Category Archives: adjustment of status

Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions

Section 245 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) allows certain foreign nationals who are physically present in the U.S. to adjust to permanent resident status and avoid filing for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But unless an exception or exemption applies, you are barred from filing for INA 245(a) adjustment if you are in unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 [INA 245(c)(2) bar]; you have violated the conditions of your nonimmigrant status or visa [INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars]; and/or you failed to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration [INA 245(c)(7) bar].

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The bars to INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) include the following:

1. You Are In Unlawful Immigration Status at the Time of Filing a Form I-485 Application: INA 245(c)(2) Bar

Under INA 245(c)(2), an INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status application will be denied if at the time of the Form I-485 filing, you are not in lawful immigration status. For purposes of the INA 245(c)(2) bar, lawful status includes nonimmigrants (e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker); refugees; asylees; parolees; and foreign nationals in Temporary Protected Status (TPS​).

You are in unlawful immigration status if you have never had lawful status (e.g. entered the U.S. without inspection and admission or parole) or ​your ​lawful status ​has ended​ (expired or was rescinded, revoked, or otherwise terminated due to violation of nonimmigrant status or other reason).

Having authorized stay is different from having lawful immigration status. The timely filing of a pending application to extend or change status (Form I-129 or Form I-539), or a pending application for adjustment (Form I-485), generally provides authorized stay, but does ​not​ provide lawful immigration status.

​A person who has a timely-filed pending Extension of Status (EOS) or Change of Status (COS) application may file a Form I-485 application after his or her nonimmigrant status expires. But if USCIS denies the EOS or COS application, you are generally considered to be in unlawful immigration status as of the expiration of your nonimmigrant status and on the date the adjustment application is filed. The INA 245(c)(2) bar would then apply, unless an exemption is available.

2. You Failed to Continuously Maintain Status and/or Violated the Terms of Your Nonimmigrant Visa: INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245(c)(8) Bars

You are not eligible to file a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, under ​INA 245(a)​ if, other than through no fault of your own or for technical reasons,​you have ever:

Failed to continuously maintain a lawful status since entry into the United States. [You are barred from adjustment of status under INA 245(c)(2) if you are in unlawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application.]

OR

Violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status​, such as worked without authorization. [You are barred from adjustment of status under ​INA 245(c)(8) not only if you violated the terms of your most recent nonimmigrant status, but also if you ever violated the terms of your nonimmigrant status at any time during any prior periods of stay in the U.S. as a nonimmigrant.​]

To be eligible for AOS, you only need to maintain your nonimmigrant status until you properly file a Form I-485 adjustment application with USCIS, ​so​ long as you do not engage in unauthorized employment after filing the adjustment application.​ But to protect yourself from being placed in removal proceedings if your Form I-485 is denied, you should continue to maintain your nonimmigrant status (e.g. H-1B) when possible.

When the ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8) Bars May Be Excused

For purposes of ​INA 245(c)(2)​ and ​INA 245(c)(8)​, a failure to maintain lawful immigration status or violation of nonimmigrant status may be excused only for the specific period under consideration if: ​

a. The applicant was reinstated to F, M, or J status

If USCIS reinstates F or M student nonimmigrant status or if the U.S. Department of State reinstates J exchange visitor nonimmigrant status, the reinstatement only excuses the particular period of time the nonimmigrant failed to maintain status. The reinstatement does not excuse prior or future failure to maintain status.​

b. The applicant’s failure to maintain status was through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons

The term  “other than through no fault of his or her own or for technical reasons”​ ​is limited to the following​ ​circumstances:​ 

  • Inaction of another person or organization designated by regulation to act on behalf of an applicant or over whose actions the applicant has no control, if the inaction is acknowledged by that person or organization.
  • Technical violation resulting from inaction of USCIS
  • Technical violation caused by the physical inability of the applicant to request an extension of nonimmigrant stay from USCIS in person or by mail
  • Technical violation resulting from Legacy ​Immigration and Naturalization Service (​INS​)​’s application of the 5-​year​ or 6-year period of stay for certain H-1 nurses, if the nurse was re-instated to H-1 status as a result of the Immigration Amendments of 1988.​

c. The applicant was granted an extension of nonimmigrant stay or a change of nonimmigrant status.

The immigration officer will consider all your current and previous entries into and stays in the United States, including current and previous applications for extension of stay (EOS) or change of status (COS).

If USCIS approves a timely filed EOS or COS application, or excuses and approves an untimely filed EOS or COS application, the approval is effective as of the date of the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant status. In that event, you will be considered to have maintained lawful​ status ​despite the gap in time between the expiration of the prior nonimmigrant admission and the date of the EOS or COS approval.

3. You Are an Employment-Based Applicant Who Is Not in Lawful Nonimmigrant Status: INA 245(c)(7) Bar

If you are an employment-based adjustment applicant who is not in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing your Form I-485 application, you are barred from adjusting status under INA 245(c)(7). This bar does not apply if you were in a lawful nonimmigrant status at the time of filing for adjustment, subsequently left the United States, and returned using an approved advance parole travel document while the adjustment application remains pending. ​

For purposes of this bar to adjustment, the term “lawful nonimmigrant status” includes a foreign national in a lawful status classified under the nonimmigrant statutory provisions(e.g. B1/B2 visitor, F-1 student, H-1B professional worker) and a foreign national in Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

​Lawful nonimmigrant status does not include parolees, ​asylees​, or certain other foreign nationals who are otherwise authorized to stay in the United States. ​

Exceptions and Exemptions to the Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a)

The ​INA 245(c)(2)​, ​INA 245(c)(8), and INA 245(c)(7)​ bars to adjustment do NOT apply to: ​

  • Immediate relatives of U.S. citizens [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]
  • ​Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners/VAWA-based applicants
  • ​Certain foreign doctors/physicians and their accompanying spouse and children​
  • ​Certain G-4 international organization employees, NATO-6 employees, and their family members
  • Special immigrant juveniles
  • ​Certain members of the U.S. ​armed forces​ and their spouse​s​ and children​
  • ​Employment-based applicants in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd and certain 4th preference categories who meet the ​INA 245(k) exemption. [The INA 245(k) exemption applies if your failure to maintain a lawful status, engagement in unauthorized employment, or violation of the terms of your nonimmigrant status or nonimmigrant visa lasted only for 180 days or less since your most recent lawful admission.]

