About three years ago, Adele came into my office asking if we could bring her husband, Domingo, into to the United States through a family-based immigrant visa process. Domingo had been in the U.S. before, but had left to take a job overseas. The only problem was that Domingo had overstayed his tourist visa by about three years on his earlier visit.
When Domingo overstayed and left the U.S., he triggered a ten-year bar. That meant that he had to stay outside of the United States for ten years before obtaining a new visa to come back. In his situation, the bar was waivable – that is, since he’s married to a U.S. Citizen and only had this one immigration violation, he could file an I-601 and ask for forgiveness by showing extreme hardship on Adele.
The problem with the I-601 is that it’s expensive and time consuming. Legal fees alone can cost several thousands of dollars. I-601s take eight months right now to get a decision and you can’t even file an I-601 until after the consular interview.
When Adele came into our office the first time three years ago Domingo had already been outside the United States for about seven years. We talked about the fees and timing. I thought he would have an interview on his visa within about 15 months and he’d have a decision on an I-601 within about two years. That meant he’d be in the U.S. – assuming all went well – about a year before the ten-year bar expired.
The couple decided that even if they could get Domingo into the U.S. just a few months ahead of the ten year anniversary they wanted to go ahead and get started. So we started. As fate would have it, things took longer than expected. Through one government delay after another, a consular interview was finally scheduled. But it was only for eight months before the ten-year bar expired.
Did we keep the interview date, knowing that it meant that an I-601 would have to be filed? The pros were that interview was done, you knew where the case stood, and maybe the processing times would speed up and there’d be a decision before the ten-year bar expired. The cons were that it was an expensive route to take between legal fees and government filing fees.
Or did we ask to postpone the interview by eight months – until after the ten-year bar had passed? The pros were that the client saved money and didn’t have to go through the work of filing an I-601 waiver, but the con was having to wait eight months to make sure that the consular officer didn’t see any other issues in the case (what if there was something else that needed a waiver?).
My job isn’t to tell my clients what to do. It’s to give them options and then they have to make the decision that’s best for them. It’s never about what makes my office the most money (in this case, going ahead with the I-601 was certainly the more lucrative of the two options). It’s always about what makes the most for our clients’ particular circumstances, so long as it’s legal!
Adele and Domingo decided to wait. Domingo knew his story and he felt confident that there was nothing else to keep him from being approved. He felt confident in the proof to show when he left the United States. And he felt confident that we could update all of the documents necessary since some of them had expired in those eight months while we were waiting.
Finally, this past April. Domingo went to his interview. The case that felt, at times, like it would never end came to a happy conclusion. The visa has been issued and he’ll be coming to the United States this summer as a lawful permanent resident. We were flexible, honest, and able to listen to what our client needed.