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Update on Stateside Waivers: Criminal Issues

(See my previous post for an introduction to stateside provisional waivers.)

On January 24, 2014, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issued a new policy memorandum on stateside provisional (a.k.a. I-601A) waivers. This new guidance applies in cases where the applicant has a minor, criminal history. Previously, almost any significant criminal record would lead to a near automatic denial. Under the new policy announcement, however, certain crimes may not disqualify an applicant.

Minor, non-alcohol-related traffic offenses have never been an issue. However, the new guidance suggests that, in addition, crimes that are not “crimes involving moral turpitude” or that are, but that fall under the “petty offense” or “youthful offender” exceptions contained in section 212 of the Immigration and Nationality Act should not disqualify an applicant. The legal definition of “crime involving moral turpitude” is too complex to explain in this short post, and besides, there is so much disagreement over the meaning of the term that any explanation I tried to give would probably be of little practical use. The takeaway message here is that under the new guidance, there is room to argue that certain arrests and convictions should not always bar an applicant from receiving a waiver. How individual USCIS adjudicators apply this new guidance remains to be seen.

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