​Bars to Adjustment are Different from Grounds of Inadmissibility​

Bars to adjustment should not be confused with the grounds of inadmissibility listed in INA 212.

When you are inadmissible under section 212, you may not adjust status unless you qualify for a limited exception or unless a waiver of inadmissibility is available, you qualify for it, and it is granted to you. Inadmissibility grounds include health concerns (communicable disease of public health significance), criminal activity, national security, public charge, fraud and misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits, unlawful presence, and prior removals.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status? 

# # #

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Max Braun

 

Who is Eligible (and Not Eligible) for Adjustment to Permanent Resident Status?

When you are physically present in the U.S., your filing for Adjustment of Status (AOS) allows you to become a permanent resident without needing to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

But if you are ineligible for AOS and mistakenly file a Form I-485​, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, your request will not only be denied, but you may also be placed in removal proceedings due to failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status and/or other grounds.

General Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Foreign nationals may file for adjustment to permanent resident status if they meet the eligibility requirements at the time of submitting their ​Form I-485 application to USCIS.

Who is generally ELIGIBLE for AOS?

Immigrant categories that permit AOS include:

Immediate relative of a U.S. citizen [spouses, unmarried children under 21 years of age, and parents (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age or older)]

​Other relative of a U.S. citizen or​ relative of a lawful​ permanent resident under ​a​ family-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for a  list of family-based preference categories)

​Person admitted to the United States on a K-1 visa as a f​iancé(e) of a U.S. citizen and then marries the U.S. citizen. [A K-1 visa holder who enters a valid and bona fide marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival in the U.S. remains eligible to adjust status on that basis, even if the marriage is legally terminated (whether by death, dissolution, or divorce) prior to adjustment of status and regardless of whether he/she remarries thereafter.]

Widow(er) of a U.S. citizen

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioner

​Foreign national worker under an employment-based preference category (See U.S. Department of State’s Visa Bulletin for list of employment-based preference categories)

Foreign national entrepreneur (EB5 immigrant employment-based category)

Special immigrant (includes religious workers, special immigrant juveniles, certain Afghans and Iraqis, certain U.S. armed forces members, certain physicians)

Certain victim of human trafficking  (T nonimmigrant)

Certain victim of crime (U nonimmigrant)

Person granted asylum status

Person granted refugee status

Person selected in the ​Diversity Visa lottery program ​

Beneficiary of INA 245(i) benefits

Who is generally NOT ELIGIBLE for AOS?

With limited exceptions, foreign nationals who are barred from applying for AOS include:

Foreign national ​who last entered the United States without being inspected and admitted​ or paroled by an immigration officer. [INA 245(i) and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national who last entered the United States on a C-1/D-1 or D-2 visa as a nonimmigrant ​crewman. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(1) bar.]

Foreign national who is now employed or has ever been employed in the United States without authorization. [ Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from these INA 245(c)(2) and INA 245 (c)(8) bars.]

Foreign national who ​is not ​in​ lawful immigration status on the date of filing the Form I-485 application. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national​ who ​has ever ​failed to continuously maintain ​a ​lawful status​ since entry into the United States​, unless the failure ​to maintain status ​was through no fault of his or her own or for technical​ ​reasons.  [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(2) bar.]

Foreign national ​who ​was last admitted to the United​ ​States​ ​in​ ​transit​ ​without​ ​a​ ​visa. [VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(3) bar.]

​Foreign national who was last ​admitted​ ​to​ ​Guam​ ​or the​ ​Commonwealth​ ​of the​ ​Northern​ ​Mariana​ ​Islands ​(CNMI) ​as a​ ​visitor​ ​under​ ​the Guam or CNMI​ ​V​isa​ ​Waiver Program​ and who is not a Canadian citizen. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens are exempt from this bar.]

Foreign national ​who was last ​admitted ​to the United States as a nonimmigrant visitor without a visa under the ​Visa Waiver Program. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizens and VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c) bar.]

Foreign national ​who is​ deportable due to involvement in a terrorist activity or group. [​VAWA-based applicants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(6) bar, but may still be inadmissible for such activity.​]

​Foreign national who is seeking ​employment-based ​adjustment of status and ​who is not maintaining a lawful nonimmigrant status ​on the date of filing this ​application. [In some cases, the INA 245(k) exemption  excuses this INA 245(c)(7) bar.]

Foreign national who has ​ever ​violated​ ​the​ ​terms​ ​of the ​nonimmigrant status. [Immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen, VAWA-based applicants, and certain special immigrants are exempt from this INA 245(c)(8) bar.]

Foreign national who is a ​conditional permanent resident​. [Conditional permanent residents​ must instead file a Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on their status to obtain permanent residence unconditionally.]

Foreign national who was admitted to the U.S. on a K-1 nonimmigrant ​fiancé(e) visa, but did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition or foreign national who was admitted as the K-2 ​nonimmigrant​ child of a fiancé(e)​ ​whose parent did not marry the U.S. citizen who filed​ ​the petition.​ 

INA 245(a) Adjustment of Status (AOS) Eligibility Requirements

Most applicants file for Adjustment of Status based on ​INA 245(a), which does not include all the possible ways of adjusting status, such as AOS of Refugees or Asylees under INA 209(b)​.

​​The AOS eligibility requirements under section 245(a) include:

1.  You must normally have​ been​ inspected and admitted​ ​into the United States​; or inspected and paroled into the United States.

Unless you are an INA 245(i) applicant or a V​iolence ​A​gainst ​W​omen ​A​ct (VAWA)​ applicant​, you must meet the Inspected and Admitted or Paroled Requirement before you apply for AOS under section 245(a).

To lawfully enter the United States, you must first present yourself for inspection to an immigration officer at a ​U.S.​ ​port of entry.

