How Long Do 601 Immigration Waivers Take to Get Approved?

How Long Do 601 Immigration Waivers Take to Get Approved?

The I-601 waiver, also known as the “Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility”, allows immigrants who are otherwise inadmissible to the United States to obtain an immigrant visa, adjust status, or enter the country. The waiver process can be long and complicated, so understanding the timeline and what impacts it can help applicants prepare.

What is a 601 Waiver?

Under U.S. immigration law, there are many grounds that can make someone “inadmissible”, meaning they are not allowed to receive a visa or green card. These grounds range from criminal issues to immigration violations to health problems.

A 601 waiver allows an immigrant to essentially ask the government to forgive these issues and grant them legal status anyway. To get approved, the applicant must prove that refusing them entry would cause “extreme hardship” to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parents, or children.

Average 601 Waiver Processing Times

In general, 601 waiver applications take 12-18 months to process. However, each case is unique, and processing times can vary widely depending on the applicant’s background and situation. Some of the factors that impact timelines include:

  • Country of origin – Applicants from certain countries like Mexico and the Philippines generally have faster processing than other nationalities.
  • Grounds of inadmissibility – More complex cases involving multiple grounds of inadmissibility or serious issues like criminal records tend to take longer.
  • Quality of application – Incomplete or unclear applications that get requests for additional evidence (RFEs) add delays.
  • USCIS backlogs – Staffing shortages, seasonal changes in application rates, and other internal issues can temporarily slow down processing.

Steps in the 601 Waiver Process

To understand timelines better, it helps to break the I-601 process down into steps:

  1. Filing – Applicant assembles their application packet with forms, documents, and fees and mails it to USCIS. This portion is in the applicant’s control.
  2. Acceptance – Once received, USCIS reviews the application to ensure it’s complete and issues a receipt notice, typically within 2-4 weeks.
  3. Adjudication – This is where most of the 12-18 month timeline comes from. USCIS officers thoroughly review the case and make a decision.
  4. Decision – Applicants are issued an approval notice or denial letter. Approvals move on, while denials can be appealed.
  5. Visa interview – For overseas cases, the approved waiver enables the applicant to complete visa processing and enter the U.S. after any required interviews.

So while the application is physically with USCIS for over a year in most cases, the applicant can only directly impact the first portion of the process. The rest involves waiting as USCIS officers work through their caseload.

Can You Expedite a 601 Waiver?

In urgent situations, applicants may request to have their I-601 case expedited, or moved forward faster than normal processing times. Common expedite request reasons include:

  • Financial loss or hardship to a company or person in the U.S.
  • Emergency situation such as a family member’s illness, death, or destruction of property.
  • Upcoming court hearing dates or filings.
  • Clear USCIS error that caused delays.

However, USCIS only grants expedites that meet their strict criteria. Applicants should provide documentary evidence to prove their situation, as expedite requests are not guaranteed to be approved.

Renewing Expired 601 Waivers

I-601 waivers typically expire after one year if the applicant does not complete their visa application or entry into the United States in that timeframe. To renew an expired waiver, applicants must file a new I-601 form and updated supporting documents and pay all fees again.

Renewal applications tend to process faster than initial waiver applications, as USCIS already reviewed the case previously. However, applicants should still expect several months for re-adjudication.

Hiring an Immigration Attorney

Due to the complexity of 601 waiver cases, having expert legal guidance can help avoid delays and mistakes. Immigration attorneys know how to compile strong applications, navigate requests for evidence, and appeal denials if necessary.

While attorneys’ fees add to the overall cost, they greatly improve approval odds. Their expertise and ability to communicate with USCIS on your behalf is invaluable for overcoming inadmissibility through waivers.