Our office received approval of the I-601 Application of Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility for an Indian client in a same sex marriage who is subject to a life-time bar for fraud/misrepresentation under INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i).
INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i) states:
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.
Our client entered the U.S. lawfully on a valid non-immigrant visa and has remained in the United States for over 17 years. During his stay in the U.S., he married a U.S. citizen and applied for Adjustment of Status to permanent residence. He inadvertently failed to disclose a prior marriage he entered into for a short period of time in his Adjustment of Status package. He was consequently charged with fraud/misrepresentation pursuant to INA Section 212(a)(6)(C)(i). He subsequently divorced his spouse, met and married his current same-sex spouse, and applied again for Adjustment of Status.
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 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, 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 comprehensive I-601 waiver application including a 34 page legal brief going over how the facts and circumstances of our clients’ lives met the legal standards used to define “extreme hardship.” We also thoroughly discussed and presented evidence of the U.S. citizen spouse’s unique background which made him particularly vulnerable to medical and psychological hardship. This includes the suicide of his father; the drug addiction of his brother; rejection by his family of his sexual orientation; as well as the psychological breakdown these events triggered and that he has suffered from throughout his adult life.
This case was also challenging because the waiver applicant was previously married to members of the opposite sex in the past. We went beyond the legal standard of extreme hardship to prove the validity and genuine nature of this same sex marriage, and the vital and loving role each spouse plays in ensuring the other’s welfare and well-being.
The supporting documents submitted as part of this I-601 waiver application included:
- Medical history and diagnosis of the U.S. citizen spouse, including the possibility of a life-threatening medical crisis in the future
- Psycho-social evaluation of the U.S. citizen spouse which confirms his Dysthymic Disorder and Generalized Anxiety Disorder
- Proof of significant financial debt owed by the household and the minimal income earned by the U.S. citizen spouse before meeting and marrying his current spouse
- Proof of academic achievement and professional accomplishments of the Indian spouse, demonstrating his good moral character and his history of contribution to the economy of the United States
- Detailed break-down of the family’s household income, expenses and debt/liabilities
- Proof of financial support provided by the married couple to the elderly mother of the Indian spouse (a U.S. lawful permanent resident), who financially relies on the couple for all of her basic needs
- Detailed country conditions of India, particularly as it relates to income, job opportunities, medical care, mental health treatment, stigma against homosexuality, and its non-recognition of same sex marriages.
- Letters of good moral character and rehabilitation for the Indian spouse
As a result of our efforts, our client was approved for the I-601 Waiver and consequently, this same-sex couple will be able to live together lawfully in the United States and provide support to an elderly mother in need.