Memphis immigration lawyer Ari Sauer provides news and information on US immigration law.
By Ari Sauer, immigration lawyer with the Memphis, Tennessee office of the Siskind Susser immigration law firm.
USCIS will be publishing the final rule tomorrow January 3, 2013 for the I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver
of Inadmissibility for Certain Immediate Relatives, but they made an advance copy of the rules available today. Below is my explanation of the rule based upon a combination of a reading of the rules and comments made by USCIS on a telephone conference today.
Why did we need a Provisional Waiver rule?
Certain individuals are ineligible for an immigrant visa because they are inadmissible under INA section 212(a)(9)(B) for 3 or 10 years because they were Unlawfully Present in the US for more than 6 months, or they would be subject to this bar if they were to leave the US.
A waiver of this inadmissibility is available for those who can show that if they are not granted the waiver, their US citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) spouse or parent would suffer Extreme Hardship. Under the regular process for the I-601 Unlawful Presence Hardship Waiver for an applicant for an immigrant visa at the US consulate abroad, the foreign national must first apply for the immigrant visa at the US consulate, wait for the consulate to deny the visa because of their 3 or 10 year bar, and then they can apply for the I-601 hardship waiver. Under the regular process, the foreign national must then remain outside of the US while waiting for USCIS to decide the waiver, which can take as long as a year. If the waiver is denied, then the foreign national is stuck outside the US until they have waited the required 3 or 10 years.
USCIS has determined that it is unfair to require Immediate Relatives of US citizens to wait outside the US for the long period it takes for them to adjudicate the waiver. They have therefore created the I-601A Provisional Waiver process, which allows certain Immediate Relatives of US citizens to apply for the waiver while they are in the US and wait here while USCIS decides the waiver application, and then leave the US for their visa interview after the waiver has been approved. This significantly shortens the length of time that these Immediate Relatives of US citizens must remain separated from their family.
When does the Provisional Waiver rule go into effect?
The rule will go into effect on March 4, 2013, which is 60 days after the rule is published by USCIS on January 3, 2013. Anyone who files an I-601A Provisional Waiver application before March 4, 2013 will have their application rejected.
Am I required to hire an attorney to apply for an I-601A Provisional Waiver?
No. It is not required that an attorney be hired to prepare the waiver application, but it is highly recommended. The standard for this waiver, Extreme Hardship to a US citizen parent or spouse if the waiver is not granted, is very high. It is more than just the usual hardship one would suffer if separated from their spouse or parent. An immigration lawyer who is experienced in filing hardship waivers knows what USCIS is looking to see when determining whether would be Extreme Hardship, and so working with an attorney to prepare the application will result in a much stronger application.
At the very least, one should consult with an immigration lawyer before beginning the process to determine if there are other grounds of inadmissibility that might result in the foreign national becoming stranded abroad when they go for their visa interview.
Who is eligible to apply for the I-601A Provisional Waiver?
To be eligible for the Provisional Waiver the foreign national must:
Can I apply for the I-601A waiver if I am filing an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status?
No. A foreign national who is in the US and is eligible to apply for an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status would not apply for an I-601A waiver. If they require a waiver of the 212(a)(9)(B) Unlawful Presence bar, they would file an I-601 waiver application. The I-601A Provisional Waiver application is only for those who are currently in the US, but will be required to apply for an immigrant visa at the consular post abroad because they are not eligible to apply for an I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status.
If I am outside the US can I apply for the I-601A waiver?
No. A foreign national must be physically present in the US at the time they file their I-601A application and at the time they have they biometrics (fingerprinting) appointment for the application. If someone is currently outside the US and comes into the US without inspection then they might make themselves permanently barred from eligibility for a visa. A foreign national who is outside the US must apply under the regular I-601 process.
I am Unlawfully Present, but I also have a bar because of some criminal convictions. Can I apply for the I-601A Waiver?
No. The I-601 Provisional Waiver is only available where the only ground of inadmissibility the foreign national has is the Unlawful Presence 3 or 10 year bar under 212(a)(9)(B). If the foreign national requires a waiver for any other reason (such as a deportation order, certain criminal convictions, health-related grounds, fraud or misrepresentation, or as a smuggler) then they are not eligible to apply for the I-601A waiver and must instead apply under the regular I-601 process.
I have been told I must stay outside the US for at least 10 years before I can apply for the I-601 waiver. Does this new rule change that?
No. The new Provisional Waiver rule does apply to those who are subject to the permanent bar under INA Section 212(a)(9)(C) for those who have entered the US without inspection after having accrued more than a year of Unlawful Presence or having been Removed from the US. Those subject to the 212(a)(9)(C) permanent bar must remain outside the US for at least 10 years before they can apply for the waiver under the regular I-601 process.
