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What is “extreme hardship”?

In the near future, USCIS will be announcing the availability of stateside I-601 waivers for unlawful presence. Most of the excitement surrounding this change revolves around the fact that most of the application process can be completed in the United States. The immigrant only needs to return to his home country for a short time near the end of the process.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that these waivers only apply to immigrants who can benefit from an I-130 application filed by a relative who is either a U.S. Citizen or legal permanent resident. Additionally, the waiver is only granted to immigrants who can show that their absence will result in “extreme hardship” to their qualifying relative.

The difficult part of filling for an I-601 waiver is proving extreme hardship–there is no universal definition of the term. But lawyers have, through experience, determined the types of cases that are successful and those that are not.

Unfortunately, the strongest cases are usually based on dire medical conditions (e.g. brain tumor, multiple sclerosis, or cerebral palsy) faced by a qualifying relative or home countries that are in states of war or political upheaval. This isn’t to say that lesser hardships do not qualify, but that they require stronger argument to be successful.

An argument for an extreme hardship waiver can also be based on financial hardship. You may be the only person your relative can depend upon for financial support and the economic or employment situation in your home country would mean that you couldn’t support your relative if they left the U.S. with you.

No matter the hardship your relative will face, it is also important that your application explains why your relative can’t simply move to your home country with you.

Preparing an I-601 waiver application requires a nuanced understanding of what counts as “extreme hardship” and knowing how to convey that argument effectively in the application. If you plan to apply for an I-601 waiver while remaining stateside, it is essential that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney.

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