In response to COVID-19, our office is still operating and we encourage those who want to set up a consultation with us to do so and you will have the option via phone or skype. Visit our Coronavirus Resource page for up-to-date info on COVID-19 and immigration.
Ame Coats: Hello everyone. I’m Ame Coats. I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Shah . And I’m here with our managing partner Murali Bashyam. Bashyam Shah is a full service immigration law firm located in Raleigh, North Carolina. We represent clients in all 50 states and around the world. Today, we’re going to talk about I-601 waivers. How do we put together an I-601 waiver application?
The core of the I-601 waiver is an affidavit from a U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative. I mean this affidavit is really their story. I tell a story of how the U.S. citizen or permanent resident relative met their spouse, and then I try to very clearly help them explain the hardships they’re going to face if their spouse is not allowed to return to the United States or stay in the United States.
Murali Bashyam: It doesn’t hurt in certain cases to actually tell the story of the U.S. national, as well.
Ame Coats: Right, especially if they’ve come here and really made something of themselves and really tried to have a good life and they have a very strong moral character; certainly, it doesn’t hurt. And, finally, I would think it’s very important to put lots of family photos all throughout the application. You have to constantly remind them that you’re real people in this case. And, in fact, I put a picture of the couple at the very beginning of the application. In my mind, I think to myself, well, every time an officer is looking at this, they’re going to flip by that picture, so they’ll never forget.
Murali Bashyam: Actually, Ame, when you talk about these affidavits, how in-depth do you usually get trying to extract this information from a client? Are you talking about a half a page affidavit, a ten-page affidavit, I mean what you do think?
Ame Coats: Ten to fifteen pages, probably. It really depends.
Murali Bashyam: For each person?
Ame Coats: Well, it’s different. The U.S. citizen, the permanent resident, the qualified relative; their affidavit is the most important, and it really just depends on the kind of client I’m working with. Some people are really good at writing, and they’ll sit down at their computer and they will be able to very articulately put everything down into the written word. But there are other people who aren’t great at that and it’s easier for them to tell their story.
And I’ve actually taped meetings with clients and gone back to transcribe it. It’s really important that I get their voice. It’s not me writing this affidavit, it’s me working with them to make sure that we get all the grounds of hardship, but it’s their voice; it’s their story.
Murali Bashyam: So if you are a client going through the I-601 waiver process, it’s important for them to actually tell the attorney everything that’s on their mind about their story, about their life, about their family, about their medical conditions, everything.
Ame Coats: Even if they think it’s trivial. As far as the specific types of evidence, you need something to back up every ground of hardship that you’re trying to assert. So if it’s a medical condition, obviously, you’re going to order medical records, a list of medications, and letters from your doctor. If I want a letter from the doctor, I just don’t tell the client, “Go get me a letter from your doctor;” I tell them exactly what I want to go in that letter.
If I want a report from a therapist or a psychologist to explain the extreme emotional hardship that the U.S. citizen or permanent resident is going to suffer, then one or two visits to a therapist is not going to get it. I mean you have to really have a pattern of going to see someone, so that they can get to know you in-depth and have the ability to write an evaluation.
Letters or affidavits from friends or family members, I think these are only good if they can attest to a certain type of hardship. Coworkers and professional colleagues, I mean especially if you’re trying to use a professional for your hardship documents to prove whatever the financial hardship is, mortgage statements, school loan statements, credit card bills. If you’re going to use country conditions, you’ve got to use reputable sources. I mean I always try to use the government sources, themselves.
The U.S. Department of State puts out country condition reports, background notes; if I don’t find what I’m looking for there, then I’ll go like, maybe, to CNN or New York Times, something like that. You want to clearly lay out – in the U.S. citizen or permanent resident affidavit, you want to very clearly lay out what are the grounds of hardships. You don’t want the officer to be trying to figure it out. It needs to be super clear, and all the evidence that you put in has to be directly related to whatever these grounds of hardship are.
Murali Bashyam: And you mentioned earlier, filing it at the U.S. Consulate verses filing it the United States, if you’re eligible to file it in the United States, generally speaking, how long does it take to get one of these I-601 waivers processed?
Ame Coats: Well, if you’re filing it outside of the United States, it really depends. Every USCIS office across the world is different with their processing times. Like, for example, if you were filing a waiver in Honduras, you’re probably looking at about nine months. However, in Mexico, they have a special program now where after you go to your visa interview, and if you’ve been declared inadmissible, they’ll set up an appointment for you so that you can present the wavier in person a couple of weeks later. And in many instances, it gets approved on the spot. So it really depends.
Here, in the United States, it also depends on the backlog at the immigration office that you’re working with. Where we’re from in Raleigh, North Carolina, we’re extremely lucky because have a fairly new immigration office. And they’re getting through these in a couple months, but I don’t think that’s the norm.
Murali Bashyam: I think in the example that you used before for Paul and Belkis, that case, do you remember how long did that take for that wavier to go through, was it six months?
Ame Coats: No, it took close to a year. So I would say that if you’re outside of the United States, it’s going to take anywhere from six months to a year to get it approved, unless you’re in Mexico.
Murali Bashyam: So you should be prepared to actually spend time in your own country waiting for the 601 waiver to go through.
Ame Coats: Right. Absolutely. And we’re giving you a link here on the slide you see now. This is Paul and Belkis, and they’re talking here about their case.
Murali Bashyam: Yeah, they’re a fantastic couple, actually. They took a big risk going to the I-601 waiver process as Ame had mentioned before. And it was successful, so they were kind enough to come and tell their story. And we provided a link here; if you click on it, you can go and hear what they said about the I-601 process and how they felt about it, and why they were happy that it was successful and they were able to keep their family together.
We want to thank everybody attending this webinar. We hope you found it helpful. If you have any other questions related to this topic or any other immigration topic, please feel free to e-mail email@example.com, or myself, murali@bashyamspiro. And we thank you for attending this webinar.
Ame Coats: Thank you for joining us.
[End of Audio]