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USCIS Issues Policy Guidance on “Extreme Hardship”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released much-needed policy guidance on how to determine “extreme hardship” for qualifying relatives under certain waiver provisions in current immigration law.

Certain non-citizens who are deemed inadmissible cannot gain admission into the U.S. or receive other immigration benefits. Individuals who have committed certain crimes, for example, are considered inadmissible to the U.S. However, USCIS has discretion to admit certain inadmissible individuals into the U.S. if the individual qualifies for a statutory waiver. A waiver may be available if the applicant can demonstrate that failure to admit them would cause “extreme hardship” to the applicant’s U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident family members.

Since there is no clear definition of “extreme hardship” in immigration statutes, regulations, or case decisions, the policy guidance is meant to provide some clarification on the matter. The new policy guidance provides a list of factors that may be considered when determining a finding of “extreme hardship.” These factors include family ties, economic impact, medical conditions and medical care, and conditions in one’s home country. The guidance also provides an overview of the evidence an applicant may use to prove “extreme hardship.”

The new guidance becomes effective on December 5, 2016. Short of formal regulations, the new policy guidance provides much-needed clarity on “extreme hardship” guidelines. This is a welcome first step.

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