Criminal Conviction Waivers – General Information

Will you need a criminal conviction waiver in order to get an immigrant visa or green card?

Every year many people find out that they won’t be able to get an immigrant visa or a green card unless they first receive a criminal conviction waiver (also known as an I601 hardship waiver). Some people learn this during their immigrant visa interview when the consular officer tells them that they can’t receive an immigrant visa without first getting a waiver for a past criminal conviction. Others learn about the need for a criminal immigration waiver during their adjustment of status interview for their green card. Still others learn about this type of waiver from a friend or through Internet research before they even begin the immigrant visa or adjustment of status process.

What is a criminal immigration waiver?

Many criminal convictions can make you “inadmissible” which means that you can’t receive an immigrant visa or obtain a green card through the adjustment of status process. You may be inadmissible even if:

  • Your conviction was expunged
  • You were under 18 years of age when convicted
  • You participated in an alternative sentencing program
  • Your conviction is for a misdemeanor
  • You never spent any time in jail

A criminal immigration waiver basically forgives this type of inadmissibility and allows you to move forward with the immigration process.

The penalty for many convictions is severe – you will be permanently inadmissible to the United States. This is true even if you have strong family ties to the United States or are married to a United States citizen. You should always check with an immigration lawyer to find out if a criminal conviction will be an issue in your immigration case.

Criminal Immigration Waiver Requirements

You may be able to overcome a permanent inadmissibility due to a criminal conviction if you receive a criminal immigration waiver.

This waiver is not available for all criminal convictions. It is only available for criminal inadmissibility due to:

  • Crimes involving moral turpitude (CIMT or CMT)
  • A single offense of possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
  • Multiple criminal convictions
  • Prostitution
  • Certain noncitizens who have asserted immunity from prosecution for serious criminal activity

To qualify for this type of waiver, most people must show “extreme hardship” to a United States citizen or permanent resident spouse, parent or child. But, there are some instances in which extreme hardship to a qualifying relative need not be shown, such as for the prostitution ground of inadmissibility or if the criminal activity occurred over 15 years ago. In addition, people who have been convicted of a “violent or dangerous crime” may need to meet a heightened standard in order to qualify for this type of waiver. Additional requirements also apply to certain permanent residents who may need to apply for a criminal immigration waiver.

If the extreme hardship case does apply to your situation, it can be very difficult to prove that you meet the extreme hardship standard. It isn’t enough to show that it would be financially difficult or emotionally upsetting if you are separated from your family. You have to show that the hardship to your qualifying relative would be extreme compared to the hardship normally encountered in a family separation. Most people will benefit from the assistance of an immigration lawyer in preparing their waiver application.

Before Beginning Your Criminal Immigration Waiver Application

Make sure that you understand the waiver application process and what it takes to win a waiver case before you begin your criminal conviction waiver application. You can learn more about this type of waiver by exploring the articles on this website, requesting a free copy of the Hardship Letter Special Report, watching an immigration waiver webinar or viewing the immigration videos on this website. All of this information is available for free before you ever talk to an immigration lawyer. By learning more about the criminal immigration waiver process before you do anything else, you’ll be able to better decide whether you should hire an immigration lawyer and what questions you should ask your lawyer if you decide to work with one.