What is a “waiver”, as applied to US Immigration law? It is a formal application to the US government, and an acceptance by the latter, that even though the latter is ordinarily inadmissible into the US based on various grounds (i.e. health, illegal entry, criminal violations and security/terrorism and similar grounds, etc.), the government will “overlook” or “forgive” these bars to entry and allow such a person into the US.

In many situations, the person applying for such a waiver may already be in the United States. The person seeking the Waiver may also be OUTSIDE the US while seeking the waiver, in certain other situations. The latter is generally the case in two situations: when the person has already been removed or deported from the US, usually when the person was a US Green Card holder and then committed a crime in the US that warranted removal / deportation. The second scenario will encompass those who are neither US Citizens nor Green Card holders, have previously travelled to the US as non-Immigrant Visitors and were deemed to have broken US Immigration laws during such prior visit (s) to the US.

Such persons also likely went through Expedited Removal from the US, which can be quite a harrowing experience.

Persons who previously entered the US “without inspection” (i.e. sneaking across an entry post or border into the US), usually trigger what is known in US Immigration Law language as the “10 year admission bar” (There is also the “3 year admission bar”, which is usually not applicable in the I 601 A waiver situation). Against this backdrop, the person’s status in the US is such that the government cannot and does not officially acknowledge that he or she even “exists” within the country (i.e. the individual has no social security number, work authorization, etc.) With the submission of a waiver application, the person may now apply to the US government for such benefits; if approved, the person gets not just the above benefits but a pathway to US Citizenship (i.e. a Green Card and subsequently, naturalization). These benefits far outweigh those recipients of “deferred action” programs get, such as the expanded DACA.

In March 2013, the previous Obama administration made a significant change to the waiver application process, by initiating what is now known as the Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver application. Before that time, waiver applicants had to leave the US and apply for the benefit in the US Embassy or consulate in their country of origin, and no matter how long they had lived in the US before being forced to make the trip. Aside from the uncertainty that their waiver application might not be approved and thus disallowing them from returning to the US (since they would be subject to the “admission bar” for staying without authorization in the US in the first place), the process also took a long time, thereby separating even successful waiver applicants from their loved ones (i.e. US Citizen children and spouses), for long periods of time, and often resulting in loss of their erstwhile jobs or other employment in the US.

The rollout of the “Provisional Waiver” process changed all that: now, the waiver application could be submitted and adjudicated in the US, with successful applicants then undertaking a quick foreign trip to a US Embassy or Consulate in their country of origin to obtain the necessary documents legitimizing their sojourn in the US. This initiative has cut down the wait time for waiver applications and adjudications considerably.