USCIS Recommends Uniform I-601 Waiver Process

For many who seek to immigrate to the US, and for others here who want to apply for a green card, grounds of inadmissibility can stand in their way.

Inadmissibility based on minor crimes and other small violations can render a foreign national ineligible from entering the US, receiving a green card, and obtaining citizenship.

Certain folks are eligible to apply for I-601 waivers of these grounds, based on “extreme hardship” to family.

Herein lie the biggest flaws in the process:

  • How long do we have to wait?
  • What is “extreme hardship?”

We have seen unbearably long waiting periods, while US citizen spouses and kids are left here, alone.

In June, USCIS proposed a new set of rules to revamp how the government decides these waivers.

In reviewing the process, a number of problems were noted, including hugely disparate processing times – ranging from a few days to several years—and discrepancies in interpretation of the “extreme hardship” standard.

Recommendations for improving the process include:

(1) centralize processing all I-601 applications into one office;

(2) provide for the concurrent filling of I-601 applications together with I-130, Petitions for Alien Relative;

(3) prioritize the finalization of the overseas case management system in order to allow for posting processing times and tracking;

(4) publish clear filing instructions for expedited processing;

(5) improve coordination between consular officers and USCIS adjudicators; and

(6) permit USCIS employees to request and obtain digitized files upon receipt of interview schedules.

We commend the Ombudsman’s Office for reviewing this “life or death” waiver, and encourage USCIS to implement these recommendations as soon as possible.

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Written by: Harlan York

Immigration Attorney Harlan York is Former Chair, Immigration Section, NJ State Bar Association and Former Co-Chair, NY State Bar Association CFLS Immigration Committee. Mr. York appeared on National Television on CBS This Morning with Charlie Rose and Primer Impacto on Univision, as well as Telemundo, NBC, and PBS. He was honored as First Ever Immigration Lawyer of The Year in NJ by Best Lawyers.

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