Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility

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What is Form I-601?

Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, is a form used by individuals seeking an immigration benefit, such as a visa or green card, but are deemed inadmissible to the country for various reasons.

Inadmissibility refers to the legal barriers that may prevent someone from obtaining permanent residence in the U.S.

Grounds of inadmissibility can include factors such as:

  • Health-related grounds: Individuals with certain communicable diseases 
  • Criminal history: Individuals with certain criminal convictions 
  • Fraud or misrepresentation: Providing false information or committing fraud in the immigration process 
  • National security: Individuals with connections to terrorism or other security threats 
  • Unlawful presence: Individuals who have accrued unlawful presence in the U.S. 
  • Public charge: Individuals who will likely rely on government benefits

Form I-601 is used to request a waiver of some of these grounds of inadmissibility. 

If the waiver is approved, it allows the individual to overcome the specific inadmissibility barrier and obtain an immigrant visa (if located abroad) or green card (if in the U.S.)

What does “inadmissibility” mean?

In U.S. immigration law, “inadmissibility” refers to the legal determination that an individual is not eligible to enter or remain in the U.S. 

When someone is found inadmissible, it means they are prohibited from obtaining a visa or a green card.

What does “ground of inadmissibility” mean?

“Grounds of inadmissibility” refer to the specific reasons under which an individual may be deemed ineligible to obtain permanent residency.

These grounds of inadmissibility cover a wide range of factors, including health, criminal history, security concerns, immigration violations, and other considerations. 

What does “waiver” mean for purposes of Form I-601 applications?

In the context of Form I-601 applications, a “waiver” means a request for forgiveness or an exception from certain grounds of inadmissibility. 

When an applicant is determined to be inadmissible based on certain grounds, such as unlawful presence, fraud or misrepresentation, or certain criminal offenses, they may submit a Form I-601 to request a waiver. 

The purpose of the waiver is to ask the U.S. government to forgive the specific grounds of inadmissibility, allowing the individual to obtain an immigrant visa or a green card.

Who can file Form I-601?

Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, can be filed by individuals who are deemed inadmissible to the U.S. for the following reasons:

    1. Unlawful Presence: Individuals who have accrued unlawful presence in the United States may face 3-year or 10-year bars on reentry
    2. Criminal Convictions: Individuals with certain criminal convictions may be inadmissible to the U.S.
    3. Fraud or Misrepresentation: If an applicant is found to have provided false information or committed fraud during the immigration process
    4. Health-Related Grounds: If an individual is found to have certain communicable diseases
    5. Immigrant membership in totalitarian party: If an individual has been a member of or affiliated with the Communist or any other totalitarian party
    6. Alien smuggler: If an individual engaged in alien smuggling
    7. Being subject to civil penalty: If an individual has been the subject of a final order for violation of INA section 274C (document fraud).

When Form I-601 must be filed?

The timing of Form I-601 application depends on the location of the applicant:

If the applicant is in the U.S.

If the applicant is physically present in the U.S., eligible for Adjustment of Status and is filing Form I-485, Form I-601 can be filed:

  • With Form I-485
  • At the time of Form I-485 interview at USCIS local office
  • After the determination of inadmissibility is made by the USCIS officer

If the applicant is physically present in the U.S. and is not eligible for Adjustment of Status, Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, can be filed:

If the applicant is outside the U.S.

If the applicant is physically present outside the U.S., Form I-601 can be filed:

  • After the consular officer makes the determination of inadmissibility and if the waiver is available, the applicant files Form I-601 with USCIS. If Form I-601 is approved, the applicant will return to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate for visa approval.

What is “Extreme Hardship” in Form I-601 applications?

The basis for filing Form I-601 waiver is to seek relief from the grounds of inadmissibility due to the presence of a “qualifying relative” who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and the denial of admission would result in “extreme hardship” to that qualifying relative.

Extreme hardship is a legal standard that requires more than the normal hardship that might be expected from the denial of a visa or a green card application.

It involves showing that the denial would cause a level of hardship to the qualifying relative that goes beyond the typical or expected difficulties associated with family separation.

