Being undocumented, entering without inspection, or having unlawful presence in the United States, can be a legal obstacle which prevents you from getting your visa or green card. If you’ve made the mistake of overstaying your visa, working without authorization, have a criminal record, previous deportation, or other immigration violations, or face certain other possible grounds of inadmissibility to acquiring legal status in the United States, it is possible to request a waiver from the Immigration Judge or USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to ask that your mistake or violation be forgiven so that you can proceed to get a green card for permanent residency or a visa. Immigration waivers are very complicated and require a lot of preparation and documentation.
There are a variety of waivers available, regardless of whether you are currently inside the United States or not. Some waivers allow you to stay or allow you to pursue legal status, while others shorten the amount of time you must spend outside the United States to receive an immigrant visa before you can return to the U.S.
I-601 Immigration Waiver: Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility
The I-601 waiver form covers a number of issues, including grounds of inadmissibility due to unlawful presence in the United States for more than 180 days or 1 year, certain criminal violations, multiple criminal convictions, fraud, or misrepresentation. The I-601 is also used in a number of other cases where a person has been ruled inadmissible, such as: health-related grounds, prostitution, membership in a totalitarian or Communist party, or limited cases of alien smuggling.
The term “hardship waiver” is also commonly used to refer to these waivers because “extreme hardship to a qualifying relative” is required for an approval of the waiver. Depending on which section of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) the waiver is based on, some of these types of waivers are also referred to as a section “212(h) waiver” or a “212(i) waiver.”
For more information on the I-601 form, visit the USCIS’s site here. For information on the I-601 waiver in Spanish, click here.
I-601A Immigration Waiver: Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver
The I-601A Provisional Waiver for unlawful presence is a newer process that was implemented beginning March 4, 2013. Unlike the regular I-601 waiver, the new process allows a spouse, children, or parents of U.S. citizens to apply for and receive a decision on their waiver application while still remaining in the United States, before departing to their home country for the visa interview. This way, it significantly shortens the amount of time that the family must be separated during the process of obtaining their permanent residency. Currently, the provisional waiver is available to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence.
If you would like to read more information the I-601A Provisional Waiver discussed above, please visit the USCIS’s page on provisional waivers here.
For the I-601A form, visit here, or here for the Spanish version.
I-212 Immigration Waiver: Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal
Commonly known as the I-212 waiver, this type of immigration waiver is used when a person has already been deported back to their home country or has voluntarily returned home after certain immigration violations. The purpose of it is to seek permission to be readmitted to the United States. It is often filed along with the I-601 waiver, other applications, and supporting documents. The factors for determining an I-212 waiver include the reason for removal, how long ago you were removed, the egregiousness of the violations, close family ties in the United States, hardships to your family or employer in the U.S., good moral character, eligibility to acquire legal status, and many other factors that show the positive equities of your case.
For more information on the I-212 form, visit the USCIS’s page here, or here for the Spanish version.
Why should you hire a knowledgeable immigration attorney for your immigration waiver?
The services of an attorney are important for a number of reasons. A knowledgeable attorney can help you determine whether a waiver is available to you and to decide what kind of waiver is the most appropriate to submit. Also, if you have been present without lawful status in the United States until now, then a lawyer is useful in helping you to weigh the risks and benefits of filing an I-601 or I-601A case at this time. Importantly, an immigration lawyer experienced in filing and handling immigration waivers would know how to organize and create a powerful and effective package for a smooth and fast approval.
The approval of a waiver application relies heavily on a number of factors, such as your family’s situation in the United States, the conditions of your home country, financial situation, immigration history, educational and career factors, medical conditions, family and personal factors, and a variety of other issues that prove extreme hardship to your qualifying relative. Based on these factors, an immigration lawyer can do the research necessary to create a persuasive argument based on the particular issues of your specific case. An experienced attorney will also help you accurately prepare any additional paperwork that is necessary, as well as perfect the presentation of the supporting documents that will be required to get an approval on your case.
Even the slightest mistake can sabotage your case if you do not have a full understanding of the law and processes. Not to mention, even a little thing can be a big hassle without the appropriate knowledge and guidance, such as knowing which forms and documents you need, how to fill out the forms and organize the mountain of supporting documents, keeping track of your case status, solving any issues that may arise, and most importantly, making sure that your case processing goes smoothly to the end, even after the waiver is approved.