U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, of the spouse of a U.S. citizen after denying his two earlier requests. On the first try, he had prior counsel’s help. His second attempt was made pro se. With our representation in the third and final I-601A application, he persuaded USCIS to grant the waiver on the merits, based on the extreme hardships his U.S. citizen spouse would suffer if he were denied lawful admission to the United States. He further received an immigrant visa within three weeks of attending his interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad.
Problem: Unlawful Presence Bar
Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) states that a person who accrues unlawful presence in the U.S. for more than 180 days, but less than one year, and then departs the U.S. prior to commencement of removal proceedings, is barred from re-entering the country for three years. The bar to re-entry is 10 years if the unlawful presence lasted one year or more. The 3/10 year unlawful presence bar is triggered when the person departs the U.S. – even if it is to legalize his status by applying for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate overseas.
Our client could not adjust to permanent resident status within the United States, despite being the beneficiary of an approved I-130 immigrant petition filed by his U.S. citizen spouse. The reason is he entered the United States without proper inspection and did not meet the lawful admission requirement to file for a green card inside the country. A departure from the U.S. was necessary for him to get his immigrant visa and then return as a permanent resident.
Because he had been in the U.S. for almost 20 years without authorization (by the time the third waiver request was filed), he was subject to the 10-year unlawful presence bar to re-entry. USCIS’ grant of the I-601A provisional waiver gave him some assurance – but no guarantee – that he would be issued the immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate. The I-601A waiver covers only the unlawful presence bar, so it is subject to revocation by the U.S. Consulate if other inadmissibility grounds apply.
In its decisions denying the previous two I-601A waiver requests, USCIS stated that prior to his last illegal re-entry, the applicant may have entered the U.S. without inspection and admission or parole on more than one occasion and he may have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than one year during prior stays.
I advised the applicant and his spouse that if he had indeed illegally re-entered the country after accruing more than one year of unlawful presence, he would have a permanent bar under INA 212(a)(9)(C). While a person may file a separate Form I-212 application to be excused from this permanent bar, he may not do so until he has been outside the United States for at least 10 years.
After being advised of the risk of being found inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(C), in addition to INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i), the applicant agreed to still move forward with the I-601A waiver application and depart the U.S. for consular processing.
Solution: Provisional Waiver
To support the I-601A waiver application, I submitted a legal memorandum clarifying the applicant had just one illegal entry to the United States and was subject only to the 10-year unlawful presence bar. I pointed out that the earlier entry date on his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) application was filled out in error by a notario – without his knowledge and consent – to meet the TPS eligibility requirement. In the TPS request, he did not provide any evidence or information reflecting that earlier entry date because it did not actually occur.
I also counseled the applicant and his spouse on the documentary evidence and information to submit to meet the extreme hardship requirement. This came with challenges because the spouse did not have any serious medical condition, life-threatening illness, or other individual factor to show she would face extreme hardship due to her staying in the U.S. without her spouse or relocating abroad to be with him.
The legal memorandum outlined a multitude of factors and the totality of the circumstances to satisfy the extreme hardship standard. For instance, we described the spouse’s vulnerability to psychological problems, her reliance on him to care for their three young children, and the poor living conditions and high crime rate in his home country.
Outcome: Waiver Approval + Immigrant Visa Grant
Within four months of receiving the Form I-601A waiver application, USCIS approved it. I next provided further counseling to the applicant and his spouse on the Immigrant Visa application process and what to expect at the visa interview.
As planned, the applicant departed the United States to appear for his immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Consulate in his home country. No additional inadmissibility grounds, such as the INA 212(a)(9)(C) bar, were found by the Consulate. The I-601A waiver excused him from the 10-year unlawful presence bar and allowed him to receive the immigrant visa.
His spouse sent me a note confirming he was admitted to the United States with his immigrant visa and was granted lawful permanent residence. She wrote, “We thank you for your diligent work and your representation. I am very satisfied with your legal services and will refer you with no hesitation.“
The two prior I-601A denials and possible INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i) bar did not deter the applicant from pursuing the waiver a third time before finally receiving it and the immigrant visa 11 years after the I-130 had been filed. Thankfully, he was able to return home to his family and continue his life in the U.S. as a permanent resident, after living in the country for almost 20 years without status.
Representing the applicant in his third and final I-601A waiver request and guiding him through the Immigrant Visa process led to true success.
Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
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 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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