One of the questions I'm most often asked by clients these days is, "What's going on with my I-130?" Up until about a month or two ago, I-130's (even those filed by US citizen spouses) were taking a year, or sometimes longer, for USCIS to process. Things are finally moving a little quicker now but we're still looking at 7-8 months processing time.
The next question I'm inevitably asked is usually, "What will happen after the I-130 is approved?" Most, but not all, of my I-130 clients will be filing a Form I-601A Provisional Waiver and then Consular Processing.
It's important to know that USCIS focuses on certain types of hardship to the qualifying relative (US citizen spouse or parent) when considering whether a Form I-601A Provisional Waiver meets the extreme hardship requirement. The main types of hardship are financial, emotional, psychological, medical and physical. While the main focus is on direct hardship to the qualifying relative, we also discuss hardship to the qualifying relative as it relates to other family members such as parents or children.
If you will be filing a Form I-601A Provisional Waiver after your I-130 is approved, there are a few things that you can do now to prepare for the waiver process.
1. Make sure your taxes are filed correctly. Consult a qualified and informed tax professional. Married couples should not be filing as Single or Head of Household. Married Filing Joint or Married Filing Separately are both fine.
2. Start saving joint documents such as leases, utility bills, insurance policies, credit card bills and checking account statements. If you and your spouse do not have many joint documents, start adding one another to accounts now.
3. Start saving money for the psychological hardship evaluation that the qualifying relative will need to have performed by a mental health professional. It is time consuming, and unfortunately not cheap, but is the psychological hardship evaluation is an invaluable part of the overall waiver.
4. Gather medical records and doctor’s letters to document past and present medical conditions of you, the qualifying relative and your children.
5. Make a list of friends and family members who you think might be willing to submit a hardship affidavit on your behalf.
6. If children are involved, start gathering school records such as progress reports, award certificates and report cards.
7. Start writing your own hardship affidavit and ask the qualifying relative to start writing his or hers. Details are important. The affidavits should be heartfelt and emotional. Share special moments and memories that might allow the adjudicating officer to connect with you and your situation. Do not underestimate the power of honesty and humility! This is your opportunity to plead your case.
Remember that the quality of the waiver produced on your behalf depends largely on the quality of information you provide to your legal professional. Waiver preparation can be stressful and overwhelming but hopefully these few tips will help make the process a little easier for everyone involved.
By Amy Forrest, Senior Waiver Paralegal