The USCIS has had a long standing policy to accept requests to expedite processing of petitions or applications where the applicant or the petitioner demonstrates reasons that merit expedited processing of a petition or application.
While almost all I-601 waiver applicants outside the United States have an interest in expeditious processing, the USCIS states that only extraordinary circumstances that present certain compelling and urgent, time-sensitive reasons merit expedited processing of the I-601 waiver.
According to a memorandum dated 2011, the types of extraordinary circumstances that may, generally, merit expedited processing of a Form I-601 are those in which there are:
- “time-sensitive and compelling situations that necessitate the applicant’s presence in the United States sooner than would be possible if the application were processed under normal processing times” or
- “other time-sensitive circumstances that nonetheless merit expeditious processing, principally where the failure to expedite the adjudication could result in significant delays in family reunification.”
These situations may include, but are not limited to, situations in which the applicant establishes one or more of the following:
- The applicant has urgent and critical medical needs that cannot be addressed in the applicant’s country;
- An applicant’s family member in the United States has a serious medical condition and has urgent and critical medical needs related to that condition that require the applicant to assist the family member in the United States;
- The applicant is faced with urgent circumstances related to the death or serious illness of a family member;
- The applicant or qualifying family member is a particularly vulnerable individual due to age, serious medical condition, or disability and this vulnerability is exacerbated by the applicant’s presence outside the United States;
- The applicant is at risk of serious harm due to personal circumstances distinct from the general safety conditions of those living in the applicant’s country;
- It would be in the national interest of the United States to have the applicant in the United States (for example, the applicant’s presence in the United States is urgently required for work with a U.S. government entity); or
- As described in a request from or for a member of the Armed Forces of the United States:
- The applicant’s qualifying family member is a member of the military who is deployed or will soon be deployed; and
- The applicant demonstrates that, in light of the deployment there are compelling reasons to expedite the request due to the impact of the applicant’s absence from the United States on the applicant, the qualifying family member, or their children, if any.
The above non-exhaustive list describes some examples of situations that may, depending on the facts of the case, merit a discretionary approval of a request to expedite adjudication of a waiver request.
However, these are not the only circumstances that may warrant expeditious processing. There may also be other time-sensitive circumstances that do not necessitate the applicant’s presence in the United States sooner than would be possible under normal processing times, but that nonetheless merit expeditious processing.
For example, the applicant may be ineligible to receive a visa in the following month due to forecasted visa regression and therefore faces an even more prolonged and unanticipated separation from family members if the application is not expedited.
Similarly, the applicant may request that the case be expedited to prevent a child not covered by the Child Status Protection Act from aging out before visa issuance. There also may be circumstances in which a prior USCIS error merits expeditious processing of a request.
Requests must include sufficient evidence to support the claimed need for expedited processing or an explanation of why that evidence is not available. For example, if the request is based on an urgent, serious medical condition, the applicant should provide a medical report. If the request is based on urgent need by a U.S. government entity to have the applicant in the United States, the applicant should provide a letter from the entity supporting the expedite request.
My office has successfully obtained expedited approval of applications for the I-601 waiver. I also regularly obtain expedited approval of the I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancee and I-130 Petition for Alien Relative. In my experience, the “extraordinary circumstances” discussed in this article form the basis for successful expedite requests for the I-601 waiver, the I-212 waiver, the 212(d)(3) non-immigrant waiver, as well as other relative-based petitions. The most common basis for expedited approval that I encounter is military deployment of the U.S. citizen petitioner.