Everyone is impatiently waiting for the publication of the much-anticipated provisional hardship waivers.
When will the regulations be published?
According to the government, the new regulations will be published by the end of 2012. There are only 13 days left in 2012 and 5 of those days are either weekend days or public holidays.
How long will the government take to make a decision on a provisional hardship waiver?
The government has set a goal of 4 months. I suspect the processing time will be a little longer than 4 months during the first months after publication because there will be a surge of demand. The surge will happen because a lot of people have I-130 petitions already approved (a requirement for a provisional hardship waiver) and have just been waiting for the new regulations. In my own practice, I have about 30 clients waiting to file hardship waivers and expect most of the cases to be filed within 4 months.
Once the initial surge is filed and processed, I expect the processing time to settle down to the expected 4 months with one exception: cases that get requests for additional evidence.
How can I avoid requests for additional evidence?
The best way to reduce the risk of a request for additional evidence is to work with an experienced immigration attorney who knows exactly what type of evidence is needed.
However, even working with an experienced immigration attorney is not a guarantee that your case won't get a request for additional evidence. Sometimes the requests for additional evidence seem quite capricious, arbitrary and without any logical reason.
Once additional evidence has been submitted, USCIS seems to make a decision within 3-4 weeks.
Do I need to have a psychological evaluation done?
Psychological evaluations are very expensive (usually $1,000 to $3,000), so you want to do them only if they are absolutely necessary.
In my practice, I have filed about 55 hardship waivers and used psych evals with only about 3-4 clients. Those 3-4 evals were early cases when I didn't have as much familiarity with what constitutes extreme hardship. I've been doing hardship waivers now for almost six years and haven't suggested a psych eval for about five years. None of my cases have been denied.
Very few cases are so weak that a psychological evaluation is necessary. You are better working with an experienced immigration attorney with a good track record doing hardship waivers. Experienced attorneys know what questions to ask and what constitutes extreme hardship.
Most people have a lot more hardship going on in their lives than they realise.
After my provisional hardship waiver is approved, what happens next?
Then you submit your final paperwork to the National Visa Center, e.g. the affidavit of support, the DS-230/260, your birth certificate, a photocopy of the biopage of your passport, etc.
Once your final paperwork has been submitted to the NVC, you'll be about 8 weeks away from your immigration appointment.
Am I guaranteed to get a visa if I have an approved provisional hardship waiver?
No. The provisional hardship waiver only overcomes inadmissibility due to living in the U.S. illegally for more than a year.
If the consulate officer identifies other grounds of inadmissibility (e.g. medical reasons, misrepresentation, criminal convictions, smuggling family members into the U.S., entering the U.S. illegally after living in the U.S. illegally for more than a year), then the provisional hardship waiver is no good and a new hardship waiver has to be filed.
Please remember as well, that some grounds of inadmissibility cannot be overcome with a waiver. For example, two municipal citations for possession of marijuana.
The risk of being found inadmissible for other reasons makes it extremely important to work with an experienced immigration attorney and to be completely truthful with your immigration attorney. Those two factors mean you will get the best advice for your circumstances.
How long does it take to get an I-130 petition approved?
Usually about 5-6 months. So if you are thinking about starting an immigration process and file an I-130 petition in January, then the I-130 petition will be approved around about June-July. The provisional hardship waiver could be filed as early as July-August and approved probably in October-November, which would mean an immigration interview probably in December 2013 or January 2014.