On January 12, 2012, the US Department of Homeland Security announced a proposed changed in a regulation governing the process for I601 “extreme hardship” waivers or “pardons” as they are referred to sometimes. This proposed change is HUGE and positive, given the byzantine nature of how it currently works today.
First, an I601 Waiver is a procedure to waive certain grounds of inadmissibility that prevent persons from entering the United States. It is based on a qualifying relationship and requires a showing of “extreme hardship” to the qualifying relative.
The procedure is currently the following: If the foreign national is standing in the US, the waiver will be adjudicated in the US by the local office or court where the foreign national is living. If the foreign national is abroad, the waiver is adjudicated by a USCIS office for the designated region. For instance, in a waiver for a foreign national in Venezuela goes to Panama. A waiver for a foreign national in Morocco is adjudicated in Rome.
There are multiple problems with these abroad USCIS offices: the regulations never provided a clear definition of “extreme hardship” and so the standards have varied wildly from location to location; and second, the time it takes from transferring a case from the Embassy to the USCIS office abroad and back and the adjudication backlog itself – it can take in most instances 6 to over 12 months to get the individual approved and back into the US.
The rule proposes to eliminate adjudication of these waivers at these abroad offices for immediate relatives, who are processing abroad and instead have these waivers adjudicated IN the United States. It has also been clarified by USCIS that the proposed rule, due in Spring 2012, will only be applicable for violations involving three and ten-year unlawful presence bars and not apply to those with criminal bars or other admission problems. It will also only be available to spouses and children of US citizens.
This proposed change in the location of the waiver adjudication will particularly have a positive impact on those processing their immigrant visas in Ciudad Mexico due to the huge backlogs and random violence occurring in that country. But, it is positive step for all those who will qualify and reflects the Obama administration’s effort to keep families reunited who are attempting to obtain legal residence.