Factors that may be considered by USCIS in demonstrating extreme hardship can include, but are not limited to:

Factors

Considerations

Family Ties and Impact
  • Qualifying relative’s ties to family members living in the U.S., including age, status, and length of residence of any children.
  • Responsibility for the care of any family members in the U.S., particularly children, elderly adults, and disabled adults.
  • The qualifying relative’s ties, including family ties, to the country of relocation, if any.
  • Nature of relationship between the applicant and the qualifying relative, including any facts about the particular relationship that would either aggravate or lessen the hardship resulting from separation.
  • Qualifying relative’s age.
  • Length of qualifying relative’s residence in the U.S.
  • Length of qualifying relative’s prior residence in the country of relocation, if any.
  • Prior or current military service of qualifying relative.
  • Impact on the cognitive, social, or emotional well-being of a qualifying relative who is left to replace the applicant as caregiver for someone else, or impact on the qualifying relative (for example, child or parent) for whom such care is required.
Social and Cultural Impact
  • Loss of access to the U.S. courts and the criminal justice system, including the loss of opportunity to request or provide testimony in criminal investigations or prosecutions; to participate in proceedings to enforce labor, employment, or civil rights laws; to participate in family law proceedings, victim’s compensation proceedings, or other civil proceedings; or to obtain court orders regarding protection, child support, maintenance, child custody, or visitation.
  • Fear of persecution or societal discrimination.
  • Prior grant of U nonimmigrant status.
  • Existence of laws and social practices in the country of relocation that would punish the qualifying relative because he or she has been in the U.S. or is perceived to have Western values.
  • Access or lack of access to social institutions and structures (official and unofficial) for support, guidance, or protection.
  • Social ostracism or stigma based on characteristics such as gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, national origin, ethnicity, citizenship, age, political opinion, marital status, or disability.
  • Qualifying relative’s community ties in the U.S. and in the country of relocation.
  • Extent to which the qualifying relative has integrated into U.S. culture, including language, skills, and acculturation.
  • Extent to which the qualifying relative would have difficulty integrating into the country of relocation, including understanding and adopting social norms and established customs, including gender roles and ethical or moral codes.
  • Difficulty and expense of travel/communication to maintain ties between qualifying relative and applicant, if the qualifying relative does not relocate.
  • Qualifying relative’s present inability to communicate in the language of the country of relocation, as well as the time and difficulty that learning that language would entail.
  • Availability and quality of educational opportunities for qualifying relative (and children, if any) in the country of relocation.
  • Availability and quality of job training, including technical or vocational opportunities, for qualifying relative (and children, if any) in the country of relocation.
Economic Impact
  • Economic impact of applicant’s departure on the qualifying relative, including the applicant’s or qualifying relative’s ability to obtain employment in the country of relocation.
  • Economic impact resulting from the sale of a home, business, or other asset.
  • Economic impact resulting from the termination of a professional practice.
  • Decline in the standard of living, including due to significant unemployment, underemployment, or other lack of economic opportunity in the country of relocation.
  • Ability to recoup losses, or repay student loan debt.
  • Cost of extraordinary needs, such as special education or training for children.
  • Cost of care for family members, including children and elderly, sick, or disabled parents.
Health Conditions
?and Care
  • Health conditions and the availability and quality of any required medical treatment in the country to which the applicant would be returned, including length and cost of treatment.
  • Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to either separation from the applicant or departure from the U.S., including separation from other family members living in the U.S.
  • Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to the suffering of the applicant.
  • Prior trauma suffered by the qualifying relative that may aggravate the psychological impact of separation or relocation, including trauma evidenced by prior grants of asylum, refugee status, or other forms of humanitarian protection.
Country Conditions
  • Conditions in the country of relocation, including civil unrest or generalized levels of violence, current U.S. military operations in the country, active U.S. economic sanctions against the country, ability of country to address significant crime, environmental catastrophes like flooding or earthquakes, and other socio-economic or political conditions that jeopardize safe repatriation or lead to reasonable fear of physical harm.
  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation.
  • Danger Pay for U.S. government workers stationed in the country of nationality.
  • Withdrawal of Peace Corps from the country of nationality for security reasons.
  • U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings or Alerts, whether or not they constitute a particularly significant factor
Particularly Significant Factors
  • Qualifying Relative Previously Granted Iraqi or Afghan Special Immigrant Status, T Nonimmigrant Status, or Asylum or Refugee Status
  • Qualifying Relative or Related Family Member’s Disability
  • Qualifying Relative’s Military Service
  • U.S. Department of State Travel Warnings
  • Substantial Displacement of Care of Applicant’s Children

