601 and 601a Waivers
What are I-601 & I-601A Waivers?
Form I-601 is the Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility (Hardship Waiver). Form I-601A is the Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (Provisional Waiver). Both the I-601 and I-601A can be used to adjust for “unlawful presence.” In order to obtain U.S. green card, through adjustment of status or consular processing, you must be qualified and “admissible.” The United States government may refuse entry to anyone who falls within the list of grounds of inadmissibility such as people who pose security, health, or any related risks. By using Form I-601 or I-601A issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), certain foreign applicants who are unable to immigrate into the U.S. because they are inadmissible can request a waiver of inadmissibility. However, certain categories of inadmissibility are considered so serious that the U.S. government will not allow a waiver for them. Foreigners whose spouse, child, or parent are U.S. citizens may be eligible to file an I-601 or I-601A application to waive inadmissibility in order to receive a visa or green card if they are able to prove that they would suffer extreme hardship without them.
Differences between I-601 and I-601A:
The main difference between the two waivers is that the I-601 is filed outside of the U.S., and the I-601A is filed while inside the U.S.
With an I-601 Waiver, the USCIS will reevaluate the circumstances considering the act or acts that made the person inadmissible against the hardship caused to the relative because of their absence. The more severe the inadmissibility, the more extreme the hardship to the qualifying relative must be.
A I-601A Waiver, known as the Provisional Waiver, is similar yet slightly different. With an I-601A Waiver, undocumented immigrants or overstays who can prove that time and distance apart from their U.S. citizen spouse, child or parent would create extreme hardship. This waiver allows the immediate family members of the U.S. citizen to begin the application for an immigrant visa without leaving the United States. According to the USCIS, “Foreign nationals who are not eligible to adjust their status in the United States must travel abroad and obtain an immigrant visa. Individuals who have accrued more than 180 days of unlawful presence while in the United States must obtain a waiver of inadmissibility to overcome the unlawful presence bars under section 212(a)(9)(B) of the Immigration and Nationality Act before they can return.” With the I-601A Waiver, even if your provisional unlawful presence is approved, you still must leave the U.S. to interview abroad with U.S. consular officer. Those individuals who have been illegally present in the U.S. for more than six months are subject to a bar of inadmissibility for 3 (if stay is under a year) or 10 (if stay is a year or more) years if they depart the U.S.