There are a number of reasons you may be deemed inadmissible by U.S. authorities including having a criminal record, contagious disease of public health significance, likelihood of becoming a public charge, prior removals, unlawful presence, fraud and other considerations which we will explore. If you are deemed inadmissible that could mean you are banned from entering the country, remaining in the United States or adjusting your status to green card. Fortunately, you can request a waiver via Form I-601 (if you are outside the U.S.) or Form I-601A, (within the U.S.) to ask for forgiveness of the inadmissibility charge.
Grounds of Inadmissibility
The terms by which someone is labeled inadmissible is laid out in Section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). The categories are as follows:
- Disease of public health significance
- Criminal activity
- National security risk
- Strong likelihood of becoming a public charge
- Lack of labor certification
- Fraud or misrepresentation
- Prior removals or unlawful presence
Health Related Inadmissibility
Inadmissibility on the grounds of health falls along a broad spectrum. If you have a contagious disease “of public health significance” (i.e., gonorrhea, tuberculosis, syphilis, chancroids, leprosy, etc), have not received the required vaccines, have a history or currently possess a mental or physical disorder which causes harmful behavior that poses a threat, are a drug abuser or suffer from addiction to an illegal substance you can be deemed inadmissible.
Criminal Activity Inadmissibility
There are a number of crimes that are grounds for inadmissibility including violating a controlled substance (illegal drug) law, having been convicted of two or more crimes (if your were sentenced to five or more years in prison), drug trafficking, prostitution, violating religious freedom while serving as a foreign government official, human trafficking, money laundering, or a crime considered gravely immoral such as rape, robbery, etc.
National Security Risk
If a DHS immigration officer has reason to believe you may be coming to the U.S. to conduct espionage/sabotage, have engaged in terroristic activities in your home country, or are party of a totalitarian party, or conducted Nazi persecutions or genocide, you will be found inadmissible on the grounds of national security threat.
Likely to Become a Public Charge
By immigration definitions, being a public charge means you are considerably dependent on the U.S. government for financial assistance. Immigration officials will look at the scope of your life including finances, family, health, age, employment background and education when making a determination about the likelihood of this.
Lack of Labor Certification
Labor Certification is important because it is used to ensure that foreign workers are not displacing qualified U.S. workers in the labor market. Not having a proper Labor Certification is grounds for inadmissibility unless the Secretary of Labor can certify that the immigrant’s employment will not negatively affect the wages/working conditions of U.S. workers and demonstrate that there are not enough willing and qualified U.S. workers to perform the given job.
Fraud or Misrepresenting Yourself
Should you be found to have entered or try to enter the U.S. fraudulently or by misrepresenting your true identity that is grounds for inadmissibility.
Prior Removals or Unlawful Presence
If you overstay a visit in the United States and get barred from returning to the country, that is considered grounds of inadmissibility. Also, situations where you were removed (deported), left while an order of removal was outstanding or were unlawful in the country for one year (throughout multiple stays or a single stay) and then reentered the U.S. illegally (without proper inspection and admittance or inspection and parole).
Other Grounds of Inadmissibility
Additional reasons can be considered grounds of inadmissibility including:
- Abusing a student visa
- Entering the country illegally
- Failing to attend your immigration or removal hearing
- Being a practicing polygamist
- Being a former American citizen that gave up your citizenship to evade taxation
- Being an unlawful voter
- Being an international smuggler, child abductor or relative of an abductor
There are cases where you would not need to file a waiver to be forgiven of the inadmissibility charge. Examples of these exceptions include being the victim of abuse, human trafficking, extreme cruelty or being a minor. A lawyer would best be able to advise you whether your case warrants you filing Form I-601 or not.
Who Qualifies for an I-601 Waiver?
The following individuals can use Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility:
- Applicants for K-1, K-2, K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant visas
- Any applicant for adjustment of status
- Applicants living outside of the U.S. who have had interviews with a consular officer and found inadmissible
- V nonimmigrant visa applicants
- Temporary Protect Status (TPS) applicants
- Nicaraguan Adjustment and Central American Relief Act (NACARA) applicants
- Haitian Refugee Immigrant Fairness Act (HRIFA) applicants
- Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) self-petitioners
- T nonimmigrant visa holders filing for AOS who were found inadmissible on a ground that has not already been waived in connection with the T nonimmigrant status.
Who should file form I-601A?
Form I-601A is designed as more of a provisional waiver for immigrant visa applicants who are immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or family members of Lawful Permanent Residents (green card holders) seeking a waiver of grounds of inadmissibility before they leave the U.S. to appear at a U.S. Embassy or consulate for a visa interview. It is important that this form is filed while you are still in the United States (and at least 17 years at the time of filing). Form I-601A is also appropriate if you have a visa case pending with the U.S. Department of State. Double check you are filing the correct form by looking at the number in the upper right hand corner (shown below).
