This past week, I’ve had two interesting cases – the kind that requires what I call “mental gymnastics” – involving the I-192 waiver for U visas. These cases will require a significant amount of work to have the waiver and the U visa approved. I have faith, though, that it can be done.
The U visa has the most generous waiver available under immigration law. It can forgive nearly everything; with the exception of murder and involvement in genocide.
Getting a waiver isn’t automatic, though.
When USCIS looks at whether or not to grant the waiver, they do a balancing test. Have you done enough good things in your life (“equities”) to outweigh the negative things that have caused you to need a waiver?
If the answer is yes, then the waiver is granted. If the answer is no, the waiver will be denied. And yes, even waivers for U visas are denied.
The most common reason for needing a waiver is for entering the U.S. without permission.
Generally speaking, if there are no other negatives, the waiver will be granted without too much trouble. The equities of being in the U.S. and having been a victim outweigh the one negative of entering the U.S. illegally.
However, there are some types of criminal activity and immigration violations that weigh much heavier on the negative side of the balancing scale. Those are:
- Making false claims to U.S. citizenship;
- Having committed marriage fraud;
- Filing a frivolous asylum application; and
- Having a serious felony conviction.
Anyone of these, and especially any combination of these, means that your waiver application needs to be strong and go above and beyond the normal effort. It has to have a lot of force behind it to outweigh the serious negative factors in your history in order to be approved.
What kind of information makes a waiver strong?
Every case is different, but some good rules of thumb are:
- Don’t ignore the problem. For example, if you committed fraud, explain what happened, why you did it, and genuinely apologize. Explain not only that you learned from your mistake, but what you have learned.
- Explain what your life would look like if you had to return to your home country. If you have children and a spouse if they moved with you, what would their lives look like in that country? Would they be safe? Would they be able to communicate? Find a job?
- Quality, detailed character reference letters. Have your friends, family, employer, members of the community – anyone at all who knows you – write letters to talk about what a good, trustworthy person you are.
- Photographs of you and your family together. You will not be interviewed on the waiver, so it is important that your story becomes more than just a file to the USCIS officer. Pictures allow the officer to see your family together – and they know if they deny the waiver, that your family will likely be torn apart. Pictures can make your case come alive.
Don’t take the U visa waiver for granted.
Just because it exists and is available doesn’t mean that it will be approved for anyone for any reason. If you have a lot of negative factors in your case, it means you have to show a lot of strong positive equities to get your case approved.
Be prepared to do a lot of work to show you deserve the waiver.