CBP announces e-SAFE pilot for electronic waiver submissions

In an effort to reduce processing time, CBP’s new pilot will give certain waiver applicants the option to apply electronically. U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has announced that the launch of the Electronic Secured Adjudication Forms Environment (e-SAFE) pilot is planned for mid-2019. The e-SAFE online system will allow nonimmigrant citizens from specified visa exempt countries to electronically submit and make payment for their waiver of inadmissibility applications. This will be applicable to submissions requiring Form I-192, Application for Advance Permission to Enter as a Nonimmigrant, and Form I-212, Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States After Deportation or Removal. Currently, eligible citizens of Canada, Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands file their submissions by hand delivery to CBP at a port of entry.

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CBP reports that using e-SAFE will streamline and speed up the I-192 and I-212 adjudication process. According to an e-SAFE fact sheet provided on CBP’s website, “The processing time for waiver applications submitted online via e-SAFE are expected to be significantly less than paper form applications manually submitted at the port of entry.” Status updates and notification of the decision will be sent via email. Instead of receiving a hard copy sent by mail, applicants will be directed to log in to view and print the decision from the e-SAFE website. If approved, an electronically signed Form I-194 will be received through the website, which the applicant will need to print out and must have in their possession each time they travel to the U.S.

Although e-SAFE is presented as a more convenient option, there is a catch: even if filing online, biometrics (fingerprints and photograph) must be completed in person and only at limited ports of entry. At the biometrics appointment, applicants are also “required to bring the original documents to the port of entry for verification,” CBP advises. After receiving an electronic receipt confirming that the application has been received and paid for, CBP dictates the applicant will only have 45 days to report to one of the designated ports of entry to complete biometrics. If they fail to do so, their application will be considered abandoned.

Currently, CBP provides a list of seven ports of entry where the biometrics appointment can be attended. Three are included in Western New York: the Peace Bridge, Lewiston Bridge and Rainbow Bridge. Remaining options include the Toronto Pearson International Airport and three ports of entry in Washington state: Peace Arch, Pacific Highway and Point Roberts.

One aspect of the waiver application process that will not change with e-SAFE: the contents of the submission. The requirements regarding documents that must accompany Form I-192 and Form I-212 will remain the same. How exactly these documents may be transmitted and if there are any page limitations remains to be seen.

Paper applications will continue to be accepted at ports of entry by CBP, but it’s expected that fewer locations will allow in-person filing as e-SAFE expands. CBP plans to gradually add more ports of entry where biometrics can be completed and plans to publish updates on the e-SAFE public web page at

SRW Border Lawyers will provide updates on the e-SAFE program as more information becomes available. If you believe you are inadmissible and would like to learn more about the e-SAFE program and how it may affect you, please feel free to reach out to our office to further discuss. The e-SAFE program is likely to be of great interest to inadmissible Canadian citizens in need of I-192 and/or I-212 waivers.

Applicants Needing Non-Immigrant Waivers Are Experiencing Unusual Delays

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.