If my I-601A provisional waiver application is approved, will I be able to apply for status in the US without leaving or for work authorization?
No. The I-601A provisional waiver will not allow someone to apply for status without leaving the US and approval of the I-601A provisional waiver does not allow the person to apply for work authorization, a driver’s license or a social security card.
I am in removal proceedings before an Immigration Judge, can I apply for the I-601A Provisional Waiver?
In order for a foreign national who is in removal (deportation) proceedings to be able to apply for the I-601A provisional waiver, they must first have their Immigration Court case terminated or administratively closed, or must have ICE cancel their Notice to Appear, before they are eligible to file an application for the I-601A provisional waiver. It is important to note that someone who has had their Immigration Court case administratively closed will be subject to a deportation order if they leave the US without first having their case terminated, even if their I-601A provisional waiver is granted.
I have been given a deportation order from the Immigration Court, but I never left the US. Can I apply for the I-601A Provisional Waiver?
Someone with an outstanding deportation order or removal order is not eligible to apply for the I-601A provisional waiver. In order to be eligible to apply, they would first need to have to the Immigration Court reopen their removal or deportation order and then administratively close or terminate their case. The same is true for someone who was granted Voluntary Departure, but did not leave the US under the grant of Voluntary Departure.
If I have been granted DACA Deferred Action, can I apply for an I-601A Provisional Waiver?
Those granted Deferred Action under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) are eligible to apply for an I-601A provisional waiver as long as they meet all the requirements for the program. Therefore, for example, a DACA beneficiary who has an outstanding order of removal would not be eligible to apply for the I-601A provisional waiver without first having their order reopened by the Immigration Court and administratively closed or terminated.
What petitions count as an Immediate Relative petition?
An Immediate Relative petition includes an I-130 filed by a US citizen spouse; a US citizen parents (as long as the petition is filed before the child’s 21st birthday and as long as the child remains unmarried); or a US citizen child over the age of 21. An Immediate Relative petition would also include an I-360 petition filed under the Violence Against Women’s Act (VAWA) based upon the foreign national’s relationship to an Immediate Relative.
However, children are not qualifying relatives when it comes to showing Extreme Hardship for a waiver of the 212(a)(9)(b) Unlawful Presence bar. So if someone is the beneficiary of an I-130 filed by their US citizen child, they must still have a US citizen spouse or parent who would suffer Extreme Hardship in order to qualify to file the I-601A provisional waiver.
I have an approved I-130 petition, but it is not in the Immediate Relative category. Will I be able to apply for the I-601A Provisional Waiver?
Not right now. But USCIS has stated that they may expand the program to other petition categories if the program works well.
I have an approved I-130 immigrant petition as an Immediate Relative from my US citizen spouse, but the Extreme Hardship would be to my elderly Permanent Resident parents. Will Extreme Hardship to them be considered in my I-601A Provisional Waiver application?
Not right now. Currently USCIS has said that they will only be considering Extreme Hardship to the US citizen spouses or parents for the I-601A provisional waiver. This is different from the standard for the regular I-601 hardship waiver, which takes into consideration Extreme Hardship to Permanent Resident spouses and parents as well as US citizen spouses and parents. While USCIS will not currently consider hardship to Permanent Resident spouses and parents, they have said they may consider changing this policy in the future after seeing how the new program works.
If my I-601A application is denied, will I be able to file again?
Yes, especially where the foreign national’s circumstances have changed or where they have been the victim of non-lawyers who are not authorized to practice law. But USCIS will expect an applicant who is applying a second time to provide additional evidence of Extreme Hardship or changed circumstances with the second application, above and beyond what was provided in the denied application. So it is best to submit a strong application the first time you apply, as it may be more difficult to get an approval the second time.
While it is not required to have your application prepared by an immigration lawyer, it is recommended, as an experienced immigration lawyer knows what USCIS is looking for when deciding whether Extreme Hardship exists and will be able to help you put together a stronger application.
If my I-601A provisional waiver application is denied, would I still be eligible to apply for an I-601 hardship waiver under regular processing?
Yes, in many cases. If a foreign national’s I-601A provisional waiver application is denied, the foreign national may still be eligible to apply for an I-601 waiver under the regular processing. For example, if the I-601A was denied because the foreign national has another waivable ground of inadmissibility other than the 212(a)(9)(B) unlawful presence bar, they would still be eligible to apply for an I-601, along with whatever other waiver may be required, after being denied at the visa interview at the consular post abroad. Additionally, if the I-601A was denied because there was not a sufficient showing of hardship to the US citizen qualifying relative, but the foreign national also has a Permanent Resident qualifying relative that would suffer extreme hardship, the foreign national might want to apply under the I-601 waiver regular processing, which would allow USCIS to take into consideration the hardship to the permanent resident spouse or parent along with the hardship of the US citizen’s hardship.
