I-601 and I-212 Waivers Approved for U.S. Citizen Spouse and Mexican Spouse currently residing outside the United States

I-601 and I-212 Waivers Approved for Mexican Spouse of U.S. Citizen, both of whom reside outside the United States

Our office received approval of both the I-601 Waiver (Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility) and I-212 Waiver (Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission) for the Mexican spouse of a U.S. citizen husband, both of whom presently reside outside the United States.

Note: It is important to keep in mind that under current guidelines for the submission of I-601 or combined I-601 and I-212 waiver applications, immigrant visa applicants must first be denied for an immigrant visa by the consular officer at the U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, before they are eligible to submit their I-601 or combined I-601 and I-212 waiver packages.

For practical purposes, when the I-601 “Extreme Hardship” waiver is filed together with the I-212 Waiver, preparing a winning I-601 waiver application (by demonstrating extreme hardship to the qualifying relative and presenting a situation that warrants favorable discretion by the adjudicating officer) allows the applicant to also meet the standard for approval of the I-212 waiver.

In other words, if your I-601 waiver is approved, then the I-212 waiver will generally be approved as well.

Our client was subject to the 5 year “expedited removal” ban due to being removed from the United States during her most recent attempted entry into the United States on a valid B-1/B-2 visa. During this incident, she was also charged with a life-time ban for fraud/misrepresentation under INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).

Section 212(a)(9)(A)(i) and (ii) of the Immigration and National Act, as added by IIRAIRA Section 301, provides that foreign nationals who have been ordered removed may not be readmitted to the United States until they have stayed outside the U.S. for a specified period of time:

  • 5 years for individuals removed through summary exclusion or through removal proceedings initiated upon the person’s arrival in the U.S.;
  • 10 years for those otherwise ordered removed after a deportation hearing or whodeparted the United States while an order of removal was outstanding; and
  • 20 years for a second or subsequent removal.

The I-212 waiver allows foreign nationals who wish to return to the U.S. prior to meeting the required amount of time outside the U.S. to file an application for permission to reapply pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(A)((iii).

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.

In Matter of Tin, the BIA stated that in determining whether consent to reapply for admission should be granted, all pertinent circumstances relating to the application should be considered including: 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. The applicant’s family responsibilities; 8. Any inadmissibility to the United States under other sections of law; 9. hardship involving the applicant and others; 10. the need for the applicant’s services in the United States; and 11. whether the applicant has an approved immigrant or non-immigrant visa petition.

In Matter of Lee, the BIA stated that INA 212(a)(9)(A)(iii) was intended to be remedial rather than punitive, explaining that the factor of “recency of deportation” can only be considered when there is a finding of poor moral character based on moral turpitude in the conduct and attitude of a person which evinces a callous conscience.

INA Section 212(a)(6)(C) of the Act provides, in pertinent part:

(i) 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.

The Attorney General [now the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary)] may, in the discretion of the Attorney General [Secretary], waive the application of clause (i) of subsection (a)(6)(C) in the case of an alien who is the spouse, son or daughter of a United States citizen or of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, if it is established to the satisfaction of the Attorney General [Secretary] that the refusal of admission to the United States of such immigrant alien would result in extreme hardship to the citizen or lawfully resident spouse or parent of such an alien.

A waiver of inadmissibility under section 212(i) 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.  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).

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 detailed and comprehensive waiver package requesting approval of our client’s I-601 and I-212 waiver applications, including a 36 page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of our clients’ lives met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship,” together with a collection of 22 different exhibits to prove the essential elements of our case.

This was a particularly challenging case since both the U.S. citizen and foreign spouse presently reside in the country of Mexico. We therefore made sure to elaborate upon on the extreme hardships being presently suffered by the U.S. citizen spouse while living outside the United States; how these hardships are being presently exacerbated and continue to worsen due to his continued residence outside of the United States; and alternatively, how re-locating back to the United States without his spouse would also trigger extreme hardships that could jeopardize his psychological and physical health.

Relevant factors in this case included:

  • The U.S. citizen spouse suffers from Generalized Anxiety Disorder and Persistent Depressive “Dysthymic” Disorder, with mental health issues including addiction that date back to childhood and have required psychotherapeutic treatment and medication.
  • The U.S. citizen spouse attempted to reside in the United States while visiting his foreign spouse (who resides in Mexico) in the past, but the separation and stress proved psychologically devastating for him, and directly contributed to his relapse into addiction
  • The U.S. citizen spouse presently resides in Mexico with his foreign spouse but still maintains his U.S.-based employment, leading to unreasonably long commute times every single day, causing deterioration of his fragile psychological and emotional state
  • Re-location to Mexico has cut off the U.S. citizen spouse from his close family members, and prevents him from providing care and support for his seriously ailing father and grandfather. This is leading to psychiatric distress over being unavailable to provide the care and support his family members need, to whom he is very close.

Due to our efforts, our client was approved for both the I-212 waiver and I-601 waiver after submission to the USCIS.  This family can now lawfully reside together inside the United States.