Extreme Hardship and the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver: FAQ


What is extreme hardship for the provisional unlawful presence waiver?

Extreme hardship to a qualifying relative (U.S. citizen spouse or parent) must be proved for your waiver to be granted, but the Act doesn’t define what it is.  Instead, we must look to prior court decisions.  An adjudicator must review your case based upon the totality of the circumstances to find extreme hardship.  That means that even if you don’t have a single factor that alone may satisfy a waiver, you can still satisfy the requirement if your factors in the aggregate prove the hardship.Although there is not precise definition, yet, we do know that the standard of proof is a “preponderance of the evidence.” That means that you must show that your qualifying relative “more likely than not” will experience extreme hardship if you aren’t admitted in the U.S.  In numerical terms, this standard is usually understood as a 51% chance (or higher) that your qualifying relative will suffer extreme hardship.Two principal concepts for Extreme Hardship are the “Separation Standard” and the “Relocation Standard.”

Separation Standard

You must show that your qualifying relative (USC parent or spouse) will suffer greater harm than ordinary separation if he or she stays in the U.S. without you.

Relocation Standard

You must show that your qualifying relative (USC parent or spouse) will suffer greater harm than a typical relocation if he or she leaves the U.S. with you.  If relocation is not possible give documentation showing it.  For example, the qualifying relative is serving in the U.S. armed forces. Or, they came to the U.S as a refugee from your county, or a significant medical injury that would prohibit the relocation.

Extreme Hardship can be based on actual or prospective injury.  An actual injury or harm is more likely if you have already relocated.  This is more common in a traditional Form I-601 claim.  If you have relocated you should include evidence of actual harm that has occurred because of the relocation or separation. This may be financial, emotional, or victim of a crime or abuse.  Whereas, prospective harm is more typically argued in a Form I-601A while you are still living in the U.S.  Here, you are discussing harm that may occur in the future because of separation or relocation.  The harm must be realistic and foreseeable and you should include a discussion of your home country’s conditions.

What are some factors to prove extreme hardship?

In order to establish Extreme Hardship, you must prove that your hardship, whether actual or perspective, is extreme to your qualifying relative.  That means that is must be significantly greater than these regular consequences that occur because of separation. You can use hardship to U.S. citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Relative other than your qualifying relative, but only indirectly.  For example, let’s say you are married to a USC and have a USC child with special needs.  If you are not granted the waiver and your wife stays in the US with your child, she will become a single mom.  Because of your son’s special needs, she may suffer extreme hardship trying to financially support the family while caring for the needs of your son.

Factors to consider

Because the standard is extreme hardship, here are some factors to consider:

  1. Health consideration – This could be ongoing or specialized treatment for physical or mental condition, availability and quality of the treatment in your home country, the anticipated duration of the treatment, and whether this is a chronic condition (develops and worsens over a longer period of time) vs. acute condition (symptoms appear or change or worsen rapidly);
  2. Financial considerations – Future employment, loss due to sale of a home or business, decline in standard of living, ability to recoup short term loss, costs of extraordinary needs like special education for children with special needs, cost of care for family members (i.e., elderly or sick parents);
  3. Educational considerations – loss of opportunity for higher education, lower quality or limited scope of education options, disruption of current program, need to learn a foreign language or culture with ensuing loss of time or grade, availability of special requirements like training programs or internships in specific fields;
  4. Personal considerations – your qualifying relatives family in the U.S.; your qualifying relative family in your country of birth or citizenship; qualifying relative’s possible separation from spouse or children; ages of parties; length of residence and community ties in the U.S;
  5. Special factors – Cultural, language, religious, and ethnic obstacles; credible fears of persecution, physical harm, or injury; social ostracism or stigma; access (or lack of access) to social institutions or structures for support, guidance, or protection.

Keep in mind that you heavily document each and every factor.  It isn’t what you say in an affidavit that matters as much as what you can corroborate from other sources.  Don’t expect the government to accept your factors on faith alone.  Give them tangible evidence supporting your claim.

How do I prove Financial Hardship in a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver Application (Form I-601A) or in a Waiver (Form I-601)?

Financial Hardship alone is not enough to prove Extreme Hardship, a subject I discussed in a prior post.  You really need a medical or emotional problem that will affect your immediate relative if your unlawful presence isn’t waived.  However, financial hardship will support any other basis.  You must show that your qualifying immediate relative:

  1. Will not have the income to support him/herself or close family members due to you being out of the U.S.; or
  2. Will have the same problem if he or she comes with you to your home county.
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