Processing Time for I-601 Waiver
Like with many of immigration forms, the processing time for the I-601 will depend on the circumstances of the case including where it was filed, the difficulty in assessing your application and the caseload at the adjudicating USCIS office. If USCIS requires additional information to make a decision they will send you a Request for Evidence which will delay the outcome further. If you are filing the I-601 in the United States you can expect 4-6 months (or longer due to COVID) for a response. For I-601 waivers filed outside of the United States, expect significantly longer processing times anywhere from 6-12 months or longer. Again, we cannot guarantee any processing times because they can change at a moment’s notice. You can contact USCIS to check out the status of your case using the case number located on your I-797 receipt notice.
How to Apply for a Waiver of Inadmissibility Step-by-Step
Section 1: Information About You
The first section is information about you including your alien registration number (if applicable), U.S. Social Security Number (if applicable) and USCIS online account number (if applicable). Following that you will need to write your full name, U.S. mailing address, physical address if different from your mailing address, gender, date of birth, place of birth, mother and father’s names, dates of your last entry into the United States and answer yes or no questions about your immigration or criminal history.
Section 2: U.S. Entry Information
Part two of the form requires you to provide information about previous periods of stay in the United States beginning with your most recent trip.
Section 3: Biographic Information
Part two of the form requires you to select your ethnicity, race, height, weight, eye and hair color.
Section 4: Reasons for Inadmissibility
In this section, you must select all the grounds of your inadmissibility. If a criminal history is one of the grounds and you were ever arrested or convicted you will need to provide certified court records. If the grounds of your inadmissibility do not fall under one of the boxes provided, check the ‘Other’ box and specify your situation.
Section 5: Information About Your Qualifying Relatives
Part five has you list the relative’s name (U.S. citizen or LPR) through which you are eligible to submit the application. You will need to provide their physical mailing address, contact information, date of birth, immigration status and A-number, if applicable. If you are a VAWA self-petitioner claiming hardship for yourself, check the box and skip to item number 9.
Section 6: Information About Your Other Relatives with Ties to the United States
If there are other relatives, U.S. citizens or LPRs you think should be considered when USCIS is making a decision, include their information in this section. In the space provided you also need to explain why you think your application should be approved.
Section 7: Applicant’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, Certification and Signature
Before filling out this section it is important to read the Penalties section of Form I-601. After doing so, you need to acknowledge that you can read and understand English, including all the questions on the form or if you had an interpreter help you, check 1.b. and name them in Part 8. If you had the assistance of a preparer, check box 2 and name them in Part 9. Lines 3-5 ask for your contact information (phone number and email address) followed by the applicant’s certification signature line.
Section 8: Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification and Signature
If you had an interpreter’s help, full out their name, mailing address and contact information. The interpreter will also need to certify, under penalty of perjury, that they are fluent in English and the applicant’s native language. In line 7.a. the interpreter needs to sign the form and date it in 7.b.
Section 9: Preparer’s Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing this Application, if other than the Applicant
If a preparer was used to fill out the form, provide their full, mailing address and contact information. The preparer will also need to certify, under penalty of perjury, that they prepared the form at the request of the applicant and sign in line 8.a. plus date in 8.b.
Section 10: Additional Information
This section is provided if you need extra space to answer previous questions in the form.
Section 11: Statement for Applicants with a Class A Tuberculosis Condition (As Defined by HHS Regulations)
This section should only be completed by applicant’s with a Class A Tuberculosis condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long does it take for an I-601 waiver to be approved?
For those filing Form I-601 in the United States, expect processing times to be approximately 4-6 months. For I-601 waivers filed outside of the United States, expect significantly longer processing times anywhere from 6-12 months or over a year due to the pandemic. Your lawyer will best be able to advise you about processing times they are noticing with other similar clients.
Can all grounds of inadmissibility be waived?
Unfortunately no. Crimes that are considered serious in nature like murder, rape, drug abuse, terroristic activity, etc. will not be waived by the United States government. Review the sections above regarding which grounds your inadmissibility fall under and consult an experienced lawyer to determine what your chances are of obtaining an approval. There are no guarantees that your admissibility will be forgiven even if you provide all the supporting documents and details.
Where do I file Form I-601?
For those living outside the United States, they need to file Form I-601 with the U.S. embassy or consulate. Those living in the United States and applying to adjust their status should file with USCIS. To view a complete list of USCIS addresses, click here.
What are the filing fees?
The filing fee for Form I-601 is $930, to be paid with a money order, personal check or cashier’s check. When you send a payment, you agree to pay for a government service. Filing and biometric service fees are final and non-refundable, regardless of any action we take on your application, petition, or request, or if you withdraw your request.
Can I request a waiver of the fee?
Certain individuals may be eligible to have the fee waived if they are an applicant for Temporary Protected Status, a VAWA self-petitioner, T or U visa applicant, battered spouse or child of a lawful permanent resident or U.S. citizen or applicant whose likelihood of becoming a public charge is not required at the time of their application for admission or adjustment of status.
How can I be notified electronically about my application?
You can receive electronic notifications by email or text message when your FOrm I-601 has been accepted at a USCIS Lockbox facility by completing Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance and clipping it to the first page of your application.