Admission

For lawful admission to occur, the immigration officer must authorize you to enter the U.S. in accordance with the procedures for admission.​  If, however, the admission was based on a false claim to U.S. citizenship or to U.S. nationality at the ​port of entry​, the lawful admission requirement is not met.

The most common documents showing lawful admission are:

Arrival/​Departure ​Record (Form I-94)

​Admission stamp in passport​, which may be verified using Department of Homeland Security (DHS) systems

Employment Authorization Card (Form I-688A), for special ​agricultural worker applicants, provided it was valid during the last claimed date of entry on the adjustment application

Temporary Resident Card (Form I-688), for special agricultural workers or legalization applicants granted temporary residence, provided it was valid during the​ ​last ​claimed date of entry on the ​adjustment​ application​

Border Crossing Card (Form I-586 or Form DSP-150​), provided it was valid on the date of last claimed entry.​

Plane tickets evidencing travel to the United States, or other corroborating evidence, when an Arrival/Departure Record is not required in the following situations:

  • a ​Canadian ​citizen admitted as a visitor for business, visitor for pleasure, or who was permitted to directly tr​ansit through the United States;​
  • a ​nonimmigrant residing in the British Virgin Islands who was admitted only to the U.S. Virgin Islands as a visitor for business or pleasure​;​
  • ​a Mexican ​n​ational admitted with ​a B-1/B-2 Visa and Border Crossing Card ​(Form DSP-150) ​at a land or sea ​port of entry​ as a visitor for business or pleasure ​for a period of 30 days to trave​l within 25 miles of the border;
  • a ​Mexican ​n​ational in possession of a ​Mexican diplomatic or official passport.

Waved through at port of entry

A wave through is when you present yourself for inspection, but the inspector waves you through the U.S.-Mexico or U.S-Canada land border, and allows you to enter the U.S. without asking any questions or checking your travel documents.  You must present a credible claim and submit supporting evidence, such as​ ​third party ​affidavits ​from those with personal knowledge about your wave through admission.

​Parole

In some situations, you may receive a grant of parole to enter the U.S. This is a temporary, discretionary act and is not an admission. Without determining whether you may be admitted to the U.S., the immigration officer may parole you in for deferred inspection or due to urgent humanitarian reasons or significant public benefits.

Parole in Place may also be issued to certain foreign nationals present without admission or parole, such as ​to a spouse, child, or parent of an ​a​ctive ​d​uty member of the U.S. ​a​rmed ​f​orces, a member in the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve, or someone who previously served in the U.S. ​armed forces​ or the Selected Reserve of the Ready Reserve.

2. You must properly file an adjustment of status application.​

The Form I-485 must be filed with USCIS in accordance with ​the ​form ​instructions, when you are physically present in the United States. It must be signed, accompanied by the ​proper filing fee (unless a fee waiver is granted), submitted ​at the correct filing location​,  and filed when the priority date is current.

3. You must be eligible to receive an immigrant visa and an immigrant visa must be available when you file the adjustment of status application​ and at the time of final adjudication.​

Eligibility for an immigrant visa depends on the immigrant category in which you are filing for adjustment. Except for the Immediate Relative of a U.S. citizen category, the family-based and employment-based categories typically require a wait (sometimes for years or decades) before an immigrant visa becomes available.

4. You must be admissible to the United States for lawful permanent residence or eligible for a waiver of inadmissibility or other form of relief. 

You are ineligible for adjustment if you are subject to any inadmissibility grounds listed under INA 212, such as certain criminal offenses fraud or willful misrepresentation of material facts to gain immigration benefits and unlawful presence. A waiver must be available and you must qualify for the waiver if you are inadmissible to the U.S.

​5. You must merit the favorable exercise of discretion.​

The approval of a Form I-485 application under certain categories, including INA 245(a) Adjustment, is a discretionary decision.  This means you are not entitled to adjustment even when you are eligible for it.

Besides evaluating your eligibility, the immigration officer also considers other factors such as your immigration status and history;​ family unity;​ length of residence in the United States;​ business and employment; and​ community standing and moral character.​

Statutory Bars to Adjusting Status Under INA 245(a) 

Bars to adjusting status include unlawful immigration status at the time of filing a Form I-485 (INA 245(c)(2) bar); status and nonimmigrant visa violations (INA 245c)(2) and INA 245(c)(2)(8) bars); and failure to maintain lawful nonimmigrant status when you would otherwise be eligible for employment-based immigration (INA 245(c)(7) bar). There are, however, exceptions and exemptions.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Because there are various bars and inadmissibility grounds to prevent AOS, as well as exemptions and waivers available, you need to consult an immigration attorney before you file a Form I-485 application to adjust to permanent resident status.

To learn more, read our related article, Adjusting to Permanent Resident Status Under INA 245(a): Bars, Exceptions and Exemptions.

# # #

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Photo by: Sam Howzit

 

Why hire an immigration lawyer when immigration consultants and online immigration services offer lower rates?

The current political climate and 2016 election of Donald Trump for U.S. President have fueled fear among immigrant groups. Amidst the anti-immigrant rhetoric, it’s important to discuss your options in legalizing your status or securing the appropriate visa with an experienced immigration lawyer.

Why hire a lawyer when there is lower-cost help available through immigration consultants and online immigration services? The reasons are many, from ensuring you receive accurate advice to avoiding unnecessary delays.

The main advantages of hiring a reputable and trusted immigration lawyer, instead of depending on an immigration consultant or online immigration service are:

1. You receive guidance on which forms and documents to submit

A lawyer is not required to fill out application forms for immigration benefits. Anyone can complete the forms, which are, along with the instructions, available for free on U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and the U.S. Department of State’s websites.

But U.S. government agencies are not your advocates and do not consider your individual situation when providing resources and information to you. Only an immigration lawyer, who truly understands the eligibility requirements, can give you the most reliable advice on which forms and documents to submit to receive immigration benefits.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can certainly help you complete forms and submit the paperwork to USCIS and DOS at a much lower cost than what lawyers charge.