Who can become a “Qualifying Relative” for Form I-601 purposes?

A “qualifying relative” is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family member who would experience extreme hardship if the intending immigrant (the person applying for an immigrant visa or a green card) is denied entry due to grounds of inadmissibility. 

The qualifying relative is a key element in establishing eligibility for the Form I-601 waiver.

The following family members can serve as qualifying relatives for the purposes of Form I-601:

Ground of inadmissibility

Your (applicant’s relationship) to the qualifying relative

Health-related grounds The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Green card holder, or
  • Approved immigrant visa holder

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Parent
  • Unmarried son or daughter 
  • Unmarried minor lawfully adopted child of a U.S. citizen
  • Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen, or
  • Fiancé(e)’s child

Note: This waiver is available for approved VAWA self-petitioners (no qualifying relative is required)

Criminal Grounds or Immigration Fraud or Misrepresentation The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Green card holder

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Parent
  • Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen

Note: This waiver is available for approved VAWA self-petitioners (no qualifying relative is required)

Immigrant membership in totalitarian party The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • U.S. citizen

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Parent
  • Spouse
  • Son
  • Daughter
  • Brother
  • Sister 
  • Fiancé(e)
The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • Green card holder

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Son
  • Daughter
Alien smuggling or Civil penalty The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • U.S. citizen

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under 21
  • Parent
  • Unmarried son or daughter
  • Married son or daughter
  • Fiancé(e) of a U.S. citizen, or
  • Fiancé(e)’s child
The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • Green card holder

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Unmarried child under 21
  • Unmarried son or daughter over 21
Unlawful presence (3-year or 10-year bars) The qualifying relative’s immigration status:

  • U.S. citizen
  • Green card holder, or

You are the qualifying relative’s:

  • Spouse
  • Parent

How to prepare and file Form I-601

Preparing and filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, is a complex legal process, and it’s highly recommended to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that the application is accurate and complete. 

Here is a general overview of the Form I-601 submission process:

Step 1. Eligibility Determination:

  • Identify the specific grounds of inadmissibility that apply to your case
  • Determine if you are eligible for a waiver based on the applicable legal criteria

Step 2. Complete the Form:

  • Download the latest edition of Form I-601 from USCIS official website
  • Sign and date the form in ink. USCIS does not accept computer-generated or stamped signatures

Step 3. Gather Supporting Documents:

  • Collect all necessary supporting documents, such as evidence of the qualifying relationship, evidence of extreme hardship, and any other supporting documentation relevant to your case
  • Documents in a foreign language must be translated to English

Step 4. Filing Fee:

  • Check the current filing fee for Form I-601 
  • Include the correct filing fee with your application. Payment can be made by personal check, money order, cashier’s check or credit card (Form G-1450)

Step 5. Mail the Application:

  • Mail the completed Form I-601 and supporting documents to the correct filing address
  • Make a copy of the completed application for your records
  • It’s advisable to mail the application via express mail with a tracking number

Step 6. Await USCIS Processing:

  • Receipt notices are typically mailed to applicants within 2-3 weeks after the submission date
  • USCIS will review the application and may request additional evidence (Request for Evidence)
  • Applicants in the U.S. might be required to attend a biometrics appointment

Step 7. Decision and Next Steps:

  • USCIS will notify you of the decision. If the waiver is approved, you can proceed with your immigration application (either with USCIS or US Embassy/Consulate)
  • If the waiver is denied, you can file an appeal within 30 days by filing Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

Form I-601 filing fee

Form I-601 filing fee is $930. Acceptable forms of payment include:

  • Money order
  • Personal check
  • Cashier’s check, or 
  • Credit card payment using Form G-1450, Authorization for Credit Card Transactions. 

