An I-601 waiver is filed by a US green card applicant to overcome some sort of inadmissibility to the United States. The most common types of inadmissibility connected to an I-601 waiver are overstays (whether with a visa or having entered without authorization), misrepresentation or fraud, and certain criminal matters. If the I-601 waiver is not approved, the applicant is not getting a green card to immigrate to America.

I-601 Waiver Filing Process

Unfortunately, most green card applicants who file their cases without a green card attorney do not realize that they are inadmissible to the United States and, therefore, need an I-601 waiver until they are literally at the immigrant visa interview at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. By then, the green card applicant has usually waited many months from the time the original petition was filed with USCIS. If the applicant did know, in advance, that he or she needed an I-601 waiver, it may be possible to turn the waiver in right then at the interview. However, for most applicants, they must be given time to work on the waiver and will return to the US Embassy or Consulate at a later time to turn it in or, in rare cases, be allowed to mail it in. Given the complexity of preparing a winning I-601 waiver, this period of time can be anywhere from a couple of weeks to up to a year.

Once the waiver is prepared, paid for, and turned in, the applicant must now wait for a decision. In most parts of the world, processing for a I-601 waiver can take months. In some locations, such as Mexico, an I-601 waiver can take over a year.

I-601 Waiver Expedite Process

Given that most I-601 waivers are filed when the green card applicant is outside the US, the time it takes to get a decision on the waiver often poses a hardship on family members whose lives are on hold until a decision is made. For example, if the husband of a US Citizen is waiting in Mexico for his I-601 waiver to be decided, his wife and children may be residing in the United States without him. His absence may create serious financial consequences for the family as the mother may need to pay for child care so that she can get a job to support the family while he is away.

As a green card lawyer, I field many questions about how to speed up the process when a family is waiting for a loved one to return. The simple answer is that many do not qualify for speedier, or expedited, processing. Although the absence of a loved one, provider, or supporter may be dire in a family’s eyes, this situation is the rule rather than the exemption. If USCIS were to grant an expedite whenever the absence created hardship, there would not be many cases left to process through regular channels.

However, there are some I-601 waiver cases that do warrant expedited process. Those cases usually involve life-threatening illnesses or imminent military deployment. In a nutshell, the circumstances must be extraordinary. Up until now, there has been no formal process that a green card lawyer could undertaken in order to request an I-601 waiver expedite. Instead, the requests are made informally in formats that may vary from country to country. Prior to requesting an expedite, the green card lawyer must research the informal procedures utilized by the USCIS office in question.  What’s worse is that there is typically no response to an expedite request. If it is approved, the client will receive a decision on the I-601 waiver faster than everybody else. If it is denied, the green card lawyer will be able to (eventually) tell based on the fact that no decision is forthcoming.

USCIS proposes implementation of a formal I-601 waiver expedite process

In early January 2011, USCIS posted a draft policy memo that, if implemented, will formalize the way applicants can request an expedited decision on an I-601 waiver that has been filed outside the US. The policy would give USCIS managers overseas the authority to, in extraordinary circumstances, exercise discretion to expedite form I-601 on a case-by-case basis. Right up front the memo reminds us all that the desire to enter the United States as soon as possible is not, without more, “extraordinary.”

What is “extraordinary”, then? The USCIS defines extraordinary situations as those that are time-sensitive and compelling to the point where the applicant’s presence in the US is required sooner than would be possible if the I-601 waiver were processed normally. The situations include, but are not limited to:

  • When the applicant has urgent and critical medical needs that can’t be addressed in the home country;
  • When a family member in the US has a life-threatening medical condition and needs help;
  • When a family member in the US had died or has a terminal illness;
  • Either the applicant or qualifying family member is particularly vulnerable due to age or disability;
  • Applicant is at risk of serious harm due to personal circumstances if he/she remains in the home country;
  • It would be in the US’s interest for the applicant to be here;
  • The qualifying relative is in the US military and is either deployed or will be deploying soon and needs the applicant here to deal with deployment-related issues;

In order to request an expedite, the green card lawyer should present sufficient evidence to support the request or explain why evidence is not available. Each USCIS office abroad will post instructions for submitting expedite requests. Upon submission of an expedite request, the USCIS will send a receipt to the applicant. All requests will then be reviewed within five business days and, if approved, the applicant will be notified within ten business days. However, USCIS will not provide notification that the expedite was denied. Therefore, applicants should assume a denial if no response is received within 15 days of the notice of receipt.

How can a green card lawyer help with an I-601 waiver expedite request?

Whether or not your I-601 waiver expedite request will be approved is almost entirely dependent on the qualify of evidence you provide to the USCIS office abroad. A green card lawyer can be instrumental in determining 1.) what aspects of your individual situation is compelling enough for an expedite and 2.) what type of evidence should be collected and submitted to support the claim. If you would like to discuss your chances of an I-601 waiver expedite, contact us today at 800.989.6842 and speak with a green card lawyer.