Nevertheless, your knowing which forms and documents to submit is not always clear by just reading instructions or doing your own research. Immigration consultants and online immigration services are prohibited from giving any legal advice concerning your immigration case, including which forms and documents to submit. Rather, you yourself have to make this determination before they then fill out the forms with your answers and prepare the documents you have given them for filing with the appropriate U.S. government agency.

Even qualified immigration consultants and highly-rated online immigration services are just document preparers. While they are distinguishable from shady Notarios who prey on vulnerable immigrant groups and engage in immigration scams, they provide limited service that does not always meet your immigration needs.

Questions on applications forms and questions from immigration or consular officers might seem simple, but often relate to legal issues that can result in denials and setbacks in your case. Immigration consultants and online immigration processors cannot counsel you on how to best answer a question or cross-check or verify your answers on the forms. All they can do is replicate and type out your responses to the questions asked on the forms.

When non-lawyer immigration consultants or online immigration processors advise you on which immigration benefit to apply for and how to prove you qualify for it, they essentially engage in unauthorized practice of law.

In contrast, immigration lawyers advise you on which exact forms and documents to submit for a particular immigration benefit. They will cross check your answers on application forms with your biographic and immigration records to help ensure accuracy and completeness. They will also counsel you on the implications of your answers to questions, as well as the effects of providing or not providing certain documents.

2. You get legal advice on how to best present your case

A good lawyer will counsel you on eligibility standards and evidentiary requirements, including those that are not spelled out in the instructions for forms or are otherwise readily known.

For instance, while an immigration consultant or online immigration service will accept your marriage certificate and divorce decrees for prior marriages as sufficient in an I-130 spousal immigrant petition, a lawyer will counsel you on additional documents to submit to prove your marriage is valid and bona fide.

A lawyer might be unnecessary in very simple cases, where the bare minimum is all that’s required to get the case approved. But in many cases, a high volume of documentary evidence, as well as credible testimony, are needed to achieve a favorable outcome.

One of the fastest growing online immigration processors, RapidVisa, states specifically that it does not give legal advice or representation, but offers a service similar to TurboTax for visa applications. At a low price, they provide online processing of K-1 fiancée visas, spousal visas, parent visas, green cards (adjustment of status), removal of conditions, citizenship (naturalization), joint sponsorship, and deferred action (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival, under President Obama).

RapidVisa boasts an approval rate of 99.7% and 4-hour turnaround time. But it’s fair to say that these cases most likely had no complications to require the work of a lawyer, and could have been handled just as well by an applicant who was willing and able to deal with the paperwork alone.

Reputable immigration lawyers, who have the expertise to deal with the worst types of cases, are best equipped to help you present the strongest case possible. They can steer you away from pitfalls that lead to complications in your case, such as USCIS issuing a Request for Evidence or a Notice of Intent to Deny Petition. They are trained to spot issues and weaknesses that can tank your case. Unlike immigration consultants and online immigration processors, they do not merely rely on generic templates and checklists that do not account for unique situations.

3. You obtain verification on whether you actually qualify for the benefit sought

An immigration lawyer will gather facts and review your record to confirm whether you are eligible for the immigration benefit you seek. For example, under current law, you cannot apply for a marriage-based green card within the U.S. if you were not lawfully admitted to the U.S. with inspection, and you do not qualify for 245(i) benefits. If your immigrant petition is not in the immediate relative category, you may not file for adjustment to permanent residence unless you are maintaining lawful nonimmigrant status after entry as an F-1 student, H-1B worker, etc. or certain narrow exceptions apply.

Immigration consultants and online immigration processors are not equipped or authorized to verify your eligibility for a benefit sought. They cannot give advice as to which immigration status you should seek. These are legal issues that requires a lawyer’s guidance, especially when there are complications in your case.

Complications include marriage/divorce complications, visa overstays, unlawful presence, prior removal orders, illegal entries and re-entries to the U.S., immigration fraud or willful misrepresentation, false claims to U.S. citizenship, a criminal record, and being from a high-fraud country.

In June 2016, the State of Colorado passed a law that forced RapidVisa to relocate out of Colorado Springs, Colorado to Las Vegas, Nevada, where regulations related to the document-preparation industry are favorable. Known as Immigration Consultants Deceptive Trade Practice, the Colorado law targets deceptive “notarios”, which are small operations common in Hispanic communities, but it further forbids any person from offering any immigration service, regardless of whether it involves practicing law, unless that person is a lawyer.

In a press release, Ben Ives, President of RapidVisa, stated “this was simply a case of lawyers protecting their income.” He noted, “Petitioning for a family visa is a benefit request, not a legal issue. Do you hire a lawyer to apply for your driver’s license?”

Contrary to Mr. Ives’ claim, applying for an immigration benefit involves many legal issues that determine whether a person can live, study or work in the U.S., and even visit the country. Filing for an immigration benefit has a much more serious and broader impact than applying for a driver’s license.

A U.S. citizen’s decision to bring a fiancée, spouse,  or parent to the U.S. , for example, affects the fate of the family and their reunification.  An applicant’s mistake in filing for an immigration benefit, such as a green card or citizenship, for which he does not qualify can sometimes lead him into removal proceedings and get him deported from the United States.

4. You have comprehensive counseling from start to finish

In the initial evaluation of your case, and during the course of representation, an immigration lawyer can identify your priorities and pinpoint issues to help you achieve your objectives. They can lay out your various options and describe the pros and cons of pursuing each path.

An immigration lawyer can guide you on how to avoid complications or address them as they arise, such as responding to a Request for Evidence, a Notice of Intent to Deny, a Notice of Intent to Revoke, or a denial decision. He or she can intervene on your behalf to resolve problems.

An immigration lawyer can also prepare you for interviews before USCIS and the U.S. Consulates by describing what questions to expect and which issues are likely to arise, and how to best address them. They can appear with you at green card interviews and naturalization interviews to help protect your rights, present documentary information, and ask clarifying questions. They can further prepare and submit a legal brief to stave off concerns and persuade the officer to approve your case.

