For Michigan families who are trying to keep their loved ones in the country during the immigration process, the challenges can seem overwhelming. Because U.S. immigration law is changing constantly, noncitizens who cannot immediately change their status face uncertainty about how to obtain their immigrant visa without having to leave the country.
Fortunately, there are options that will help these families to stay together while the spouses, children, or parents of U.S. citizens are going through the process of obtaining immigrant status. In some cases, these family members face political or economic risks if they must return home to adjust their status.
What is the I601A waiver?
Immigration law allowing provisional unlawful presence waivers only to certain visa applicants was expanded in 2016 to allow all eligible applicants to apply. Under normal circumstances, noncitizens must first appear for an immigrant visa interview in their home country before awaiting approval from the U.S. Department of State.
Before these changes, aliens who could not change their status while in the United States or who had stayed beyond the expiration of their visa faced deportation to their home countries, with a bar to returning of three to ten years. In the meantime, they had to apply through the immigrant visa process, which can take years.
With the I601A waiver, those eligible for immigrant status as well as those who would be inadmissible for lawful presence in the United States can now stay with their families while they are awaiting a change in status. This waiver will shorten the time that families must be apart while they are applying.
What are the qualifications for the I601A waiver?
There are four levels of hardship under which the applicant may qualify to be eligible for the I601A waiver, with the Level 1 being the most likely avenue for granting the waiver. The four hardship levels are:
- That the applicant is a relative of an individual whose major medical condition requires them to remain in the United States to care for their ill relative, or their native country is in a state of war
- That the applicant cares for a sick relative whose medical condition prevents them from traveling abroad, or their native country is in political upheaval
- That the applicant cares for a relative with significant health issues making travel difficult, or their home country has a poor economy
- That the applicant has a relative who cannot repay debts abroad, or has aging parents
Because the USCIS determines hardship status on a case-by-case basis, hardship created by separation alone is not necessarily sufficient grounds for eligibility.