Families and individuals who are struggling to find the clearest path forward to U.S. citizenship are often fearful of separation that will leave some family stranded outside the country. The risk of separation from a loved one and return to their home country can not only be economic but political as well, and they also may not be able to get back into the United States.
For Washington residents living in the Tacoma-Seattle area, keeping the family together during this difficult time can mean discovering options for remaining in the country while they are not immediately eligible to apply for immigration.
The I601A waiver
The I601A waiver, created in 2013, is an avenue for the spouses, children and parents of U.S. citizens to avoid having to leave the country for their consular interview. With the expansion of eligibility in 2016 to include all those eligible for immigrant status as well as those who would be inadmissible for lawful present in the United States, this waiver can help families to stay together while they are awaiting a change in immigrant status.
Historically, aliens who are unable to change their status while in the country or who stay has extended beyond the legal limit face deportation to their home countries and are barred from returning for three to ten years. In the meantime, they must apply through an immigrant visa interview process, which can take years. The I601A waiver shortens the period of separation that families must endure.
Extreme hardship status
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists four levels of eligibility for the I601A waiver, with Level One being the most likely way of qualifying for the waiver. The Level One eligibility requirement stipulates that the applicant:
- either is a relative who must care for an individual whose major medical issues do not allow them to travel abroad, or who would be returning to a native country at war
- either has a relative whose serious medical issues make it difficult for them to travel, or whose home country is in political upheaval
- either has a relative with a significant medical condition that makes travel difficult, or whose native country has a poor economy
- either has a relative whose debts cannot be repaid abroad, or whose parents are aging
Although separation can create hardship due to separation or job loss, this may not be result in a categorization of extreme hardship. The USCIS examines applicant eligibility on a case-by-case basis.