The I-601 waiver is a US immigration waiver used to overcome inadmissibility for certain intending immigrants to the United States. Applying for American immigration benefits is usually a two-step process. First the petitioner, a US citizen, LPR or employer, will file an application with USCIS on behalf of a foreign national intending immigrant. An approved petition means that the minimum visa requirements have been met. However, the intending immigrant must still apply for the visa at a US consulate or for adjustment of status in the United States and prove that they are admissible to the US. If the intending immigrant is found to be inadmissible, an inadmissibility waiver may be available which, if approved, would allow the foreign national to immigrate despite the ground(s) of inadmissibility.

The I-601 waiver is typically used for prior unlawful presence (ULP) or overstay in the United States, misrepresentation or fraud in applying for US immigration benefits, and certain criminal history. The 212 waiver, on the other hand, is a type of hardship waiver used to overcome certain deportation or removal-related offenses. To qualify for a 601 waiver for unlawful presence, overstay, misrepresentation or fraud, it must be proved that a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse or parent of the applicant would suffer extreme hardship if he or she would have to live in the United States without the applicant or if he or she would have to move to a different country to live with the applicant.

If applying for an immigrant visa abroad, a consular officer will notify the applicant of his or her inadmissibility to the US during the immigrant visa interview. If the applicant’s ground of inadmissibility is one for which an I601 waiver is available, the consular officer will notify the applicant. Although the consulate decides whether or not to issue a visa, the USCIS field office handling the applicant’s country of residence will decide whether or not to approve the I-601 waiver. Once the visa application is denied, the applicant will submit the 601 waiver, which consists of USCIS form 601 plus documentary evidence, and fee to the consulate; the 601 waiver will then be forwarded to USCIS for adjudication.

If applying for adjustment of status (AOS) in the United States, the in-country 601 waiver is typically decided by the immigration officer who conducts the adjustment interview at the local USCIS field office.