What is Form I-601A?
Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, is a form by certain individuals who are eligible for immigrant visas but may be subject to the three- or ten-year bar on re-entry due to accruing unlawful presence in the U.S.
Unlawful presence refers to the period that an individual spends in the U.S. without being in a lawful immigration status.
The three- or ten-year bars on re-entry come into play when someone departs the U.S. after accruing a certain amount of unlawful presence and then seeks to re-enter legally. The bars can pose obstacles to obtaining an immigrant visa.
The purpose of Form I-601A is to request a provisional waiver of the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility before the individual departs the U.S. to attend a visa interview at a U.S. consulate or embassy abroad.
If approved, the provisional waiver aims to reduce the time the applicant is separated from their family.
Who can file Form I-601A?
Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, can be filed by the applicants who meet the following criteria:
- Physical presence in the U.S.: Applicant must be physically present in the U.S. when Form I-601A is filed
- Age: Applicant must be over 17 years of age at the time of Form I-601A filing
- Immigrant visa eligibility: Applicant is eligible for an immigrant visa in the following categories:
- Applicant is the principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-130, Form I-140, or Form I-360;
- Applicant is the spouse or child of a principal beneficiary of an approved immigrant visa petition;
- Applicant has been selected in the Diversity Visa (DV) lottery; or
- Applicant is the spouse or child of a Diversity Visa (DV) lottery selectee
- Case is pending with the U.S. Department of State: The applicant must have paid the immigrant visa fees and the case is pending with the U.S. Department of State (National Visa Center)
- Accrual of Unlawful Presence: The applicant must have accrued a certain period of unlawful presence in the U.S.:
- More than 180 days, but less than 1 year during a single stay; or
- One year or more during a single stay.
- Extreme Hardship: The applicant must demonstrate that their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent would experience “extreme hardship” if the applicant is not issued an immigrant visa.
Who cannot file Form I-601A?
The following individuals cannot file Form I-601A:
- You are not physically present in the U.S.;
- You are under 17 years of age;
- You have a pending Form I-485 application with USCIS;
- You are in removal (deportation proceedings). Exception: if your removal proceedings were administratively closed and have not been placed back on immigration court calendar;
- You have a final order of removal, exclusion or deportation. Exception: you have an approved Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the U.S. after Deportation or Removal
- You were served Form I-871, Notice of Intent/Decision to Reinstate Prior Order
- You are subject to an unexpired grant of voluntary departure.
Who can become a “qualifying relative” for Form I-601A purposes?
Your spouse or your parent who is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can become a qualifying relative for your Form I-601A waiver application.
The qualifying relative does not need to be the same person who filed your Form I-130 petition.
What is “Extreme Hardship” in Form I-601A applications?
The basis for filing Form I-601A waiver is to seek relief from the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility due to the presence of a “qualifying relative” who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse or parent, 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 an immigrant visa 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:
|Family Ties and Impact
|Social and Cultural Impact
|Particularly Significant Factors
When Form I-601A must be filed?
Form I-601A must be filed with USCIS while the applicant is physically present in the U.S. before he/she leaves the U.S. to appear at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate for an immigrant visa interview.
What is the difference between Form I-601 and Form I-601A?
The key differences between Form I-601 and Form I-601A include:
- Form I-601: This form is the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility. It is used to request a waiver for various grounds of inadmissibility that may prevent an individual from being eligible for a U.S. visa or green card. Grounds of inadmissibility can include issues such as fraud and misrepresentation, certain criminal offenses, health-related concerns, and more.
- Form I-601A: This form is the Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver. It specifically addresses the ground of inadmissibility related to unlawful presence in the U.S. It allows certain individuals to request a provisional waiver before departing the U.S. for consular processing of an immigrant visa.
- Form I-601: Generally, Form I-601 is filed after an individual attends a U.S. consular interview abroad and is found inadmissible. It is a waiver application filed in response to a specific finding of inadmissibility.
- Form I-601A: This form is filed before the individual departs the U.S. for consular processing. It is a provisional waiver, meaning that if approved, it allows the individual to address the unlawful presence ground of inadmissibility before leaving the U.S., reducing the time of separation from family.
- Form I-601: Individuals facing various grounds of inadmissibility, not limited to unlawful presence, may be eligible to file Form I-601. Eligibility for filing Form I-601 is discussed in our guide.
- Form I-601A: This form is specifically designed for individuals who are eligible for an immigrant visa, have accrued unlawful presence in the U.S., and are physically present in the U.S. at the time of filing.
How to prepare and file Form I-601A
Preparing and filing Form I-601A is a complex legal process, and it’s highly recommended to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney to ensure that the application meets the “extreme hardship” standard.
Here is a general overview of the Form I-601A submission process:
Step 1. Eligibility Determination:
- Determine if you are eligible for a waiver based on the applicable legal criteria – you must be over 17 years of age, physically present in the U.S. and have an approved immigrant petition
Step 2. Complete the Form:
- Download the latest edition of Form I-601A 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 immigrant visa approval notice, proof of immigrant visa application fees payment, 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-601A
- 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:
- You must be physically present in the U.S. when you sign and submit the Form I-601A application to USCIS
- Mail the completed Form I-601A 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 might be required to attend a biometrics appointment
Step 7. Decision and Next Steps:
- It’s not recommended that you travel abroad before your Form I-601A is approved.
- USCIS will notify you of the decision. If the waiver is approved, you can proceed with your immigration application at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad
- If the waiver is denied, you can file a new Form I-601A application with USCIS.
Form I-601A filing fee
The filing fee for Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver depends on the applicant’s age:
- If under 79 years of age: $630 + $85 biometric fee. Total: $715
- If over 79 years of age: $630
Acceptable forms of payment:
- Money order
- Personal check
- Cashier’s check, or
- Pay by credit card using Form G-1450
If you pay by check, it must be payable to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
USCIS fees are subject to change, so check the most current Form I-601A filing on USCIS website.
Form I-601A checklist of required documents
The checklist of required documents you must submit with Form I-601A:
Examples of acceptable documents
|Completed and signed Form I-601A
|Evidence of Eligibility for an Immigrant Visa
|Evidence of relationship to the qualifying relative
|Evidence of the qualifying relative’s immigration status
|If the qualifying relative is a U.S. citizen (at least one of the following documents):
If the qualifying relative is a permanent resident:
|Evidence of extreme hardship
|Proof that denial of your immigrant visa will result in extreme hardship to your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent:
|Evidence your case warrants a favorable exercise of discretion
Form I-601A processing time
The average processing time for Form I-601A is approximately 44 months according to the USCIS website.
Processing times for Form I-601A 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-601A:
- Visit the USCIS website at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times
- Choose “Form-601A”
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.