Lawyers must keep up with changes in the law, the risks (not just the benefits) of applying for immigration relief, and the nuances in the immigration process, and advise you accordingly.

A non-lawyer immigration consultant or online immigration processor cannot perform these vital services.

5. You get legal help from a licensed professional who is held to the highest ethical standards

When an immigration consultant or online immigration processor overlooks critical pieces of information or documents, which results in an avoidable denial or delay, there is generally no recourse. You typically have to rectify the harm through their channels or file a consumer complaint with the state attorney general.

Lawyers, on the other hand, are held to ethical standards set forth in their state rules of professional conduct. They can face disciplinary action, such as a suspension or disbarment, for failing to perform duties owed to clients. As a licensed professional, a lawyer has obligations and responsibilities that go above and beyond those of a non-lawyer immigration service.

Consult an immigration attorney at the very least 

Some states, such as California, Minnesota, and New York regulate the conduct of immigration consultants, instead of forbid them from performing any immigration service. While they may provide document preparation, they cannot offer legal advice in any situation.

Legitimate immigration consultants and online immigration processors can ease the stress that comes with handling the immigration paperwork yourself. But realize they do nothing more than document preparation. A complete reliance on non-lawyer immigration services gives you a false sense of security and could open you up to making mistakes and bungling your immigration matter.

Reliable legal representation may be more affordable than you assume. There are solo practitioners and small firm lawyers who charge reasonable fees for high-quality, comprehensive service. There are also non-profit legal service providers and pro-bono attorneys who will accept your case for sliding scale or reduced fees or no fees.

Almost everyone can gather funds to consult an experienced immigration lawyer at least once, or retain unbundled legal service to address the complicated parts of the case. Before you file for an immigration benefit, talk to a reputable immigration lawyer about the eligibility standards, documentary requirements and filing process. Relying on immigration consultants and online immigration processors can save you money upfront, but cost you a lot more in the long run.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Expansion of I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver: What Changed?

The final rule expanding the I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver to all statutorily eligible applicants went into effect on August 29, 2016.  It allows more immigrant visa applicants, who are in the U.S., to seek the unlawful presence waiver before they depart for their visa interview abroad.

Published on July 29, 2016, the final rule is meant to encourage unlawfully present persons (who are ineligible for adjustment of status) to leave the U.S., attend their immigrant visa interviews, and return legally to the U.S. as permanent residents.

What Changed Under the 2016 Final Rule? 

The final rule expanding the I-601 Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver resulted in several changes that promote family unity and streamline the immigrant visa and waiver application process.

1. The I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver is Available to All Statutorily Eligible Immigrant Visa Applicants

The 2013 regulation extended the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver only to spouses, minor children (under age 21 or CSPA-eligible ), and parents of U.S. citizens. Under the 2016 regulation at 8 CFR 212.7(e), the pool of eligible applicants is no longer limited to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.

Under the 2016 final rule, all beneficiaries of family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visa petitions, as well as Diversity Visa Lottery selectees, who are eligible for an immigrant visa may seek the I-601A waiver – as long as they meet the statutory requirements under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v). The statute requires you (a) have a qualifying relative (i.e. U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent) who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S., and (b) deserve the waiver in the favorable exercise of discretion.

2.There is No Time Restriction Based on the Date the Department of State’s Acted to Schedule the Immigrant Visa Interview 

In the proposed rule, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) sought to keep the time restrictions preventing immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from applying for the I-601A waiver if the DOS acted before January 3, 2013 to schedule their immigrant visa interview –  even if they failed to appear for the interview, the interview was cancelled, or the interview was rescheduled on or after January 3, 2013.

The proposed 2016 rule would have made other applicants ineligible if DOS initially acted before the effective date of the final rule to schedule their immigrant visa interviews.  I-601A waiver applications subject to the time bar would have been rejected or denied.

In the final rule, the DHS removed the restrictions based on the date that DOS acted to schedule the immigrant visa interview. There is no more visa interview scheduling cut-off dates.

Immigrant visa applicants who were previously subject to the January 3, 2013 cut-off date may now apply for the I-601A waiver, as long as they did not depart the U.S. If their visa case was terminated due to inaction of one year or more, they may ask the DOS to reinstate their visa application or the petitioner may file a new immigrant visa petition for them.

3. Reason-to-Believe Standard, as a Basis for Ineligibility, No Longer Exists

Under the 2013 rule, you were ineligible for the I-601A waiver if USCIS determined, based on the record, there is reason to believe you are inadmissible on grounds other than unlawful presence, such as immigration fraud, illegal re-entries, and criminal convictions. DHS had initially applied the reason-to-believe standard because it would be of little benefit to grant provisional waivers to applicants who would eventually be denied immigrant visas based on other grounds of inadmissibility.

Based on comments received during the notice-and-comment rulemaking process, DHS determined the reason-to-believe standard created confusion among applicants.

It is DOS, and not USCIS, that generally determines whether the immigrant visa applicant is admissible, which includes an in-depth, in-person interview conducted by DOS consular officers. It is U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), and not USCIS, that determines admissibility at the time the person seeks admission at a port of entry.

In the 2016 rule, DHS noted, “Any assessment by USCIS with respect to other grounds of inadmissibility would be, at best, advisory in nature and would likely cause even greater confusion for applicants.” Therefore, to avoid further confusion, the 2016 rule removes the reason-to-believe standard as a basis for denying provisional waiver applications.

When adjudicating I-601A waiver applications, USCIS will only consider whether you have shown extreme hardship to the qualifying relative if you are not admitted to the U.S., and whether you deserve the waiver as a matter of discretion. USCIS will no longer deny provisional waivers because it has a reason to believe you are subject to inadmissibility grounds other than the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar.

4. Individuals Subject to Final Orders of Removal, Deportation, or Exclusion May Apply for the Provisional Waiver if Certain Conditions are Met

The 2013 rule prohibited persons subject to final orders of removal,  deportation or exclusion to apply for the I-601A waiver. Persons who depart the U.S. due to a removal, deportation or exclusion order are barred from re-entry for a period of 5 to 20 years under INA section 212(a)(9)(A). These include persons with an expedited removal order by CBP at the port of entry (5-year bar) and a final removal order by an Immigration Judge in removal proceedings (10-year bar).

