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Your complete guide to form I-601: Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

Form I-601 is the official government document acting as a waiver of inadmissibility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), issue this form to applicants and handle its processing.

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I-601 – Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

Certain foreign citizens might find that they are ineligible to immigrate to the United States due to being "inadmissible." However, this does not mean that the U.S. is off-limits to the inadmissible individual. 

Form I-601 is the official government document acting as a waiver of inadmissibility. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), issue this form to applicants and handle its processing.

What Does "Inadmissibility" Mean?

Despite being eligible to receive a Green card or a visa, the U.S. government has the right to refuse entry to any immigrant that falls with a comprehensive list of grounds of inadmissibility, as per Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). 

The concept of the Act is to protect the people of the United States from immigrants that might pose national security or public health risks. The Act also protects the country from immigrants seeking to live in the U.S. to access free public services assisted by the government, such as welfare.

Some of the grounds of inadmissibility will apply to all immigration applicants. Those applicants with criminal records or established links to terrorist organizations deemed inadmissible to enter the United States. 

Some of the grounds of inadmissibility apply to specific categories of immigrant visa applications, but not with others. 

For example, grounds of inadmissibility typically apply to families seeking immigrant visas. These families must prove that they won't require public assistance after entering the United States. The U.S. government does its best to avoid "public charges" at all costs.

What to do If You Find You're Inadmissible?

Many people discover their status of inadmissibility after doing their research on government websites, or when consulting with an immigration lawyer. 

Those applicants that discover their inadmissible status have the chance to submit the Form I-601 waiver request. Applicants attach Form I-601 along with your request to save some filing time with the administration department. 

The benefits for the applicant are even better if they find they're inadmissible based on their unlawful presence in the United States. Typically, in these situations, the immigrant applicant is likely to experience a three or 10-year ban, should they leave the country for their consular interview, for example. 

Immediate relatives of a permanent resident or U.S. citizens have the chance to apply for a "stateside" or "provisional" waiver by filing form I-601A, rather than the standard Form I-601. By using this filing strategy, applicants can receive an answer to their status before they depart.

However, some applicants might only discover their inadmissibility status during their Green Card or immigrant visa interview. 

If that's the case, then the waiver might be available to assist you with handling your application, providing the applicant with more time to submit their waiver request. 

What Are the Processing Times for Form I—601 Waivers?

Processing times for I-601 waiver applications depends on several factors involved with the filing process, including the filing location, as well as the difficulty level required with assessing and reviewing the application.

Some offices of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are currently experiencing shortages in staff, resulting in delays in processing times. 

The difficulty level involved with reviewing and processing your case is also a factor. Additional research into your application by the USCIS might require applicants to complete a Request for Evidence (R.F.E.) form. 

The USCIS receives your information and then waits for an official reply from government officials before making the final decision involved with your waiver request. 

What Is the Process for Filing I-601 Waivers Inside the United States?

The USCIS does not publish processing times on its official website for I-601 waivers. However, based on the immigration lawyer's experiences with filing the necessary waiver documents, we find that most applicants receive a response on their application within four to six months. 

However, it might take the USCIS just as long to get round to reviewing your case as well. If you have any concerns about what's taking the USCIS so long with processing your application, you can reach out to the customer service number. 

When calling, you'll need to provide a customer service agent with your case number, which applicants can find on their I-797 receipt notice. 

What Is the Process for Filing I-601 Waivers Outside the United States?

The processing times on I-601 waivers filed internationally at a foreign USCIS office can vary widely. However, immigration lawyers experienced in the process note that most applicants receive action on their case within 6 to 12-months after filing.

In some cases, it may take longer than a year, depending on the supporting documents or requests or information needed by the USCIS.

The I-601 Waiver Doesn't Cover All Grounds of Inadmissibility

There are specific grounds of inadmissibility that the U.S. government deems so severe, applicants receive a refusal of the right to a waiver. 

For example, those individuals that the USCIS or U.S. government authorities believe have involvement with torture, murder, drug use or trafficking, spying, and terrorism receive a denial on any waiver requests on criminal grounds. Individuals involved with the persecution or genocide of others, or those that make false claims to obtain lawful permanent resident status U.S. citizenship, also experience denial of the provisional waiver request.

Applicants need to carefully examine all the grounds for inadmissibility listed on the I.N.A. The comprehensive list details all of the grounds of inadmissibility, allowing applicants to check if they meet the terms required for filing the Form I-601 waiver.

Applicants should enlist the services of a licensed and experienced immigration attorney when handling their application. An immigration attorney can assist with the paperwork and filing process, improving the chances of a positive outcome with your request.

What Are the Basic Eligibility Requirements for Filing Form I-601?

To qualify for filing Form I-601 during the Green Card or visa process, applicants must check the USCIS website, and see if they fall into one of the following immigration categories.

  • Application for an immigrant visa

  • Application for adjustment of status

  • Request for a K-1, K-2, K-3, K-4, or V nonimmigrant visa

  • Application for temporary protected status

  • Application through the Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act

  • Application through the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act

  • Application through the Violence Against Women Act self-petition

However, applicants need to note that merely fitting into one of the above categories does not ensure you are eligible to file Form I-601. Applicants also need to ensure that there are waivers available in their specific category as well.

How Can Applicants Present a Convincing Case for Obtaining an I-601 Waiver? 

Applicants will need to present a sympathetic case to officials at USCIS to qualify for filing Form I-601. The USCIS makes waiver approvals based on its discretion. 

Despite the applicant correctly filing all the documentation with the relevant departments of USCIS, USCIS is under no obligation to grant your provisional waiver status. 

The USCIS holds the final checkpoint to access the United States in the waiver process. If they feel that the applicant might be hiding something not discovered in the application proves, to claim an immigration benefit, they can still deny the applicant their waiver approval by citing immigration fraud as a concern.

Therefore, applicants need to submit the correct forms and paperwork, but they also need to provide documents from authoritative sources that back up their statements. Many of the waiver approvals granted by the USCIS involve the applicant proving extreme hardship on family members if they do not return to the country. 

Therefore, some applicants might need to show the USCIS immigration officers, that upon the denial of their Green Card, the applicant's family would not only experience the psychological stress of separation from you but would also encounter extreme financial hardship without your return to the U.S.

Where are the Filing Locations for Submitting Form I-601?

The applicants filing outside of the United States must ensure that they file Form I-601 with the U.S. Consulate or Embassy in their home country. 

Those applicants filing from within the United States, and are applying to adjust their status, can file Form I-601 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

What are the Filing Fees Involved with Form I-601?

Applicants will have to pay a processing fee when filing Form I-601. However, it's important to note that these fees can change regularly and without any notice to applicants. 

Applicants should check the I-601 landing page on the USCIS government website to check for the current fees involved.

It's also important to note that some applicants may qualify for a waiver of the processing fees for their application. If you meet any of the following criteria, you might be eligible.

  • VAWA self-petitioner

  • An applicant for a U or T visa

  • You are the battered spouse or child of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent U.S. resident 

  • Applicants for Temporary Protected Status

The takeaway

Applicants need to understand that filing Form I-601 with the USCIS is a complex process involving many hoops that you'll need to jump through during the application period. 

Consulting with an expert in immigration law is a must for applicants that want to ensure the best chances of receiving approval of their waiver.

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