Before foreign nationals are given visas or allowed to become legal permanent residents, they must demonstrate that they are not “inadmissible." This term describes a trait that makes their entry into the U.S. undesirable in the eyes of the government. The most common grounds for inadmissibility include health related grounds, economic or public charge grounds, criminal grounds or violation of immigration laws (such as working in the U.S. without authorization).
A foreign national who is inadmissible must qualify for a waiver, or else they will not be allowed into (or will be removed from, if they are already inside) the U.S.
By granting the waiver, the federal government forgives or overlooks the ground of inadmissibility. Once granted, the waiver allows the foreign national to get an immigration benefit such as an immigrant visa or legal permanent residency.
It is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney because the available waivers are numerous and complicated. The most common waivers are those for unlawful re-entry after removal, unlawful presence in the U.S. for a specific period of time, or working without authorization. There are also waivers for certain criminal charges.
Another often-used waiver is for foreign nationals charged with fraud. Foreign nationals who fail to include material information -- either because they commit mistakes when filling out immigration applications or rely on non-attorneys who put the incorrect information on the applications – are charged with fraud. Without a successful waiver application, fraud will make the foreign national ineligible for the immigration benefit.
There are many waivers available, but foreign nationals should discuss their specific situation with an attorney who can determine which waiver is best. An immigration attorney will have knowledge of all of the available waivers, when they can be used and from which government office they can be obtained.