Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for an Indian client who was subject to the 10 year “unlawful presence” ground of inadmissibility under INA Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(II).
This is a somewhat unique case because both the husband and wife reside in Australia on temporary visas. This made preparation of an effective I-601 waiver more challenging, as we needed to demonstrate that the U.S. citizen wife is presently suffering extreme hardship even while living together with her husband abroad (in a developed country such as Australia).
Section 212(a)(9) of the Act provides, in pertinent part:
(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 … 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.
(v) Waiver. The Attorney General [now the Secretary of Homeland Security (Secretary)] 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 to the satisfaction of the Attorney General (Secretary) 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 …
Thus, 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.
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 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, 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 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. See Salcido-Salcido v. I.N.S., 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.
In support of this couple’s I-601 waiver application, my office prepared a comprehensive 28-page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of the couple’s situation met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship.” We also discussed and presented special evidence of the hardships the U.S. citizen wife would suffer in both Australia AND India (the home country of the foreign husband). While this significantly increased the scope of the waiver, we believe demonstrating all of the hardships present in every realistic scenario of re-location (in this case, living in Australia or India) makes for a far more effective and successful waiver application.
The factors discussed and proven with a comprehensive collection of exhibits in this I-601 “unlawful presence” waiver include:
- Psychological evaluation by a mental health professional verifying the Dysthymic Disorder suffered by the U.S. citizen spouse, as well the critical emotional and psychological support provided by the foreign spouse (the waiver applicant)
- The cultural, linguistic, religious, and psychological background of the U.S. citizen spouse, and the social stigma and prejudice she is likely to suffer should the couple re-locate to live long-term in India
- A detailed breakdown of household expenses and debts, demonstrating the complete financial dependence of the U.S. citizen spouse on her husband’s earned income, and the significant amount of financial debt that they owe together as a married couple
- The academic history and planned professional career of the U.S. citizen spouse, and her inability to engage in her intended profession in Australia or India
- Evidence of the good moral character, rehabilitation, and academic and professional success of the foreign husband since he voluntarily decided to depart from the United States
As a result of our efforts, our client was approved for the I-601 waiver and this married couple can now return to the country to lawfully reside together in the U.S.