Certain persons, however, may seek consent to reapply for admission to the United States before the 5 to 20-year period expires, by filing a Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal. If you were ordered removed and are inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(A), but have yet to leave the U.S. and will apply for an immigrant visa abroad, you may file the Form I-212 before your departure.

The 2016 rule allows individuals with final orders of removal,  deportation or exclusion to apply for the I-601A waiver, provided they already filed the Form I-212 and USCIS conditionally approved it.

If you obtain a conditional I-212 approval while in the U.S. and thereafter depart to attend your immigrant visa interview abroad, you are generally no longer inadmissible under INA section 212(a)(9)(A) and can be issued an immigrant visa.  The I-212 approval is conditioned on your actually departing the U.S.

In this situation, consent to reapply for admission refers only to inadmissibility under INA section 212(a)(9)(A). You cannot file an I-212 application while you are in the U.S. if you are inadmissible under INA section 212(a)(9)(C), i.e. illegal re-entry or attempted illegal re-entry after you accrued more than one year of unlawful presence in the U.S. and left, or after you were ordered removed from the U.S.

The I-601A addresses the unlawful presence bar, while the I-212 deals with the removal order. Each waiver covers separate grounds of inadmissibility and has different eligibility requirements. USCIS will deny a provisional waiver request if your Form I-212 application has not yet been conditionally approved at the time the Form I-601A is filed.

In the final rule, DHS further clarified that USCIS has exclusive jurisdiction to adjudicate I-601A waiver applications, regardless of whether the applicant is or was in removal, deportation, or exclusion proceedings.

The DHS also clarified which persons are ineligible for provisional waivers because they are subject to a reinstatement of a prior removal, deportation or exclusion order. The CBP or Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) must first serve notice and actually reinstate the order, prior to the filing of the I-601A application or while the application is pending, for the person to be ineligible for the provisional waiver under the 2016 rule.

5. Individuals Who Violated a Voluntary Departure Order Might Be Eligible for the Provisional Waiver

The 2016 regulations do not specifically mention voluntary departure as a bar to a provisional waiver. The Supplementary Information to the final rule discusses this issue, but creates more questions than provides answers.

If a person is granted voluntary departure while in removal proceedings, the immigration judge is required to enter an alternate removal order. DHS may not carry out the alternate removal order while the voluntary departure period is in effect. But if the person fails to voluntarily depart on time, the alternate removal order automatically kicks in. Under current law, removal proceedings for such persons are considered to have ended when the grant of voluntary departure, with an alternate removal order, becomes administratively final.

The regulation at 8 CFR §212.7(e)(4)(iii) bars individuals who are “in removal proceedings, in which no final order has been entered, unless the removal proceedings are administratively closed and have not been recalendared at the time of filing the application….” No doubt, a person who is granted voluntary departure is ineligible for an I-601A waiver while the voluntary departure period is still in effect.

The Supplementary Information to the final rule states, “DHS has determined that individuals granted voluntary departure will not be eligible for provisional waivers.” The DHS reasoned that allowing a person whose voluntary departure period has not expired to apply for a provisional waiver would suggest the person is excused from leaving the U.S. within the voluntary departure period. The Supplementary Information also states, “an individual who fails to leave as required under a grant of voluntary departure will have an administratively final order of removal, and will thus be ineligible for a provisional waiver.”

The Supplementary Information, however, cites to the new regulation at  8 CFR §212.7(e)(4)(iv), which took effect on August 29, 2016. This regulation reads:

… an alien is ineligible for a provisional unlawful presence waiver … if: (iv) [t]he alien is subject to an administratively final order of removal, deportation, or exclusion under any provision of law … unless the alien has already filed and USCIS has already granted … an application for consent to reapply for admission under section 212(a)(9)(A)(iii) of the Act and 8 CFR 212.2(j).

The 2016 regulation shows an exception to the final order bar if you first obtain an approved I-212.

Until there is further clarity on this issue, persons who have overstayed a voluntary departure period, and are subject to a final order, must exercise caution in applying for an I-601A waiver based on a conditionally approved I-212. If you are still in removal proceedings, the better course it to request administrative closure to pursue a provisional waiver. Assuming the I-601A waiver is granted, you may then file a motion to recalendar and request termination of proceedings so you may apply for an immigrant visa abroad.

More Key Things to Know

What stayed the same under the 2016 final rule?

Although the 2016 rule expands the provisional unlawful presence waiver, it kept many of the provisions under the 2013 regulation.

For more information, read Expansion of I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver: What Stayed the Same? 

When is the 3/10 year bar triggered?

As of April 1, 1997, if you accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. of more than 180 days to less than 1 year, after age 18, you are barred from re-entering the U.S. for 3 years. The bar to re-entry is 10 years if the unlawful presence lasted 1 year or more. When you do not qualify for adjustment to permanent resident status, and must leave the U.S. for consular processing, you trigger the 3/10-year unlawful presence bar under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), upon departure.

The 3/10 year bar is triggered only if you leave  the U.S. You do not need an unlawful presence waiver if you are in the U.S. and applying for adjustment to permanent resident status. If you are in the U.S. and are eligible for adjustment, you should avoid leaving the U.S. for consular processing of the immigrant visa, which will trigger the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar.

For more information, read When do you need an I-601 waiver due to unlawful presence (and how do you get it)? 

Why apply for the I-601A provisional unlawful presence waiver instead of the regular I-601 waiver?

An I-601A waiver grant gives some assurance the U.S. Consulate will excuse you from the 3/10 year bar and issue the immigrant visa. Prior to March 2013, when the I-601A waiver was first introduced under the Obama Administration, every immigrant visa applicant who was subject to the 3/10 year bar had to wait outside the U.S. to get the regular I-601 waiver, after they attended the visa interview. When the I-601 process is delayed or the application is denied, long-term family separation, job loss, and other hardships result.

