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  1. j1WAIVER BASED ON HARDSHIP This approach will only work for J1 Waiver based on Hardship only please. Please read this in addition to the official information provided on the USCIS and DOS website. Just incase anyone is applying for a Hardship waiver or have received RFE from USCIS or Have received a favorable recommendation from DOS but waiting for a final notice from USCIS and its taking more time , am sharing my experience maybe you can take a clue. I should say i am not an attorney and any suggestions i’m making shouldn’t be taken as a legal advise. I had a US Government funding (Fulbright/Department of State) of over $40000. I applied for the waiver without an attorney. Thanks to clues i picked from posts on here and other google searches. I am going to explain 3 areas that will determine the outcome of your application for which i believe an attorney cant help you change that. For a J1 recipient and subsequent waiver applicant, i presume you can read, understand and present your ideas clearly without the help of an attorney. I didn’t use an attorney not because i don’t trust them but because i felt they are profit oriented with other clients to attend to so your case wont get the maximum attention as you can give it yourself. I will rather invest the fees for attorney in professional evaluations like visiting the doctors office to access your case or taking trips to your sponsoring agency to explain your situation. The procedure as summarized on USCIS and department of state website; You first apply at USCIS and Department of State, if USCIS establishes that there is hardship as you claim, it will forward forms i-613/i-613 to department of state to concur with their findings. If USCIS doesn’t find any hardship claim, your application will be denied without making it to DOS. (Am not making this up.. you can read the USCIS’s policy manual on these waivers https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19610.html) If you manage to get uscis to send I-612/613 to DOS, they will evaluate your hardship claim with views from your sponsor to either concur with USCIS or issue an unfavorable recommendation. NOW FROM MY EXPERIENCE, WHAT I HAVE READ AND OTHER EXPERIENCE FROM USERS ON HERE, i am going to explain what you may do to boost your chances. Again, this is not a legal advise and i believe its easier to build your case on truth than lies. So make sure you have a genuine case to follow through. *****Before you apply read these 3 write ups; they were my guide.**** A) https://www.ilw.com/articles/2007,0906-hake.shtm B) https://cbkimmigration.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/j1-hardship-waiver-trends.pdf C) https://www.uscis.gov/ilink/docView/AFM/HTML/AFM/0-0-0-1/0-0-0-19459/0-0-0-19610.html Now lets go into what you may do at each stage SUBMITTING THE APPLICATION AT USCIS STAGE Lets call this the first stage. To me, its the most important stage because you have control on the outcome for them to issue I-612/613. If you convince them enough they will issue 612/613 to DOS. So how do you convince them; the articles above lettered (A & B) have covered it broadly and im going to add to that. I am going to talk about medical and financial hardship to your US citizen spouse or child. Always remember when writing your statement that... *** no matter the hardship that you the applicant will go through, they don’t care about you the applicant but the USC. *** you should always attach a well written statement with reference to explain your situation more. *** it is always a good idea that your wife/US citizen if above 18 years write and notarize a statement to support your application in the form of highlighting why they need you here and also why they cant travel with you if you have to leave to your home country. *** What ever point you decide to raise, discuss it in two scenerios; i) how it will affect your USC if you leave them in USA to fulfill the 2 year rule. ii) How it will affect your USC if they go to your home country with you for the 2 year rule. *** try as much as possible to discuss your points in chronic rather than acute. (By chronic i mean that problem is long term rather than short term). *** Don’t underestimate any point or any situation. For example, If your wife is 4 weeks pregnant, you can build on that alone to make a medical and financial hardship case. HARDSHIP CLAIM ON MEDICAL BASIS If your USC has medical concerns, go to a doctor (if its disease related) or a chiropractor (if its accident related). The money that you will use for a lawyer, rather invest in these professionals for evaluation of your USC medical condition. Book a regular appointment with whichever applies to you. Let your USC narrate what his/her condition to the practitioner. Ask the practitioner to write a prognosis and diagnosis. How much it will cost if he was to treat that condition (remember you can make a whole financial case if you get such estimate). How long it will take to treat such a condition. Very importantly ask him to put in writing his personal views and experience if you will get the very best treatment for your USC if you decide to treat that condition in your home country. How easy or difficult will it be to get the drugs/machines for such treatment from your country. If there is a pregnancy involved, get the positive test results or if its at a later pregnancy stage obtain the visits and scheduled appointments from the obgyn office and let them craft a letter saying your spouse needs you. If there is a baby involved, get the letter from the hospital your baby was born. Depending on the baby’s age, you can make a point on travel vaccination (for example if your baby is weeks or a month old and your country is a yellow fever vaccine required, you can argue that yellow fever vaccines are given to babies after 9 months, hence you cant travel to your home country with him or her). On the medical side, if kids are involved, you can see a phycologist to give you a letter stating the impacts of your absence on the child. (NB: all the letters you get are just letters until you develop the points made by the practitioners to back your claim of hardship. Use those letters as if you are writing a research paper with references to those letters.). HARDSHIP CLAIM ON FINANCIAL BASIS You can craft a financial hardship from every medical point you made. Just think about how it will affect your USC if you are away or she leaves with you. Apart from