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Unlawful Presence Waivers

How To Avoid The Three and Ten Year Bars, and Waive Unlawful Presence

A person can waive their unlawful presence in the U.S. and the three or ten year bar after they obtain an approved I-601 or I-601A waiver by the immigration service.

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), or have a U.S. citizen or LPR parent, you may apply for a waiver of the three and ten year bars. The waiver, when approved, allows you to avoid the unlawful presence bar. This means that you will not have to remain outside of the U.S. for three or ten years.

To get a waiver approval, you must show the USCIS that your US citizen or LPR spouse or parent will suffer ‘Extreme Hardship’ if the waiver is not granted.

The Three- and Ten-Year Unlawful Presence Bars

The three-year bar to re-entry into the U.S.: A person who has been unlawfully present in the United States for a continuous period of more than 180 days (6 months), but less than one year, and who voluntarily departs the U.S. faces a 3-year bar from the U.S. when they try to obtain a green card or legal permanent residency.

The bar is triggered by leaving the U.S., even if it is to go abroad for a green card interview at a U.S. consulate. The US Immigration Service considers people who entered the U.S. illegally, are undocumented or who have overstayed their visas are considered as being “unlawfully present” in the U.S.

The ten year bar to re-entry into the U.S.: A ten year bar is given to a person who has been unlawfully present in the United States for a total period of one year or more, who departs the U.S. voluntarily.

It is important to note that the immigration service adds up all time in the US without lawful presence, including periods from different years and visits.

Which Waiver Application to Use – I-601 or I-601A Waiver?

A person can ‘waive’ their unlawful presence and the three or ten year bar by filing either a I-601 ‘standard’ waiver or a I-601A provisional waiver, if they qualify.

Many people living in the U.S. like to use the I-601A waiver (if their case is suitable for this waiver) because they do not have to travel abroad and remain separated from their family or jobs for a long time while their unlawful presence waiver is being processed at the U.S. consulate.

The main difference between the standard I-601 and the provisional I-601A application is that a person will usually file the I-601 application outside of the U.S. after their green card application has been denied for unlawful presence. The I-601-A application is filed within the U.S. and before the green card application is filed at the Consulate.

The standard I-601 waiver process:

People who entered the US illegally, who cannot prove legal entry, or valid legal status often have to apply for a green card at a consulate abroad. After the green card interview at the U.S. consulate, the green card application is denied for unlawful presence and they are told to file the I-601 waiver, and then have to remain outside the U.S. until the waiver application is approved. This can take many months and in some cases, years.

This I-601 waiver can also be used to waive both the unlawful presence bar, and other inadmissibility problems including criminal convictions or misrepresentation.

The provisional I-601A waiver process:

As mentioned earlier, you can apply to for an I-601A waiver to avoid the 3 or 10 year unlawful presence bar while in the US and before traveling abroad for the green card interview at a U.S. consulate abroad. After the grant of the I-601A waiver, we complete the rest of the green card application and the interview at the Consulate is scheduled.

The I-601A waiver only waives the unlawful presence bar and cannot be used to waive criminal convictions and other grounds of inadmissibility. This waiver is not helpful if you have criminal convictions or have used fake or fraudulent documents for an immigration benefit or to enter the U.S.

Proving Extreme Hardship to Waive Unlawful Presence

To waive unlawful presence for the I-601 or I-601A applications, you will need to prove to the immigration service that the U.S. citizen or Legal Permanent Resident spouse will suffer ‘extreme hardship’ if the waiver is not granted. The immigration service will look at certain things including health or medical conditions, financial, educational or other considerations.

Which Waiver Should You Use?

It depends on your own personal situation.  Please remember that every case is different and that your immigration and criminal history also affect your case and what happens. It is important that you speak to an experienced and licensed immigration attorney before you decide which waiver you will need to file. We have helped many people with both waivers and would love to help you too. Contact us to discuss your case.

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Our goal is to work with you to solve potential problems and avoid unnecessary delay or denial. We evaluate your immigration history and background and whether you qualify to apply. With our experience we know the ever-changing laws and how best to present your case at a reasonable cost.
Contact us today: If you have questions about which waiver is right for you or to find out your chance of success, please contact our law offices to speak to Attorney Doreen.

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