If you pay by check, it must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The following individuals do not have to pay the filing fee for Form I-601:

  • Afghan special immigrants
  • Afghan national beneficiaries who have an approved Form I-130

USCIS fees are subject to change. Check the most current Form I-601 filing fee on USCIS website.

Form I-601 checklist of required documents

Preparing a complete and accurate set of supporting documents is crucial when filing Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. 

The specific documents required may vary based on the grounds of inadmissibility you are seeking a waiver for. 

Below is a general checklist of documents commonly required for Form I-601 applications:

Evidence required

Examples of acceptable documents

(submit PHOTOCOPIES only)

Completed and signed Form I-601
  • Download the most recent edition of Form I-601 on USCIS website
  • Answer all questions
  • Sign and date the form
  • Unsigned, undated or outdated editions of Form I-601 will be rejected by USCIS
Filing fee of $930
Cover letter
  • A cover letter explaining in detail why your Form I-601 application must be approved as a matter of discretion and what favorable factors outweigh the negative factors
Proof of relationship to the qualifying relative
  • Marriage certificate
  • Birth certificate
Affidavits
  • Letters from friends, family members, or community members attesting to your good moral character, positive contributions, and the impact of your absence on the qualifying relative.
Evidence of Extreme Hardship to the qualifying relative Documents demonstrating the extreme hardship that would be suffered by the qualifying relative if the waiver is not granted:

  • Medical records
  • Psychological evaluations
  • Financial records 
  • Country conditions reports
Evidence of Rehabilitation (if applicable)
  • If the inadmissibility is related to criminal or fraudulent activities, provide evidence of rehabilitation or steps taken to rectify the situation
Criminal Records (if applicable)
  • If the waiver is based on criminal grounds of inadmissibility, provide certified copies of court records, disposition, and any relevant police reports.
Qualifying relative’s U.S. military records (if applicable)
  • If the qualifying relative served or currently serves in the U.S. military
English translations
  • If any supporting documents are in a foreign language, provide certified English translations
  • Attach the photocopy of the original document in foreign language

Where to send Form I-601

The specific Form I-601 mailing address depends on the type of waiver you are applying for and your location. 

USCIS periodically updates mailing addresses, so it’s crucial to check the latest information before submitting your application:

Direct Filing Addresses for Form I-601

Make a photocopy of the completed application for your records. Mail the application via express mail with a tracking number.

You can also submit a completed Form G-1145 with your application to receive a text message or an email with a receipt number once USCIS registers your application.

Form I-601 processing time

The average processing time for Form I-601 is approximately 22 months:

  • Nebraska Service Center – 22 months;
  • All field offices – 22 months.

Processing times for Form I-601 vary depending on several factors, including the workload at the specific U.S. USCIS service center processing the application and the complexity of the case. 

To check the most current processing times for Form I-601:

  • Visit the USCIS website at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times
  • Choose “Form-601” and the specific field office or service center processing your case
  • The name of the service center handling your case can be found in the lower left corner of your Form I-601 receipt notice.

Keep in mind that processing times are general estimates, and individual cases may take less or more time to complete.

Additionally, USCIS may issue Requests for Evidence (RFEs) during the processing of your application, which can add to the overall processing time. 

It’s crucial to respond promptly and thoroughly if you receive an RFE to avoid delays.

If your case is outside the normal processing time, you place an Outside Normal Processing Time e-Request or request assistance from your local congressman’s office.

How long will the approved Form I-601 waiver be valid for?

The validity period of an approved Form I-601 waiver is indefinite

Can I appeal a denial of Form I-601 application?

Yes. If your Form I-601 is denied by USCIS, you can appeal the decision within 30 days by filing Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion

Form I-290B filing fee is $675.

Related Links:

How to Prove Extreme Hardship for a Waiver, Form I-601