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).

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are only inadmissible for participation in prostitution; and

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You are a VA WA self-petitioner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Please provide the following evidence to support your application:

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

[Read more…]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The positive factors in this case included:

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

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

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

Client Approval: I-601 Prostitution Waiver, I-601 Fraud Waiver, and I-212 Removal Waiver Approved for South Korean Client

Client Approval: I-601 Prostitution Waiver, I-601 Fraud/Misrepresentation Waiver, and I-212 Waiver for Expedited Removal Approved for South Korean Client

Our office received approval of both the I-212 Waiver (Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission) and I-601 Waiver (Application for Waiver of Excludability) for the South Korean spouse of a U.S. citizen.  The South Korean wife was found inadmissible to the United States based on having admitted to previously engaging in prostitution in the United States; having committed fraud/misrepresentation in order to gain an immigration benefit; and having been expeditiously removed from the U.S. while attempting to enter the U.S. with a validly approved K-1 visa.

The U.S. citizen husband contacted my office after his fiancee’s removal from the United States due to our firm’s in-depth experience in securing I-601 “Prostitution Waivers” and I-601 “Fraud/Misrepresentation Waivers” over the past 12 years.  This was a particularly challenging case given the numerous grounds of inadmissibility that the South Korean wife was subject to: prostitution, fraud/misrepresentation, and a 5 year bar due to expedited removal from the U.S.

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.

In Matter of Tin, 14 I & N 371 (1973), and Matter of Lee, 17 I & N Dec. 275 (1978), the Board of Immigration Appeals established the standards to be considered in adjudicating applications for permission to reapply (applied for using the I-212 Waiver): 1. the basis for deportation; 2. recency of deportation; 3. applicant’s length of residence in the United States; 4. the applicant’s good moral character; 5. the applicant’s respect for law and order; 6. evidence of reformation and rehabilitation; 7. hardship involving the applicant and others; 8. the need for the applicant’s services in the United States; and 9. whether the applicant has an approved immigrant or non-immigrant visa petition.

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

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

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

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

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

In support of my client’s I-601 and I-212 waiver applications, I prepared a comprehensive legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of my clients’ situation met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship”; “rehabilitation” of the client; and that my client’s admission would “not be contrary to the national welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.”  

In other words, 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 husband including Dysthymic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder, both of which were being aggravated by the prolonged separation of the couple
  • Various physical illnesses and conditions suffered by the U.S. citizen husband, including Chronic Hepatitis B that required constant medical monitoring and treatment in the United States
  • Various physical illnesses and conditions suffered by the U.S. citizen husband’s parents, both of whom relied upon their son to support them financially and manage their medical care
  • Significant amounts of U.S. educational and mortgage debt of the U.S. citizen, all of which would be in danger of default should the U.S. citizen husband be forced to re-locate to South Korea (a country where he neither spoke the language nor would be qualified to practice his specialized profession)
  • Evidence of rehabilitation of the South Korean wife including educational courses undertaken and numerous affidavits written in her support

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 parents in the event of their son’s departure from the U.S., would in turn impact the U.S. citizen himself and aggravate all of the conditions he presently suffers from.  This was carefully outlined in detail in our memorandum.  This connection can be made when the qualifying relative plays an integral role in taking care of the close relative, either in daily care, financial support, and/or medical oversight.

As a result of the I-601 “prostitution waiver,” I-601 “fraud/misrepresentation waiver,” and I-212 “removal/deportation waiver” prepared and submitted by my office, the I-601 and I-212 waiver applications were all approved.  The couple now happily reside together inside the U.S.  The South Korean wife holds U.S. permanent residence and will qualify to apply for U.S. citizenship within three years.