If you are subject to the 3/10 year bar only, and no other grounds of inadmissibility, and you are still in the U.S., the I-601A waiver is all you need.  The I-601A process allows you to apply for the unlawful presence waiver before you leave the U.S. Your immigrant visa interview will be scheduled at the U.S. Consulate only after USCIS adjudicates the I-601A waiver application. In contrast, you may file for the regular I-601 waiver only after you have left the U.S. and attended your visa interview.

The regular I-601 waiver process requires you to wait several months or even years outside the U.S. for a decision.  On the other hand, an approved I-601A waiver application facilitates the grant of the immigrant visa and shortens the time you are separated from your U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members. With an I-601A waiver granted, you normally wait about 2 weeks for the immigrant visa to be processed.

For more information, read I-601 waiver or I-601A waiver for unlawful presence? 

Seek Help from an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney to confirm whether you are inadmissible due to unlawful presence and/or other grounds, verify your eligibility for the I-601A waiver, guide you on the forms and documents to submit, and help you prepare a strong waiver application for approval.

Even when you have an I-601A waiver, the U.S. Consulate may still your immigrant visa if it finds you are inadmissible on multiple grounds. But if the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar is your only inadmissibility ground, the I-601A approval means you can expect an immigrant visa grant.

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

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Expansion of I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver: What Stayed the Same?

On August 29, 2016, USCIS began accepting I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver applications under the 2016 final rule expanding the pool of applicants eligible for the provisional waiver.

The I-601A waiver is no longer limited to just immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. Qualified applicants now include beneficiaries of all family-sponsored and employment-based immigrant visa petitions, as well as Diversity Visa Lottery selectees, who are eligible for an immigrant visa and who meet the legal requirements for a waiver under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v).

What Stayed the Same Under the 2016 Final Rule?

The final rule expanding the I-601 Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver resulted in several changes that promote family unity and streamline the immigrant visa and waiver application process. Despite significant changes under the 2016 regulation, many things stayed the same.

1. I-601A Waiver Applicants Must Still Have a Qualifying Relative Who Will Suffer Extreme Hardship if They are Not Admitted to the U.S.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can only expand the I-601A waiver to those who fall within the current immigrant visa categories and who meet the requirements for the unlawful presence waiver described in INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(v). The statute, passed by Congress, requires you to have a qualifying relative who will suffer extreme hardship if you are not admitted to the U.S. It further defines a qualifying relative as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent. In addition to meeting the extreme hardship requirement, you also must warrant a favorable exercise of discretion.

Immigrant visa applicants in any family-based or employment-based category, plus Diversity Visa applicants, may file for the I-601A waiver only if they have a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent who will suffer extreme hardship if they are not granted the visa.

Congress, not DHS, has authority to change the statutory requirement. USCIS also cannot grant an I-601A waiver if you have not demonstrated extreme hardship to a qualifying relative as required by statute.  USCIS may also deny provisional waiver applications, as a matter of discretion, even when you are eligible for the relief.

USCIS will continue to make extreme hardship determinations on a case-by-case basis, consistent with agency guidance. On October 7, 2015, USCIS posted proposed guidance on extreme hardship determinations for public comment on its Website. USCIS continues to train its officers on provisional waiver adjudication, including the extreme hardship determination.

2. Removal of the DOS Visa Interview Scheduling Cut-Off Dates Does not Alter Other Laws or Regulations Relating to Visa Availability

In the final rule, DHS removed the date restrictions preventing  immediate relatives of U.S. citizens from obtaining provisional waivers if the Department of State (DOS) acted prior to January 3, 2013 to schedule their immigrant visa interviews. DHS also rejected a proposed rule making other applicants ineligible for provisional waivers if DOS had acted on or before the effective date of the final rule to schedule the immigrant visa interview.

Although there is no DOS visa interview scheduling cut-off date, I-601A waiver applicants still cannot obtain an immigrant visa unless their priority date is current or they are in the immediate relatives category. The I-601A cannot be filed until you (a) first pay the immigrant visa fee, which may be submitted only when an immigrant visa is available, or (b) you have been assigned a Diversity Visa case number and are waiting for a visa interview.

3. The Waiver, By Itself, Provides No Interim Benefits or Immigration Benefits 

The filing of an I-601A waiver, or the approval of such an application, still does not provide any basis for receiving interim benefits, including employment authorization in the U.S. or an advance parole/travel document to re-enter the U.S.

The DHS pointed out that because an approved immigrant visa petition and a waiver of inadmissibility do not, by themselves, grant any immigration status or lawful presence in the U.S., they do not serve as a basis for interim benefits. The DHS further noted that granting interim benefits to persons with provisional waivers could encourage them to postpone their timely departures from the U.S. to apply for their immigrant visa.

The provisional waiver process is meant to encourage the applicant to depart the U.S. for their immigrant visa interview and apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate. The purpose is not to extend an applicant’s unlawful presence in the United States.

4. The Provisional Waiver Excuses Unlawful Presence Only, and No Other Grounds of Inadmissibility

The I-601A waiver excuses you from the 3/10-year unlawful presence bar only. The DHS did not extend the I-601A process to waive other inadmissibility grounds, such as fraud or wilful misrepresentation of material fact to gain immigration benefits, criminal convictions, or medical issues.

The DHS also did not expand the provisional waiver to persons who are inadmissible based on illegal re-entry or attempted illegal re-entry after previous immigration violations under INA section 212(a)(9)(C)(i). The person must have an approved Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal, to overcome this ground of inadmissibility.

If during the immigrant visa interview the consular officer finds you are inadmissible on other grounds that have not been waived, such as prior removal orders, criminal convictions, and immigration fraud, the approved provisional waiver will be automatically revoked. Revocation of the provisional waiver does not prevent you from filing a regular I-601 application for waiver of unlawful presence plus other other waivable grounds of inadmissibility.

