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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Legal Analysis of Extreme Hardship

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our Client’s Extreme Hardship and Discretionary Factors 

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

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

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