Updated October 30, 2020:

I-601 Processing Time

i601 processing time varies from applicant to applicant. Applicants denied a visa or other immigration benefit, can resolve the issue with an I-601 waiver. Eligibility for filing an I-601 requires a relative that has lawful permanent residence.

USCIS K or V nonimmigrant visas are filed outside of the U.S. and require an interview. The I-601 application is filed if the visa interview was found inadmissible. The application supports explanation of the rationale to the request for waiver. Grounds of Inadmissibility that May be Waived: Heath grounds, certain criminal grounds, Alien smuggler grounds, Immigration fraud and misrepresentation, Labor certification, Immigrant membership in a totalitarian party, Being subject to a civil penalty.

“Extreme hardship” due to political circumstances, religious persecution, war, or famine qualify for consideration of immigrant applicants who are family members of U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The probability that an I-601 application will be approved depends on the strength of the evidence submitted with the waiver request. Inadequate evidence of extreme hardship is a common reason for USCIS denial of an I-601 applicant. Appeals of denials to the waiver of inadmissibility can be filed with a motion to reconsider an application based on additional documentation.

Temporary Protected Status is offered to waiver applicants on the grounds of inadmissibility that may be waived. An immigrant visa or adjustment of status on the grounds of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), allows a self-petitioner or the child of a VAWA self-petitioner, waiver of inadmissibility. Requests for adjustment of status as a Special Immigrant Juvenile based on an approved Form I-360 - Grounds of Inadmissibility that May be Waived are selective categories of persons considered by the USCIS for I-601 waiver approval.

Other factors to eligibility for an I-601 are vaccinations, affiliation with a Communist or any other totalitarian party, or immigration officer's opinion about an applicant's undesirability. Filing of an I-601 with the USCIS enables a person who has been deemed inadmissible to file a correction to a previously denied visa application or contest an immigration officer’s decision on grounds of extreme hardship.

Finally, a 3-year or 10-year bar as a result of previous unlawful presence in the U.S. can be reconsidered for a waiver of inadmissibility. Foreign nationals are inadmissible for 3 years if they have resided unlawfully in the U.S. for an uninterrupted period or more than 180 days, and less than one year, followed by voluntary departure before removal proceedings were initiated against them in court.

The filing fee for USCIS Form I-601 is $585 and is nonrefundable and payable by check or money order. Applicants found to conceal or misrepresent material fact on an I-601 waiver, or to have submitted false documents may be denied the waiver, and subject to penalties and criminal prosecution. Waiver appeal by filing Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal, with the USCIS Administrative Appeals Office is the proper due process to respond to what is believed by the applicant to be unwarranted denial.

Successful waiver is less likely if an applicant has a record of fraud, criminal conviction, or willful misrepresentation. Evidence of applicant participation in a rehabilitation program is an example of a mitigating factor that could strengthen an application that might otherwise be denied based on grounds of a criminal record. Unlawful presence in the U.S. is another common reason for denial and deportation. An immigration attorney can assist in advising a USCIS applicant when filing an I-601 application.

How Long Does I-601 Take to Process?

A USCIS applicant who filing a Form I-601 or any other immigration form will have to wait for the application to be fully processed before receiving a final decision. The USCIS posts average processing times for a variety of forms on its website. For the Form I-601, the most recent average Form I-601 processing times (as of the date of this article) at the California Service Center, Nebraska Service Center, and Texas Service Center are 4 months from the date of filing.

The Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) handles appeals of Form I-601 denials outside of immigration proceedings. The AAO periodically posts its average case processing time information. As of July 1, 2016, the average case processing time for the appeal of the denial of a Form I-601 is 6 months or less.

What Are the Chances That My I-601 Waiver Will Be Granted?

Immigrants faced with inadmissibility to the U.S. can apply to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) for Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, Form I-601. The adjudication process for an I-601 waiver application is somewhat subjective; legal interpretation of circumstances can change according to law. Immigration laws have undergone reform recently, barring citizens of certain countries from the United States. If aggravating factors are present in a country of origin, and nationals of that state are not on the U.S. Homeland Security bar list, they may be good candidates for the I-601 application.