that, you may also want to document monthly bills (eg car and home loans, credit cards) and contractual monthly payments (eg insurance, 24 month phone and home plans) to demonstrate why it will be a financial burden should she move with you. Another important part of the finances is using the U.S treasury department website to estimate how much you will earn depending on your experience and qualifications. Do the same estimation with backing statistics from your country’s labour or statistics office showing how much you will earn even if you are employed there. Now use those 2 data to show how impossible it is to support your family over there. Gather data from your home country government institution about unemployment rate and minimum wage. Use the data to show the probability of you not getting employed or even if you are employed, the minimum wage converted to US$. This will help you make a point that you cant support your family from your home country. And even if you travel there with them, you wont be able to pay bills left behind as well as financially stable to take care of them there. HARDSHIP CLAIM ON SOCIAL AND SECURITY BASIS You can include this kind of basis to talk about language barrier and cultural differences that can be a burden especially to USC born in USA. With security, you can log on DOS website to see the security alerts issued for your country. You can use this to make a case of safety for your USC. SUBMITTING Application at Department of State. The main aim of this department is to weigh the assistance you received from the USG source to your statement. USCIS absolutely rely on DOS opinion for hardship waivers. DOS also rely on your sponsors opinion for their decision. So there is very little you can do here apart from a strong statement. You can paraphrase and use the same statement that you submitted to USCIS but here you add what you have done for your home country or will do to help your home country even when you are granted a favorable recommendation and you remain in USA. Also the DOS wont issue a request for Further evidence (RFE) as USCIS does. So when anything about your situation changes that you feel is substantial enough to help your case, log on to the J1waiver website and update your statement and mail the updated statement. You can update your statement as much as possible, there will be instructions to follow on where to send them. Recommendation from Sponsoring Departments Thats probably the silent decider in the application process in terms of denial or delays. There is little to nothing you can do about this stage but this tip could help. (NB: this is not part of the official application process so please don’t ask me where you can find this). Before you pay for the application fees and submit your application to the DOS and USCIS, Go to or call your university or the office that processed your DS2019 or J1 packets. Ask them for the contact of your sponsors. Take both the email and number. Call/email them and explain your situation and tell them that you wish to apply for a waiver and that you are seeking their opinion first. They are humans and if your situation is genuine they will understand your case. Dont forget to tell them about your plans of giving back to your home country. If they ask you to go ahead and apply for a waiver thats great all you need to do is make a good case with DOS and USCIS. If they say no, candidly, you should be looking at other options like Canada’s express entry rather than waste 17-22 months waiting in vain (but hey thats entirely your decision, you can still try your luck). Ive read from some government agency documents that states that, if the waiver review division issues a favorable recommendation contrary to the USG funding source views, you will be asked to pay the amount they spent on you with interest. (https://trainethelp.usaid.gov/Documents/rawmedia_repository/ads252reissued.pdf). So practically even if DOS and USCIS thinks you deserve that waiver and your funding source says ‘no’ to them giving you the waiver, you will be denied. With that said, i presume even if you call them before applying and they say no, and you have what it takes to pay off the amount that was spent on you, You can politely negotiate with them to bill you to pay the amount they spent on you so you can get a waiver from them. Bear in mind it will be calculated with interest. THE FINAL NOTICE FROM USCIS After DoS forward a favorable recommendation to USCIS some experience long wait times before USCIS issue a final notice of approval. Unlike ‘no objection’ applicants, hardship waiver applicants dont receive a copy of DoS recommendation, hence can only rely on the final from USCIS. After DoS sent a favorable recommendation to USCIS, i saw nothing on my case at USCIS. So after waiting 10 days, i called USCIS several times but they kept telling me they had not received my recommendation from DoS. If you have a similar situation or you have received a favorable recommendation from DOS but no activity at USCIS, you wait for at-least 15 days and follow these steps. *check out your zip code to find the congressman that represent your area. *go their website to download or call their office for a ‘USCIS PRIVACY WAIVER FORM’. It is a form that you sign to request the congressman to make enquiries on your behalf. *fill that form and attach your uscis receipt and also print out your status on the DOS website. *send those back to the congressman’s office and allow them work on it for you. There is no need asking the office to expedite your case, just tell them to inquire about your case. (From my experience and what i have read, let me explain how the congressional office works. This approach works only after you have seen that your favorable recommendation is sent by DoS but nothing is happening at USCIS. If its still pending at DoS, i doubt there is anything the congressional office can do. According to USCIS, Each USCIS service center has a Congressional Inquiry Unit (https://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/archive/delete/USCIS_Immigration_101_Guide_for_Congress.ppt). So if a congressional staffer makes an inquiry on your case, your case file will be transferred to these unit which facilitates a faster decision than the main service centers. In my case, my application is still pending, meanwhile I’ve received my final waiver. I went this route. My whole application took 18 months...All the best.
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