If you are a refugee applying for admission to the United States, or a refugee or asylee applying for adjustment of status (to obtain a green card while in the United States), and you find that your eligibility may be blocked because you are “inadmissible” under U.S. immigration law, you may be able to ask the U.S. government to “waive” (overlook or forgive) your inadmissibility.
You are most likely to gain approval if you can present strong humanitarian, family unity, or public interest grounds for why you deserve the waiver. (For details, see Nolo’s article, “Refugee or Asylee Eligibility for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility.”)
The same option is available to family member derivatives of the principal refugee or asylee.
The standard way of applying for the waiver is to prepare and submit a Form I-602, Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability (available on the website of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS). You would do so either in conjunction with your Form I-590, Registration for Classification as Refugee if you are a refugee seeking admission from outside the United States, or in conjunction with your Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status if you are a refugee or asylee seeking adjustment of status from inside the United States. (Derivatives should file Form I-602 with their Form I-730, Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition.)
No fee is required to file Form I-602.
Submitting Form I-602 is not a strict requirement, except for refugees and asylees who are inadmissible on health-related grounds. (Form I-602 is also recommended for refugees and asylees who are inadmissible on criminal or related grounds.)
In all other cases, USCIS often prefers that waiver applicants use Form I-602, but may grant waivers without it if the agency’s records already contain enough information to assess eligibility for the waiver. If USCIS’s records are not favorable to an applicant (making a denial more likely), then USCIS will ask the applicant to file Form I-602 with documentation and an explanation of the applicant’s waiver eligibility.
Although much of Form I-602 is self-explanatory, here are instructions on some of the sections that you might have questions about.
This opening section is largely self-explanatory, asking for your biographical information.
Part 2 of Form I-602 asks that you specify the section or sections of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.) under which you are inadmissible.
If you are inadmissible based on the results of your medical examination (as discussed below), you will be informed of the specific I.N.A. section that applies to you. Likewise, if you are filing the form in response to a request by USCIS based on any other ground, you will find an indication of the relevant I.N.A. section on USCIS’s request letter.
If, instead, you are filing Form I-602 on your own initiative (concurrently with your Form I-590, I-485, or I-730), then you would do well to consult the relevant text of the law on USCIS’ website.
The section or sections relevant to your case should be one of the following:
You will also need to describe the acts, criminal convictions, or health conditions for which you are requesting the waiver.
Next, check the appropriate box or boxes in Part 2 indicating the reason or reasons why (on humanitarian grounds, for family unity, or in the public interest) you should be granted the waiver. Be sure to also provide a thorough explanation and documentation of your claim.
For example, if you are ineligible for adjustment of status due to your inability to present proof of required vaccinations, but you have strong objections to vaccinations because of your religious or moral convictions, you may be granted a waiver on humanitarian grounds.
Sign and date in the space provided at the bottom of Part 2.
If you are inadmissible on health-related grounds, you may also need to fill out Part 3.
You will undergo a mandatory medical examination to find out whether this applies to you. If you are a refugee or derivative applying from outside the U.S., your exam will be performed by a panel physician designated either by the U.S. government or by the International Organization for Migration. If you are a refugee or asylee present in the U.S., you can find a list of designated civil surgeons on the Civil Surgeons Locator page of the USCIS website.
The best thing to do if you are declared inadmissible on health grounds is likely to obtain any available treatment in order to cure or address the medical condition in question. However, if your health issue cannot be immediately resolved (and especially if you have tuberculosis, or any physical or mental disorder that has ever been associated with harmful behavior), then you will need a doctor in the U.S. (not too far from the location where you intend to live) to fill out and sign Part 3(B) of Form I-602 for you. This serves as evidence that you have made arrangements to obtain medical treatment once you arrive in the United States.
USCIS will then forward your form to the Centers for Disease Control to fill out Part 3(C) (basically, to make sure the doctor you have selected is suitable). After this, USCIS will return the form to you so you can sign Part 3(A).
There is no appeal from a denial of Form I-602. However, waiver applicants who are seeking adjustment of status and find themselves in removal proceedings (in front of an immigration judge) as a result of the denial of the Form I-602 may renew their application in immigration court.