Immigration Court Ruling

US Visa Ineligibility Findings and Waiver Option

Often times, foreign nationals are denied a visa or entry into the United States based on certain grounds. Such individuals who are found inadmissible and need a non-immigrant visa to enter the U.S. can apply for a waiver application at a U.S. consulate. The Immigration and Nationality Act (Section 212 (d)(3)) provides for a waiver (or pardon) for certain inadmissibility findings. The “212 (d) (3) waiver” can be used to overcome most grounds of ineligibility. One such very common ground is that of willful misrepresentation or fraud, the consequences of which are dire as it triggers a permanent or lifetime bar to entering the U.S However, all is not lost and this ground like many others can be challenged and overcome through a 212 (d) (3) waiver.

The INA 212 (d) (3) waiver, dubbed as the “Hranka Waiver,” although discretionary, can waive most grounds of inadmissibility, including willful misrepresentation or fraud, crimes involving moral turpitude, prostitution, smuggling, bars resulting from unlawful presence in the United States, health related grounds and a few others. There are certain grounds of inadmissibility that are excluded, such as espionage, participation in Nazi persecution and genocide. The waiver is available to NIV visa applicants, i.e., B-1, L-1, F-1, J-1, O-1, etc. visas and not to immigrant visa applicants.

The U.S. Department of State and consular officers are tasked with the discretionary authority of recommending these waivers for non-immigrant (NIV) visa ineligibilities to the Department of Homeland Security for approval.

Waiver Assessment Criteria

There are no prescribed criteria but the adjudicating officer will weigh the following factors in recommending a 212 (d)(3) waiver:

  1. Risk of harm to society if the foreign national is admitted;
  2. Seriousness of the foreign national’s immigration or criminal law violation;
  3. Foreign national’s purpose of travel to the United States;
  4. Whether there is a single, isolated incident or a pattern of misconduct; and
  5. Evidence of reformation or rehabilitation.

Application Procedure

The 212(d)(3) waiver application can be submitted to the U.S. consulate in the applicant’s home country (or country of residence) or in case of visa-exempt foreign nationals, at the U.S. port of entry (with Customs and Border Protection). Generally, one can submit the waiver application at the consulate at the same time that the person is applying for a non-immigrant visa; some consulates may require the waiver filing at a later time. If consular officers believe that the waiver should be granted, they are required to forward the case to the Customs and Border Protection’s Admissibility Review Office (ARO) with an affirmative recommendation. The consular officer is not obligated to accept the waiver application if he or she believes that the waiver has no merit and is required to reject it if the applicant is otherwise found ineligible for the underlying visa. However, consular officers are directed to refer the waiver request to the Department of State for review if the applicant requests, provided that the applicant’s case involves certain situation/s such as national security, foreign relations, significant public interest and/or urgent humanitarian or medical reason. The ARO’s decision is final pursuant to which the consular officer will adjudicate the underlying non-immigrant visa application.

The ARO/CBP generally grant a waiver in most visa cases for 5 years. The waiver processing can be lengthy at times ranging from few weeks to several months but is an inexpensive and relatively straightforward option to overcome certain ineligibility findings.

This article has been written by Zeenat Phophalia, Esq. Of Counsel, Davies & Associates, India Office.

Zeenat Phophalia is qualified to practice law in New York, United Kingdom and India. She practices in the area of U.S. immigration law with a focus on business immigration, and has represented corporate clients including large and medium sized companies and startups across sectors such as IT, consulting, consumer goods, manufacturing and telecommunications.

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