5. Individuals in Active Removal Proceedings May Not Apply for or Receive the Provisional Waiver Unless Their Case is Administratively Closed

Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) may agree to administratively close removal proceedings for individuals who are eligible for a provisional waiver and are a low priority for removal.  ICE also works to facilitate, when appropriate, the timely termination or dismissal of administratively closed removal proceedings once USCIS approves a provisional waiver.

Under the 2013 regulations, persons in removal proceedings may apply for and be granted provisional waivers only if their removal proceedings have been and remain administratively closed. DHS kept this restriction in the 2016 final rule.

6. Individuals Subject to a Reinstated Removal, Deportation or Exclusion Order Do Not Qualify for the Provisional Waiver

A person who illegally reenters the U.S. after having been removed, or having departed voluntarily, while under an order of exclusion, deportation, or removal shall be removed from the U.S. by reinstatement of the prior order. The person has no right to a hearing before an immigration judge in such circumstances.

In the final rule, the DHS confirmed that persons with a reinstated prior removal, deportation or exclusion order are ineligible for the provisional waiver. Customs & Border Protection (CBP) or ICE must first serve notice and actually reinstate the order, prior to the filing of the I-601A application or while the application is pending, for the person to be ineligible for the provisional waiver under the 2016 rule.

7. Individuals Granted Voluntary Departure Are Ineligible for a Provisional Waiver While the Voluntary Departure Period is in Effect

If you were granted voluntary departure in lieu of a removal order, you are ineligible for a provisional waiver while the voluntary departure period is still in effect.

The immigration judge is required to enter an alternate removal order when voluntary departure is granted. DHS may not execute the alternate removal order while the voluntary departure period is in effect. But if the person fails to voluntarily depart on time, the alternate removal order automatically kicks in. Under current law, removal proceedings for such persons are considered to have ended when the grant of voluntary departure, with an alternate removal order, becomes administratively final.

The regulation at 8 CFR §212.7(e)(4)(iii) bars individuals who are “in removal proceedings, in which no final order has been entered, unless the removal proceedings are administratively closed and have not been recalendared at the time of filing the application….” Thus, an individual with a voluntary departure order that has not yet expired is ineligible for a provisional waiver.

In the Supplemental Information to the 2016 rule, the DHS states:

Allowing an individual whose voluntary departure period has not expired to apply for a provisional waiver would suggest that the individual is excused from complying with the order of voluntary departure. This result would contradict the purpose of voluntary departure — allowing the subject to leave promptly without incurring the future inadmissibility that results from removal. For these reasons, DHS did not modify the rule to allow those with grants of voluntary departure to apply for provisional waivers.

Whether a person who overstays the voluntary departure period, thus triggering a final removal order, may apply for a provisional waiver is another issue.  A strict reading of the 2016 regulations at 8 CFR §212.7(e)(4)(iv) indicates persons with a final removal order bar may seek an I-601A waiver if they first receive a conditionally approved I-212 (permission to reapply for admission into the United States after deportation or removal).

Until there is further clarity on this issue, persons who have overstayed a voluntary departure period, and are subject to a final order, must exercise caution in applying for an I-601A waiver based on a conditionally approved I-212. If you are still in removal proceedings, the better course it to request administrative closure to pursue a provisional waiver. Assuming the I-601A waiver is granted, you may then file a motion to recalendar and request termination of proceedings so you may apply for an immigrant visa abroad.

More Key Things to Know

What changed under the 2016 final rule?

Although the 2016 rule kept many of the provisions under the 2013 regulation, it expands the provisional unlawful presence waiver and introduced several changes.

For more information, read Expansion of I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver: What Changed? 

When is the 3/10 year bar triggered?

If you accrue unlawful presence in the U.S. of more than 180 days to less than 1 year, you are barred from re-entering the U.S. for 3 years. The bar to re-entry is 10 years if the unlawful presence lasted 1 year or more. When you do not qualify for adjustment to permanent resident status, and must leave the U.S. for consular processing, you trigger the 3/10-year unlawful presence bar under INA section 212(a)(9)(B)(i), upon departure.

The 3/10 year bar is triggered only if you leave  the U.S. You do not need an unlawful presence waiver if you are in the U.S. and applying for adjustment to permanent resident status. If you are in the U.S. and are eligible for adjustment, you should avoid leaving the U.S. for consular processing of the immigrant visa, which will trigger the 3/10 year unlawful presence bar.

For more information, read When do you need an I-601 waiver due to unlawful presence (and how do you get it)? 

Why apply for the I-601A provisional unlawful presence waiver instead of the regular I-601 waiver?

An I-601A waiver grant gives some assurance the U.S. Consulate will excuse you from the 3/10 year bar and issue the immigrant visa. Prior to March 2013, when the I-601A waiver was first introduced under the Obama Administration, every immigrant visa applicant who was subject to the 3/10 year bar had to wait outside the U.S. to get the regular I-601 waiver, after they attended the visa interview. When the I-601 process is delayed or the application is denied, long-term family separation, job loss, and other hardships result.

If you are subject to the 3/10 year bar only, and no other grounds of inadmissibility, and you are still in the U.S., the I-601A waiver is all you need.  The I-601A process allows you to apply for the unlawful presence waiver before you leave the U.S. Your immigrant visa interview will be scheduled at the U.S. Consulate only after USCIS adjudicates the I-601A waiver application. In contrast, you may file for the regular I-601 waiver only after you have left the U.S. and attended your visa interview.

The regular I-601 waiver process requires you to wait several months or even years outside the U.S. for a decision.  On the other hand, an approved I-601A waiver application facilitates the grant of the immigrant visa and shortens the time you are separated from your U.S. citizen or permanent resident family members. With an I-601A waiver granted, you normally wait about 2 weeks for the immigrant visa to be processed.

For more information, read I-601 waiver or I-601A waiver for unlawful presence? 

Seek Help from an Experienced Immigration Attorney

Seek advice from an experienced immigration attorney to confirm whether you are inadmissible due to unlawful presence and/or other grounds, verify your eligibility for the I-601A waiver, guide you on the forms and documents to submit, and help you prepare a strong waiver application for approval.

###

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Photo by: Luis Sarabia