I-601A Unlawful Presence Waiver

What is an I-601A unlawful presence waiver?

An I-601A unlawful presence waiver is a way to overcome an immigration obstacle known as "unlawful presence", the "3-year bar" or the "10-year bar" that makes it very risky for people who are in the United States to travel to their home country in order to obtain an immigrant visa that would enable them to become permanent residents and get green cards. I-601A waivers are relatively new (the first applications were accepted in March 2013). As a result, you can expect to see some changes in how the waivers are processed and the way the decisions on these waiver applications are made. You should always check with your immigration lawyer to find out the most up-to-date information. In general, this type of waiver is an alternative to the I-601 hardship waiver process for those who qualify.

This risk of traveling outside the United States for an immigrant visa interview is the result of how the 3-year bar and 10-year bar work. The short explanation is that some people who entered the United States unlawfully can only get a green card by applying for an immigrant visa in their home country. But, as soon as they depart the United States for their visa interview they risk not being able to return to the United States for either 3 or 10 years depending on how much unlawful presence they have in the United States.

While people can apply for an I-601 hardship waiver while they are in their home country, the process is time consuming and can lead to lengthy family separations. In addition, there is no guarantee that the waiver will be granted. If the waiver is denied, it may not be possible to return to the United States for 3 or 10 years. As a result, many people who would otherwise qualify for an immigrant visa do not apply for one. The risk of a 3 or 10 year family separation keeps them from making the trip outside of the United States for the visa interview.

The I-601A provisional waiver can help solve this problem by allowing certain people to apply for an unlawful presence waiver while still in the United States. This means that applicants will know before they depart the United States whether they will be able to get a waiver that will allow them to complete the immigrant visa process in their home country. If the I-601A waiver is granted, and all of the other immigrant visa requirements are met, many people should be able to get their immigrant visas and become permanent residents without having to go through a lengthy family separation.

What are the basic qualifications for an I-601A provisional waiver?

The three main requirements for an I-601A provisional waiver are:

  • You have a "qualifying relative" who would experience extreme hardship if you are not granted the waiver
  • You show that you are deserving of a discretionary approval of the waiver
  • You have no other inadmissibility issues that could make you ineligible for an immigrant visa
Not all relatives are qualifying relatives. For this type of waiver, qualifying relatives are United States citizen parents or spouses. Children, brothers, sisters and other relatives are not qualifying relatives for this type of waiver. In addition, permanent resident spouses and parents are not considered to be qualifying relatives for I601A waivers.

Extreme hardship is a technical legal term. Key points to keep in mind related to the extreme hardship requirement include:

  • To be granted a waiver, you need to show that your qualifying relative would experience hardship that is extreme compared to the hardship that is normally encountered when there is a family separation. It is not enough to simply show that your family will experience financial hardship. It is also not enough to just show that you or your qualifying relative will be very upset and heartbroken if you are forced to live apart.
  • You need to show that your qualifying relative will experience extreme hardship both if you are forced to live apart and if your relative were to relocate with you to your home country.
  • It isn't enough to show that you will experience extreme hardship. It is only the hardship that your qualifying relative will experience that will count.
  • You must submit evidence that will document the hardship that your qualifying relative will experience. Simply writing a "hardship letter" without providing evidence to support each of your hardship claims is not enough.

I-601A Waiver Steps

The steps in the I-601A waiver and immigrant visa process are:

Step 1: Make sure that you qualify for an immigrant visa before you begin the process. It is important to make sure that you won't have any surprises when you go to do your immigrant visa interview after your waiver is approved.

Step 2: Submit your I-130 petition to start the immigrant visa process.

Step 3: After your I-130 petition is approved, pay the immigrant visa fee to the National Visa Center.

Step 4: Collect the information and supporting documents needed to complete your I-601A waiver application package.

Step 5: Prepare and submit your waiver application package to USCIS.

Step 6: The official receipt notice from USCIS will arrive in the mail.

Step 7: Your biometrics appointment notice will arrive in the mail.

Step 8: Complete your biometrics appointment.

Step 9: After your I-601A waiver is completed, finish the National Visa Center processing to schedule your immigrant visa interview.

Step 8: Attend your immigrant visa interview.

Step 9: If all goes well at your interview, you should receive your immigrant visa a few days after your interview.

I-601A Waiver Costs

The costs involved in getting an I-601A waiver can be viewed in three groups: the required government filing fees, other required costs and attorney fees.

The required government filing fees are:

  • $715 for the Form I-601A filing fee

The government filing fee must be submitted with the application. The fee can be paid by credit card, check or money order.

The other required costs that you should expect as part of the waiver process are:

  • Translation costs – varies by the translator and type of documents being translated into English
  • Supporting document costs – varies by what documents need to be obtained

Depending on whether you work with an immigration lawyer, you may also have attorney fees as part of the total costs of the process.

Not everyone who applies for an immigration waiver will need a lawyer to assist them with the process. You can learn more about whether you need a lawyer by reading the information on this website and by learning more about the role of an immigration lawyer in the immigration waiver process. If you decide to hire an immigration lawyer to assist you, the legal fees will vary by law firm and the complexity of the case.

How We Can Help With Your I-601A Waiver Application

You are not required to work with an immigration lawyer, but working with one can be very helpful and can help minimize the stress involved in the I-601A waiver application process.

Our immigration lawyer I-601A waiver services include the following:

  • Explain the I-601A waiver process to you to help you decide if it is the best process for you
  • Review your immigration history to make sure that you qualify for an I-601A waiver and immigrant visa
  • Research and resolve any special issues with your case to minimize the risk that your application will be denied
  • Prepare all forms necessary for your application, including your I-601A form
  • Pepare any legal letters or memos needed for your case
  • Identify the supporting documents needed for your application
  • Help identify your strongest hardship factors for your waiver application
  • Assist with preparing any affidavits or declarations needed for your case, including the hardship letters
  • Prepare and submit responses to any standard Requests for Evidence received from USCIS