Whenever someone asks me about the provisional waiver, my first piece of advice for them is always to get an attorney. Coming from an attorney, that advice is usually expected and sometimes ignored. But, before casting aside the advice and trudging through the provisional waiver process alone, let me make the case as to why you should hire an attorney.
First, applying for a provisional waiver is very complex. Some steps in the family petition process are less complicated than others, but filing a waiver petition is not one of the easier steps. In fact, in many cases it will be the most complicated step. In addition to just filling out the required form, applicants must submit substantial additional documentation. Even in the easiest of waiver cases, the required additional documentation can total hundreds of pages. The bulk of this documentation will usually go to the heart of the waiver application, which is proving extreme hardship. A good lawyer will have experience in gathering the documentation needed to support a winning waiver application. They will know what types of documentation will best help your case and what documentation really will not help you at all.
That leads me to the second reason why you should hire an attorney. Documenting extreme hardship can be a hardship in and of itself. In order to qualify for a provisional waiver, applicants must show that a qualifying United States citizen relative would suffer “extreme hardship” if the waiver is not granted. Complicating that task is the fact that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has not issued a formal memorandum or provided a regulation defining the term. This can leave many people wondering exactly what it is they are required to prove. Good lawyers, who are experienced in preparing these waivers, know how immigration officials interpret the term; they know what documentation has been accepted in the past as proving extreme hardship and what documentation has not.
Finally, the consequences of having your waiver denied can be serious. There is no appeals process for denied provisional waivers: therefore, if your waiver is denied, you cannot appeal. Also, USCIS will not accept requests to reopen your case or reconsider its decision. Therefore, it is crucial that you submit a complete and well-prepared application the first time around.
Remember, attorneys can never guarantee results. They can only lower your risks and improve your chances for success, and that is what you are paying for. In the case of the provisional waiver, your chances for success are much greater with the help of an experienced attorney. Far too many people try to go it alone and make mistakes. They wait to contact an attorney until after their cases have been rejected, denied, terminated, etc. Sometimes attorneys can pick up the pieces and find ways to fix damaged cases, but sometimes it is not possible. If you are thinking about filing a provisional waiver, take my advice and hire an experienced attorney.
If you want help or more information on the provisional waiver, contact the attorneys at Immigrant Legal Services.