What is an I-601 Hardship Waiver?

The I-601 Waiver functions to waive a visa applicant’s grounds of inadmissibility in order to admit them into the United States on grounds of extreme hardship.  The I-601 Waiver can also be used by the beneficiaries of congressional acts such as the Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act or persons filing for an adjustment in status, as well as those categorized as K or V nonimmigrants or those applying for Temporary Protected Status (TPS).  The 601 waiver applies to those attempting to gain an immigrant status or an adjustment of status. USCIS has made a provisional waiver, I-601A, which expedites the 601 Waiver process for those found inadmissible due to unlawful presence and are immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen.  More information concerning the provisional waiver can be found at the bottom of this article.

In order to submit the I-601 Waiver form, an applicant’s visa application must first be denied.  Inadmissibility can be determined based on the following grounds if the applicant:

  1. Has a communicable disease deemed to be a significant threat to the public;
  2. Wishes to waive the required vaccinations based on religious beliefs;
  3. Has a physical or mental disorder that may cause behavior which may pose a threat to the well-being or property of the applicant or others;
  4. Has been involved in prostitution in any way during the last 10 years.  This involves work as a prostitute, solicitation of a prostitute, receiving proceeds from prostitution, or importing others to engage in prostitution;
  5. Plans to participate in commercialized vice upon entry into the United States;
  6. Has been convicted of 2 or more non-political offenses for which the combined time of incarceration was more than 5 years;
  7. Has engaged in alien smuggling;
  8. Has been a member of the Communist Party or any totalitarian party and their affiliates;
  9. Has procured immigration benefits via fraud or misrepresentation;
  10. Has been involved in serious criminal activity and has sought immunity from prosecution;
  11. Had been unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days or a full year, has since left the United States, and is subject to either a 3 or 10 year ban on admissibility; or
  12. Was previously removed from the United States.

In order to apply for this waiver, the applicant must submit evidence that their denial of admission to the United States would cause extreme hardship to their sponsoring U.S. legal citizen or permanent resident.  Evidence of hardship can include:

  1. Evidence establishing a family relationship or familial ties to the United States;
  2. Impact of separation or relocation, which can include financial impact;
  3. Health conditions and quality of health treatment; or
  4. Significant strain on quality of life, social conditions, economic conditions, etc.

In addition to evidence of hardship, applicants will also be required to provide evidence as to why he or she qualifies for the waiver.  This can include:

  1. Medical reports or evidence or rehabilitation;
  2. Police reports or court records regarding any convictions or charges;
  3. Affidavits from individuals supporting the application; or
  4. Any other evidence displaying why the applicant would not be a threat to national security or a charge on the national welfare.

Depending on the location from which you are submitting the I-601 Form, you will be required to submit to different locations or E-File if you meet the qualifications.  The application requires a non-refundable application fee which is listed on the USCIS website.  The I-601 waiver cases generally take longer than most since the applicant must first be denied a visa and, if required, leave the United States if the applicant cannot attain a provisional unlawful presence waiver.  In most cases, however, processing times for the I-601 Waiver itself are under 12 months depending on the location of the filing. Be sure to include the following when filing the I-601 application in order to avoid denials or delays:

  1. Form I-601;
  2. Form I-212 (Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal);
  3. E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance;
  4. Form G-325A (Biographic Information);
  5. Extreme Hardship Statement; and
  6. Payment Form (these vary based on the location).

Applicants can use their Immigrant Visa Case Number to track the status of their I-601 application online.


Sandra, a legal permanent resident, recently submitted an I-130 family-based petition to bring her husband, James, into the United States.  James was found to be inadmissible due to his criminal record. Unfortunately, Sandra has a very serious and chronic illness that requires substantial treatment, care, and financial resources and does not have family nearby to care for or support her.  In this case, Sandra can submit a Form I-601 and attempt to argue that James’s absence will cause her undue and extreme hardship medically and economically. Additionally, she can emphasize that she does not have an adequate support system and that James can provide her with much needed primary care while at home and can work to pay her medical bills.

*Update on 601 Waivers*

Since March 4, 2013, certain immigrant visa applicants who are immediate relatives (spouses, children and parents) of U.S. citizens can apply for provisional unlawful presence waivers before they leave the United States for their consular interview.

The provisional unlawful presence waiver process allows immediate relatives who only need a waiver of inadmissibility for unlawful presence to apply for that waiver in the United States before they depart for their immigrant visa interview.  This new process was developed to shorten the time that U.S. citizens are separated from their immediate relatives while those family members are obtaining immigrant visas to become lawful permanent residents of the United States.