U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently provided new data on its processing of waiver applications. The numbers reveal that USCIS is still approving a majority of waiver (I-601) and provisional waiver (I-601A) applications it receives.
What do the numbers say?
USCIS provided the following information in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA).
For I-601 waivers:
The data show numbers from 2010 to 2015.
- The average approval rate for I-601 waivers is 79.6% (for a total of 51,628);
- The average denial rate is 20.4% (for a total of 13,198);
- The average Request for Evidence (RFE)* rate is 18.8%.
For I-601A provisional waivers:
The data show numbers from March 2013, when the program started, to 2015.
- The average approval rate for I-601A waivers is 70.2% (for a total of 44,198);
- The average denial rate is 29.8% (for a total of 18,775);
- The average RFE* rate is 26.2%.
*An RFE is issued when the reviewing officer believes that there is some deficiency in the evidence submitted and requests that the applicant submit more evidence on one or more topics.
The data indicate that many individuals are taking advantage of the I-601A provisional waiver program, which allows them to file waiver applications and adjust to permanent resident status in the U.S.rather than having to apply in their home countries. This can significantly reduce the amount of time they need to spend in their home countries while their applications are pending approval. USCIS received 85,000 I-601 waiver applications in the five year period between 2010 and 2015, while it received close to 74,500 I-601A applications in just over two years.
What are waivers?
Because of the requirements of immigration law, some people need to obtain a waiver, or permission from USCIS, before they can qualify for permanent residency (also known as a “green card”). In other words, immigration law considers some individuals to be “inadmissible” for permanent residency unless and until USCIS approves their waiver. Individuals need a waiver for various reasons including certain criminal convictions, entering the U.S. without permission, or committing immigration fraud. Individuals who are “inadmissible” for having entered the U.S. without permission and who remained more than six months are required by immigration law to remain outside the U.S. for three or ten years, before becoming eligible for permanent residency, unless they qualify for a waiver. Individuals applying for a waiver must also have a “qualifying relative,” in the U.S., normally a U.S. citizen or resident spouse or parents.
The I-601A Provisional Waiver
In general, the I-601A provisional waiver is only available to certain individuals currently in the U.S. who require a waiver for having entered the U.S. without permission one time and have remained in the U.S. since that entry for more than six months. See here for more information on who requires and who qualifies for the I-601A provisional waiver. In order for USCIS to approve I-601A waivers, the applicant must show that his or her qualifying relative will suffer “extreme hardship” if the waiver is denied. If the waiver is denied, the applicant would have to spend three or ten years outside the U.S. The benefit of filing the I-601A provisional waiver is that the applicant can file the waiver while residing in the U.S. rather than having to apply for residency at a consulate abroad.
The I-601 Waiver
The I-601 waiver is available to individuals whom immigration laws deem “inadmissible” for additional reasons beyond entering the U.S. without permission, such as individuals with two or more convictions of certain crimes or who have committed immigration fraud, such as entering the U.S. with a fake tourist visa. The I-601 waiver is also available to individuals that do not qualify for an I-601A provisional waiver, such as spouses of permanent residents or married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens.
Please contact an immigration attorney at Minsky, McCormick & Hallagan, P.C. if you or someone you know may benefit from an I-601A provisional waiver or an I-601 waiver.