FAQ FOR I-601 WAIVER
A series of FAQ and Responses for I-601 Waivers
I prepared a hardship letter and filed my waiver with another attorney or notario. Why was my case denied?Many foreign nationals seeking help with a waiver filing focus primarily on the hardship letter. Many have been told, or heard on the internet somewhere, that the hardship letter is the only evidence necessary to be granted a waiver. This is not the case. While the hardship letter is important because it informs USCIS of what arguments you are trying to make, too many foreign nationals make the mistake of just submitting a letter without any corroborating evidence to support the letter. These cases go straight into the backlog in Mexico or are denied. A competent attorney will help you narrow down your strongest arguments and gather the evidence necessary to support your arguments. If you think an attorney is just there to help you write a hardship letter, then you don't fully appreciate what is necessary for a successful waiver application.
How much evidence is necessary?Providing documentation to support your arguments is essential. However, be very cautious in submitting documentation about how difficult it would be for the qualifying relative (USC or LPR spouse or parent) to live in the country that the immigrant is from. The officers deciding the waiver cases already know the country's circumstances. So, unless there is a recent development or something that particularly applies to your spouse or parent as opposed to everyone in this circumstance, adding this documentation usually does nothing to add to your case. There is no minimum amount of documentation necessary to submit a strong waiver case. Our firm's experience is that submissions usually range from 2 to 4 inches thick because our clients are extremely responsive to our requests for witnesses and supporting documentation. You should keep in mind that you always risk having too much documentation for an officer to read. In Mexico, for instance, officers typically have no more than 10 minutes to review your documentation. With such severe time constraints, choosing which arguments and evidence to submit to USCIS is crucial to your case. Not only does it have to be easily accessible and organized but also all relevant or your case will end up in the backlog for another officer to sift through when they have more time. USCIS will accept many forms of evidence including affidavits, medical records, criminal transcripts, financial documentation, research results (careful!), transcripts, and much more. Be creative but give solid documentation to support your claims.
After I file my waiver package, can I submit more evidence later?Yes, typically USCIS will accept documentation in support of the waiver filing up until the time the case is decided. The difficulty is figuring out when they will make a decision, as waiver processing times vary from office to office across the country. It is always best to supply all your waiver documentation when you first file. A skeletal filing, one where just the hardship letter and a few pieces of evidence are submitted, risk backlog in Mexico and denial out-right everywhere else. Usually, it is better to delay a waiver appointment or submitting a waiver until you have all your key documentation ready to submit at once. You will also run the risk of your new evidence being lost in transit once it is sent to USCIS. There's no guarantee that the new evidence will actually get into the file to be compared and added to your existing, previously submitted documentation. Nonetheless, if there is a new argument that occurs due to an unexpected hardship, then it may be worth submitting more documentation at a later point. My case was denied when I tried it myself or filed with a notario or another lawyer. Should I file an appeal or re-file the case at the same CIS office? In almost all circumstances, it is better to re-file the case with new evidence of existing or new hardship arguments. Re-filing can take a lot less time than filing an appeal, sometimes up to a year less, if the arguments are vastly improved. Further, by filing an appeal on a weak case, all you are doing is postponing the inevitable, another denial this time coming from CIS's Admistrative Appeals Unit, which rarely overturns a CIS office's decision on hardship, which has made a discretionary finding. You would be in the same position as before, now another 1 1/2 years later, on average, having to refile with CIS again. In addition, by filing an appeal on a weak case, you are claiming that CIS office made a wrong decision, which will likely make it more difficult for you to get a decision fast on an inevitable re-file. Appeals can work but again, they are rare. The best thing you can do is send the new attorney a complete copy of all the evidence and hardship letter you sent to CIS that resulted in the denial. Only after reviewing such documentation can a competent immigration lawyer be able to weigh whether an appeal or a re-file is your best option.
CIS doesn't know that my husband overstayed or is here in the US illegally. Why do I have to apply for a waiver?If you lie to CIS on any paperwork, you are committing a felony, risking jail time and a hefty fine. Your immigrant spouse will also be risking this as well as a lifetime bar for misrepresentation (that although, has a waiver available in most circumstances, can be difficult to overcome). I have often seen notaries advise clients to not put this information on the forms. Do not live your life constantly looking over your shoulder. I will not help you nor will any other attorney worth their salt if you try to hide important facts such as prior overstays from CIS. I have a strong reputation with CIS and I will not risk my other client's cases by supporting another client's lie.