Extreme Economic Hardship Considerations for I-601A Applicants’ Qualifying Relatives

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On July 22, 2016, the Obama administration expanded the I-601A provisional waivers for individuals considered inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i)(I),(II). This has allowed applicants to submit waiver applications prior to leaving the country. An I-601A application allows unlawful presence in the United States if the removal of the applicant poses extreme hardship to a qualifying relative who holds legal standing as a citizen.

Extreme hardship is a multifaceted term and includes impact on family ties, social and cultural factors, economic factors, health conditions, special needs for family members, and existing conditions in the country of relocation. This article will be focused solely on determining economic impact to the qualifying relative associated with the denial of the I-601A provisional waiver.

Factors to Consider

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services considers the following factors to play a significant role in determining economic hardship.

  • Economic impact of applicant’s departure on the qualifying relative, including the applicant’s or qualifying relative’s ability to obtain employment in the country of relocation.
  • Economic impact resulting from the sale of a home, business or other asset.
  • Economic impact resulting from the termination of a professional practice.
  • Decline in the standard of living, including due to significant unemployment, underemployment, or other lack of economic opportunity in the country of relocation.
  • Ability to recoup losses or repay student loan debt.
  • Cost of extraordinary needs, such as special education or training for children.
  • Cost of care for family members, including children, and elderly, sick or disabled parents.

In calculating the economic impact on the qualifying relative one must consider the impact of the departure of the applicant or the scenario in which the entire family relocates. In the first scenario, where the applicant is denied admission and the qualifying relative remains in the United States, the detriment to the qualifying relative will derive from the loss support from the applicant’s earnings and household services.

In the second scenario, in which the qualifying relative relocates to the country of the applicant’s citizenship, the fundamental losses stem from the decline in the standard of living, including significant unemployment, underemployment, or other lack of economic opportunity in the country of relocation.

In both cases, factors include the sale of property and assets, the termination of professional practices, ability to recoup losses or repay loans, and extraordinary cost associated with the care of elderly, sick or family members with special needs.

In order to determine whether the loss is economic hardship, we rely on the definition provided by the NCIS and propose and unbiased metric. We focus primarily on the fact that the inability to recoup losses or repay student debt is economic hardship by the NCIS. We thus propose a metric relying on the level of loss to the qualifying relative and the ability to earn above their expected lifetime earnings given an investment vehicle that provides return.

In order to produce an unbiased measure, one must first consider the relative magnitude of that loss as it compares to the income of the qualifying relative. For example, if the loss of the applicant’s departure is low relative to the qualifying relative’s income over healthy life expectancy, it signifies that the qualifying relative may be able to achieve the same living standard without the applicant by investing savings in a financial asset. This would not qualify as hardship.

On the other hand, if the loss is relatively high compared to the qualifying relative’s income, then the qualifying relative may not be able to recoup losses. Thus, financial hardship occurs when present value of future losses divided by earnings based on savings to healthy life expectancy is above one.

Given the rising demand for I- 601A waivers and the lack of existing economic analysis devoted toward them, it may very well be a valuable and profitable contribution that economists can make to immigrant communities by providing an economic impact report. This impact report is very likely to not only help the reviewing office to understand the quantitative impact sustained by the qualifying relative but also add value in determining extreme hardship. Roman Garagulagian Matthew McMahon

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