If my I-601A provisional waiver application is denied, will immigration try to deport me?
USCIS will continue to follow their current standard in deciding whether to issue a Notice to Appear to start deportation proceedings against someone whose I-601A provisional waiver application is denied. This means that immigration is not any more likely to try and deport someone whose I-601A is denied than someone who has been denied for any other immigration benefit. Most applicants will not be at risk for this. However if someone lies on their application or submits fake documents, they are likely to be put in deportation proceedings. Also, those with certain criminal convictions may be subject to deportation proceedings. For more information on the standards USCIS will use to determine who will be at risk of being put in deportation proceedings if their application is denied, go to www.uscis.gov/NTA.
How long will it take for USCIS to decide my I-601A Provisional Waiver application?
Right now USCIS does not have a timeline for how long they expect to take to decide I-601 applications. They expect to know more after March 4, 2013 when they can see how many applications they receive.
I have filed an I-601 hardship waiver and am waiting on USCIS to approve it. Will this new rule make it take longer for USCIS to decide my application?
USCIS has said that the new I-601A filings will not delay the adjudication of currently pending I-601 waiver applications. There has been no work yet on whether the I-601A program will cause it to take longer for USCIS to decide future I-601 hardship waiver applications under the regular process.
I have already applied for my immigrant visa and have been scheduled for an interview, but I haven’t left the US yet. Can I apply for an I-601A Provisional Waiver?
If the foreign national’s immigrant visa interview at the consulate was scheduled by the consulate before January 3, 2013, even if the interview was scheduled for a date after January 3, 2013, then the foreign national is not eligible to apply for an I-601 provisional waiver. This is true even if they did not show up for the interview, cancelled the interview or rescheduled the interview.
However, if someone did have an interview that was scheduled by the consulate before January 3, 2013, but they are now applying for a visa based upon an I-130 Immediate Relative petition filed by a different relative then they may be eligible to apply for the I-601 Provisional Waiver. For example, if their current immigrant visa interview is based upon a petition filed by the US citizen parent, but they now have an approved I-130 filed by their US citizen spouse, they would be eligible to apply for the I-601A provisional waiver.
Also, if the DOS terminates the foreign national’s immigrant visa registration associated with the scheduled interview, which can sometimes occur when the foreign national goes more than a year without contacting the National Visa Center or the consulate processing their case, then the foreign national would then be eligible to apply for an I-601A Provisional Waiver based upon a newly filed and approved Immediate Relative I-130 immigrant petition, even if the new I-130 petition is filed by the same Immediate Relative.
If my I-601A Provisional Waiver application is approved, does that guarantee that I will be granted my immigrant visa at the consulate?
No. The approval of the I-601A provisional waiver of the 3 or 10 year unlawful presence bar for not guarantee that the consular officer will find the foreign national eligible for the immigrant visa. The foreign national must still show the consular officer that they are otherwise eligible for the immigrant visa. If the consular officer determines that the foreign national is inadmissible under a ground of inadmissibility other than the 3 or 10 year bar under 212(a)(9)(B), they will deny the visa. It may be that the foreign national would be eligible to apply for a waiver of inadmissibility for this additional bar, but this would require the filing and approval of a new waiver application. Furthermore, the consular officer can request that USCIS review the provisional waiver approval if the officer becomes aware of new factors which reflect on whether Extreme Hardship to a qualifying relative continues to exist.
If you would like to discuss your particular case with me or you would like my assistance with your waiver application, you can schedule a consultation appointment with me by calling 1-800-343-4890 or 901-682-6455.
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By Ari Sauer
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* This is an advertisement. Ari Sauer is a Memphis immigration lawyer with the Siskind Susser law firm. www.visalaw.com/ari.html. On this blog we answer questions as a service to our readers, but we cannot assume any liability related to reliance on anything herein, and responses to questions are not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Immigration laws and regulations are constantly changing and the rules stated may not apply to your situation. Readers are cautioned to schedule a consultation with an immigration lawyer before acting on anything stated in this blog. This blog is not intended to substitute for a consultation with a qualified immigration law attorney. Ari Sauer is licensed to practice law through the states of Tennessee, New York and New Jersey but is eligible to assist clients from throughout the US. Certification as an Immigration Specialist is not currently available in Tennessee, New York or New Jersey. Siskind Susser limits its practice strictly to immigration law, a Federal practice area, and we do not claim expertise in the laws of states other than where our attorneys are licensed.