rehabilitation for the Indian spouse

As a result of our efforts, our client was approved for the I-601 Waiver and consequently, this same-sex couple will be able to live together lawfully in the United States and provide support to an elderly mother in need.

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.