How to Win Your I-601A Extreme Hardship Waiver
The USCIS Policy Manual lists specific factors to be considered in determining whether an Applicant for a waiver can show extreme hardship to a qualifying relative. This guide will help you win the waiver by providing an overview of the most common winning arguments for each factor.
Particularly Significant FactorsThese are factors that are given extra weight by USCIS in finding hardship. Although 5 factors are listed, the two most common are those that deal with the relative's disability or disruption to childcare. Disability can be shown in a number of ways, especially in receipt of public benefits or a qualified physician's letter. Childcare, on the other hand, is less straightforward. Both the Applicant and Qualifying Relative should include declarations sworn under penalty of perjury discussing their current and future childcare plans. Price quotations from childcare centers would also be useful here.
Overall, extra care should be taken for the arguments in this section, and the evidence included should not be taken lightly. Although submitting as many strong arguments as possible is necessary to ensure a strong waiver, success in this section alone could lead to approval.
Family TiesThis is one of the most straightforward sections of the waiver. The qualifying relative should demonstrate all family ties that exist in the U.S. versus those in the Applicant's home country. The Applicant's family ties are secondary but also may be included. Affidavits, letters of support, and identity documentation of the relatives in the U.S. go a long way here!
Social and Cultural ConsiderationsFor a moment, consider uprooting yourself from the U.S., where you have probably lived either your whole life if not for many years, and living in the home country of the Applicant. How safe is it? Do you speak the language? Could you find work? Would you even be authorized to work? What if you suffered a crime? Would you trust the police or criminal justice system to help you? Are there things about your gender, sexual orientation, or background that would make you a target? These are the considerations of this section. The qualifying relative should include all of these kinds of considerations in the declaration. Government and NGO reports documenting country conditions are also useful, as are local newspapers and media documenting day-to-day conditions of the citizens of that country.
Ultimately, USCIS should be convinced here that the qualifying relative would be a stranger in a strange land within the Applicant's home country.
Economic FactorsIn this section, you should get a perfect snapshot of all the finances going in and out of the household. This is the section where concrete evidence is the most useful. All income and expenses should be documented. Then, consider whether the same financial situation could exist without the Applicant's income. What other, additional expenses would the qualifying relative have to take on, such as childcare? Would the qualifying relative be giving up a career or educational program? Pay particular attention to longterm debt, such as a mortgage or student loans. What would the expected income be in the Applicant's home country? Is it enough to make a living there? Besides concrete evidence of current finances, using wage surveys and living wage estimates of the foreign country are valuable tools in demonstrating extreme economic hardship.
Health-related HardshipThis is another area where concrete evidence is the best. What are the medical and psychological health conditions of the qualifying relative? Medically, could these conditions be treated in the foreign country? Here you should include medical records, visit summaries, prescriptions, and doctor's letters to show USCIS the diagnosis, prognosis, and need for future treatment of any medical conditions the qualifying relative is living with. Couple this with articles and reports of the foreign country's healthcare system and ability to treat the specific condition, and you've made a compelling argument for hardship.
Psychologically, you should dig into the qualifying relative's past including any history of trauma, abuse, or abandonment. I tell my clients "everyone has baggage." A therapist evaluation and letter are highly recommended for this section of the waiver, as only a mental health expert can professionally deduce the probability of developing future depression, anxiety, or loss-related mental health symptoms. Any qualifying relative not already in therapy should expect a mental health referral for purposes of the waiver.
Country ConditionsFinally, what are the macro-conditions of the Applicant's home country? This section certainly has some overlap with the prior "social and cultural section," but rather than focusing on the particulars of the qualifying relative's attributes, there should be more of a focus on the larger scale conditions of the country. Where does it rank globally in terms of safety and economic opportunity? Does the Department of State have a travel warning and/or OSAC Safety Report associated with this country? Whats sorts of violence or terrorism affect citizens of that country? Is it a TPS-designated country? Use reports from various government agencies of the U.S. These are the strongest forms of evidence, precisely because USCIS, as a government agency, will give considerable weight to what other branches of the federal government have to say about the conditions of a particular country.
When combined with the specifics of the hardships detailed in the previous section, the generalities contained in this section will strongly persuade the USCIS officer to find in favor of the applicant and grant the extreme hardship waiver.