Nonimmigrant visa applicants who must also submit a nonimmigrant waiver in conjunction with their visa application, must first convince the Consulate that they are deserving of a waiver. Thus, an applicant who is inadmissible to enter the U.S. will submit a package consisting of a visa application (e.g. B1/B2 visa) and a waiver application to the Consulate. If after reviewing the waiver application the Consulate agrees to make a favorable recommendation, the Consulate will then forward the waiver application to the Admissibility Review Office ("ARO") to be adjudicated.
In determining whether or not to forward a waiver application to the ARO, consular officers conduct a preliminary review of the application package. First, consular officials ensure that the applicant meets certain basic conditions, which include that the applicant: (1) is not inadmissible as an intending immigrant; (2) is not inadmissible under certain security grounds; (3) is not seeking a waiver of nonimmigrant documentary requirements; and (4) is qualified for the nonimmigrant visa he or she is seeking to obtain. Second, consular officers are advised to consider the following factors outlined by the Board of Immigration Appeals ("BIA") in Matter of Hranka: (1) the risk of harm if the applicant is admitted; (2) the seriousness of the applicant's prior immigration or criminal law violations; and (3) the nature of the applicant's reasons for wishing to enter the U.S. If after reviewing the application consular officers are satisfied with the waiver application, the application will be forwarded, together with a favorable recommendation, to the ARO, for final adjudication.
Recently, the ARO informed all consulates that they are experiencing unusual backlogs. In previous years, the process took only a couple of weeks, but current processing times may take several months. Our office has heard from several frustrated clients whose waiver processing times have now gone beyond two months. Unfortunately, there is nothing that can be done to speed up the process; however, in urgent situations, there is a procedure called parole that may be granted to allow an applicant to enter the U.S.
If you are interested in more information about nonimmigrant waivers or parole, please contact our office to set up a consultation.
By NEVIN MURCHIE, ESQ.