In general, an undocumented immigrant who has been in the U.S. for more than a year may become a legal resident, but first he or she must leave the country and not come back for 10 years. In practice, this is often impossible, due to the cost, distance and impracticality of uprooting one’s life in America.
In some cases, an exception to this law may allow an undocumented resident to forgo the 10-year exile requirement. In essence, if being banished from the U.S. for a decade would cause you extreme hardship due to family connections, you may be allowed to stay in the country while you adjust your immigration status.
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services calls this exception a “waiver on grounds of inadmissibility,” or less formally a “601 waiver.” To obtain this waiver, an immigrant facing deportation for lack of legal permission to remain in this country must show that doing so would cause “extreme hardship” to a “qualifying relative.” A “qualifying relative” in the context of this law includes a spouse or parent who is a citizen or legal resident of the U.S.
“Extreme hardship” is tough to show. The usual effects of being deported, such as the loss of your job and having to move your family, do not qualify. Believe it or not, even separating a parent from his or her young children is considered a “typical” hardship by USCIS. To show extreme hardship, the applicant must show that deportation or barred re-entry would cause unusual suffering to a qualifying family member.
The strongest possible arguments, according to USCIS, are usually a qualifying relative with a major illness that makes it unsafe to travel abroad, or the alien’s country is in a state of war. From there, other possibly successful arguments include the home country being on the verge of major upheaval, and the relative would not be able to pay off debts by moving abroad.
For more information on this and other forms of relief from deportation, consider speaking with an immigration attorney.