Checklist for Preparing an I-601A Provisional Waiver Application

Make sure nothing gets forgotten when applying for a provisional (stateside) waiver of the three- or ten-year time bar

If you are a green-card seeker planning to make use of the U.S. government’s new (as of March 4, 2013) provisional waiver procedures to request that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services forgive your past unlawful U.S. presence and allow you to receive a green card – and that it do so before, not after you leave the U.S. for your consular interview – the checklist below will help you make sure that you have assembled all the appropriate forms, documents, and fees. Nevertheless, we recommend getting an attorney’s help with this, both to make sure you are eligible and to help you prepare a complete and convincing application.

For background on who is eligible for this waiver (also called the "stateside" waiver) and why it is useful, please see “What Is the I-601A Provisional Waiver?

In short, this new procedure is especially beneficial for spouses, parents, and children (unmarried, under age 21) of U.S. citizens who entered the U.S. illegally and stayed for six months or more -- provided they also have a qualifying relative (U.S. citizen spouse or parent) who will suffer extreme hardship if the green card (immigrant visa) is denied. Such people technically qualify for a green card, but their unlawful U.S. entry makes them ineligible to get it via the U.S.-based process called “adjustment of status.”  With consular processing their only procedural option, going forward with their green card application can mean risking getting stuck outside the U.S., possibly separated from their family, for the next three or ten years, as a penalty for their past unlawful presence. But the provisional waiver process lets them make sure they’ll be approved for the waiver before they leave the United States for their interview.

Checklist: What to Include in a Provisional Waiver Application

You will need to prepare or assemble the following for your provisional, stateside waiver application. For any original document other than the USCIS form, send photocopies, not originals.

  • USCIS Form I-601A. Available for free on the I-601A page of the USCIS website.  
  • Receipt of payment for the immigrant visa processing fee. You will be asked to send this to the Department of States (DOS) after your visa petition has been approved but before you are scheduled for a consular interview. Place the receipt on top of Form I-601A.
  • Application fee.  The primary application fee was set at $585 for 2013. Fee waivers  are unavailable.
  • Biometrics fee. If you are younger than age 79, you must pay the biometrics (fingerprinting) fee of $85.
  • Proof that USCIS approved your family-based visa petition. Send a copy of the USCIS Form I-797 approval notice. Double check that it classifies you as the immediate relative of a U.S. citizen.
  • Proof of the U.S. citizen status of your qualifying relative IF that person is not the one who submitted the family visa petition for you. Your qualifying relative is the U.S. citizen who suffer extreme hardship if you were denied the waiver and green card. A copy of his or her birth certificate, passport, or naturaliazation certificate is your most likely bet here.
  • Proof of your relationship to your qualifying relative IF that person is not the one who submitted the family visa petition for you. A copy of a marriage or birth certificates will serve here. If it’s a marital relationship and either of you were previously marriage, include divorce or death certificates to prove that the past marriage ended.
  • Documents detailing the extreme hardship that your qualifying relative(s) would suffer. This depends on circumstance. If, for example, your U.S. citizen has a medical condition that requires your constant care, a doctor’s letter and copies of test results would be appropriate. Typical areas of extreme hardship focus on health, educational, financial, personal, and any other relevant considerations. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis.

After preparing the application, make a complete copy for your records (and in case it gets lost). Send it by courier or U.S. mail with return receipt requested, so that you’ll have proof that you mailed it.

Waiver Interviews

It is unlikely that you will be called in for an interview on your provisional waiver request. After all, USCIS would need to transfer the file from its National Benefits Center to a local office for this. Nevertheless, USCIS has the power to do this if it feels that a personal meeting is the best way to make a decision on your waiver request.

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