aging hands in a lapAccording to Pew Research there are over 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Florida has the third most undocumented immigrants in the country and is one of the six states that houses 60% of all undocumented immigrants in the United States.

Many of these immigrants are facing the threat of imminent deportation. If you are included in this group, there may be relief in what the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) refers to as an I-601 Waiver for unlawful presence.

What is an I-601 Waiver?

If you’ve been living illegally in the United States for over a year, you may be facing a ten-year ban from re-entry. The I-601 Waiver allows you to detail the extreme hardship qualifying relatives may face with your deportation.

If your waiver is granted, it means you avoid the decade long ban. While it doesn’t secure permanent legal status, it does give you time to make adjustments to your status.

What is “Extreme Hardship”

The USCIS does not clearly define extreme hardship, stating instead, “It is not a definable term of fixed and inflexible content or meaning. It necessarily depends upon the facts and circumstances peculiar to each case.”

This interpretation gives the people reviewing your waiver more discretion when deciding whether you qualify for this waiver. This non-definition is why experienced representation in your immigration case and I-601 Waiver application is so critical.

How Does the USCIS Determine Eligibility?

The USCIS has created levels for the strength of arguments for an I-601 Waiver. These levels are categorized from one to four, with Level One arguments having the greatest strength.

The USCIS will generally look for multiple Level Two through Four arguments, or at least one Level One argument to grant an I-601 Waiver. Here are examples of the various levels of arguments accepted by the USCIS:

  • Level One: This level of arguments generally include relatives who are experiencing severe medical issues. These medical issues may prevent the relative from traveling outside the United States, making it imperative the illegal immigrant remains. Level One arguments can also include situations where the illegal immigrant’s home country is in a state of war.
  • Level Two: Example of arguments that would be considered for Level Two may include relatives who have medical issues that make moving out of the country difficult. This would be valid in a situation where they would require the illegal immigrant’s assistance. Situations where the illegal alien’s home country is politically unstable may also qualify as a Level Two argument.
  • Level Three: Level Three arguments may include having a relative who has a significant condition that makes moving out of the country difficult, and/or the illegal immigrant’s home country is experiencing severe economic conditions.
  • Level Four: These types of arguments include having parents who are aging or relatives who would not be able to support themselves if they moved out of the country.

Please keep in mind these are only examples of arguments and other hardship conditions may be considered.

How To File For an I-601 Waiver

Filing for an I-601 Waiver involves using the specific required forms and filling them out completely. The USCIS will outright reject your application if it is not accompanied with the appropriate fees or if it doesn’t meet specific filing criteria.

The USCIS recommends forms should only be filled out in black ink. Forms that include white-out can create scanning errors, so if mistakes are made they suggest starting over with a new form. It is imperative the applicant provide signatures on required forms.

Along with your current contact information your application must include:

  • Receipt number for your approved immediate relative petition (i.e. Form I-130 or Form I-360)
  • National Visa Center (NVC) case number
  • Immigrant visa interview status

A successful I-601 Waiver will also include evidence that substantiates your hardship. Keep in mind if your waiver is denied, you cannot file an administrative appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider. Our knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorneys can help you compile your I-601 Waiver, assuring paperwork and compelling evidence is submitted properly and in a timely fashion.

If you believe you may be eligible for an unlawful presence Waiver, we encourage you to contact Pobjecky & Pobjecky LLP. Renee Pobjecky is a nationally recognized speaker on the topic of waivers and has the experience to assist you with lasting professional immigration solutions.

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Photo by Vinoth Chandar / CC BY