When spouses or other loved ones are deemed “inadmissible” by the USCIS, and therefore unable to simply file for a green card, an I-601 will allow the “qualifying relative” to be considered under the rules of “extreme hardship”. The I-601 can be filed when the applicant is in the U.S., not undergoing immigration proceedings (i.e. deportation). An immigration attorney can provide advice on the I-601A and I-601 processes. If you have falsely claimed to be a U.S. citizen there is a very narrow exception to INA §212(a)(6)(C)(ii), implemented by the Child Citizenship Act of 2000, wherein you are not barred if one or both parents is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident.

Sometimes an I-601 waiver is not an option. You are not eligible for a waiver (but there may be other options) if you–

  • Have been a member of a criminal gang or have gang-related tattoos.

  • Filed for asylum in the past and the application was determined to be frivolous.

  • Have a drug conviction or a guilty plea after the age of 18. The only exception to this is if you were convicted of possessing less than 30 grams of marijuana for personal use.

  • Committed marriage fraud in a prior immigration application.

  • Failed to attend a removal hearing in the United States and have not been outside the U.S. for five years.

I-601A Waiver Attorney: Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver Process FAQs (Continued 2)

Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, Form I-601A, should be filed only with USCIS. The filing fees will be $670 (including $585 for the waiver’s filing fee and $85 for biometrics processing). You need to pay for the biometric ($85) and filling fees ($585) for your I-601A provisional waiver application. In the case of a withdrawn Form I-601A, USCIS will not refund the filing fees because USCIS has already undertaken steps to adjudicate the case.

Approval of a provisional waiver by the USCIS allows the spouse and children of U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents to support a request for a full waiver. This reduces the risk of application for an immigrant visa abroad, as the provisional waiver is already approved with an immigrant relative petition (family-based) or employment-based petition, or selection by the Diversity Visa Program and record payment for the immigrant visa fee with the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center.

If a foreign national can show that their lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen parent, child, or spouse would face “extreme hardship” if he or she was not allowed to stay in or come back to the U.S., the “unlawful presence” inadmissibility grounds may be waived by the I-601 (under Section 212(a)(9)(B)(v) and Section 212(i))of the Immigration and Nationality Act).

After six months-worth of “unlawful presence”, any foreign nationals who leave the U.S. of their own volition cannot re-enter the States for three years. This term begins on their departure date. If the “unlawful presence” went on for 12 months, the ineligibility period for entering the U.S. goes up to 10 years.

Unlawful presence is any period in which a foreign national is present in the U.S. after the expiration of their period of authorized stay (e.g. after the expiration date found on their I-94 entry/departure card) or after entering the U.S. without being admitted or paroled (e.g. after entering the U.S. illegally without inspection).

Spouses of U.S. citizens who entered the country illegally and without inspection by crossing a border tend to have problems with the “unlawful presence” condition. Though they are free to seek U.S. lawful permanent residency, they must return to their home country and go to a United States embassy or consulate to interview and start the process of attaining this status. Their status can only change when they are in their home country, the only exception being those qualified under INA 245(i). Departing the U.S. to start the application process begins the “unlawful presence” period.

Unlawful presence in the United States for more than one year after April 1, 1997 followed by a departure from the U.S. and a return to the U.S. without inspection; or removal from the U.S. after April 1, 1997 and a return to the U.S. without inspection.

Important Changes to I-601 Waiver Processing

On January 9, 2012, a Notice of Intent for proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register was published by the USCIS, outlining the agency's proposed plan to transfer the adjudication from overseas to stateside, but only for certain I-601 waiver applications.

Prior to the applicant leaving for consular processing, the adjudication takes place. This eliminates waiting time abroad and the uncertainty of the adjudication outcome. Provisionally approved applicants can then continue with immigrant visa processing at the U.S. consulate abroad; those who are denied often choose to abandon the process.

Immediate relatives, such as parents, unmarried children under 21, and spouses of U.S. citizens were affected by the pre-adjudication policy. Any individuals in preference categories were not affected and must adhere to current filing requirements for waivers.

Those who are filing their I-601 waiver after being formally refused an immigrant visa by a consular official and that waiver will be adjudicated by an overseas USCIS office.

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