What is an I-601 or I-601A waiver?
If an immigrant enters the U.S. unlawfully, he or she is not eligible to obtain a green card within
the U.S. on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen. He or she would have to go abroad to get the
visa approved. However, most people in that situation would then be prohibited from returning
to the U.S. for lengthy periods unless they received a “waiver,” or forgiveness, of the unlawful
presence in the U.S. By filing the I-601 form and supporting documentation for a waiver, they
risked the nightmarish process of being stuck abroad while waiting on a waiver decision for
months, or worse, denial and subsequent banishment from the US for up to 10 years. In 2012,
the Obama administration instituted the “provisional” waiver program, which allows people
subject to the 3 and 10 year bars to apply for a waiver of that inadmissibility BEFORE leaving
the U.S. to consular process. This means that by filing an I-601A waiver application after an
approved visa petition, the applicant can find out whether the waiver of unlawful presence has
been approved before deciding to leave the U.S. to interview for an immigrant visa. If it is
approved, he or she would have a much greater chance of obtaining the visa abroad and entering
the U.S .as a permanent resident. (Note: waivers are potentially available to other categories of
immigrants as well.)
The waiver applicant has to be able to demonstrate extreme hardship to a spouse or parent, who
must be a Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident. This requires extensive documentation and
proof according to USCIS criteria.
The Woog Law Office has received approvals on many complicated waiver cases. It is
important to have your case evaluated by a qualified attorney to see whether it will be beneficial
to apply for a waiver of unlawful presence to try to obtain a green card.