People who have been living in the U.S. illegally for over a year and then leave the country can seek legal residency if they don’t re-enter the U.S. for at least 10 years. However, many people have family obligations in this country that would make deportation and a decade-long re-entry ban very difficult for their loved ones.
For immigrants whose deportation would impose an extreme hardship on their immediate family, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers a “601 waiver.” If granted, this allows people time to adjust their immigration status without facing deportation or to re-enter the country if they’ve been gone for less than 10 years.
The USCIS has specific requirements to qualify for a 601 waiver (Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility). For example, a family member who would face this “extreme hardship” must be a “qualifying relative.” This includes parents or spouses who are either legal residents or U.S. citizens.
It’s essential to understand what the USCIS considers “extreme hardship.” Many people might consider separating parents and children or losing the breadwinner of the family an extreme hardship, but that’s not how the USCIS regulations work.
While eligibility based on extreme hardship isn’t clearly defined, there are four levels of arguments that people can use to qualify for a waiver. Usually the agency requires at least one argument that qualifies as a Level 1 and several more in the lower levels.
Level 1 arguments include a qualifying family member with a serious medical issue that makes it impossible to safely travel abroad and requires the person who’s here without proper legal documentation to stay in order to care for them. Another Level 1 argument is if a war is taking place in the immigrant’s home country.
Level 2 through 4 arguments also include having relatives with serious medical conditions, imminent political upheaval or very poor economic conditions in the home country, as well as the need to care for aging parents in the U.S.
If you or a loved one is seeking to avoid deportation or to gain re-entry into the U.S. by applying for a 601 waiver, a Maryland immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance as you work to provide a strong case to USCIS officials.