On March 18, 2014, USCIS announced that, on its own motion, it would reopen and review I-601A waivers that were denied prior to January 24, 2014 and review the reasons for denial. This affects spouses of United States citizens who have had their provisional waivers denied.
The I-601A provisional waiver went into effect in early 2013, allowing those who required a waiver for unlawful presence only to have their inadmissibility waiver provisionally approved, prior to traveling to their home country to secure their immigrant visa. Only immediate relatives of United States citizens are permitted to apply. Applicants for this waiver should be otherwise admissible to the United States and not be ineligible for serious criminal reasons or other reasons.
Prior to January 24, 2014, USCIS had taken a very strict approach to language in the relevant regulations. That language, found at 8 C.F.R. § 212.7(e)(4)(i), states that USCIS will deny a provisional waiver if they have a “reason to believe that the alien may be subject to the grounds of inadmissibility other than unlawful presence…” The practical result of this language during the first year of the provisional waiver program essentially resulted in large numbers of denials resulting from relatively minor law enforcement interactions. Such interactions typically would not trigger a ground of inadmissibility under the law, but USCIS’s approach was overly-cautious. These denials would then result in an immigrant needing to depart the United States and apply through the more traditional waiver application route, a step that would leave an immigrant spending several months or more waiting in their home country and separated from their family.
USCIS’s announcement that they would reopen and review previously denied provisional waivers is welcome news to immigrants and advocates alike. A large number of people had been caught in a web of denials for offenses that would not make them ineligible for an immigrant visa. These denials added to the expense and hardship of trying to navigate the very complex immigration system. USCIS is reopening these cases automatically and no additional fees will be required for this process.
If you have questions regarding your previously denied I-601 provisional waiver, please contact our office at (303) 371-1822.