Noncitizens who meet the minimum eligibility requirements for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card) must, as part of their applications, show that they are not inadmissible to the United States. A person may be inadmissible for various health, financial, criminal, security, or other grounds, as described in, Inadmissibility: When the U.S. Can Keep You Out and Who Is Barred From the U.S. as a Terrorist, Spy, or for Other Security Reasons.
Fortunately for many applicants, a finding of inadmissibility is not necessarily the end of their green card hopes. The law allows some applicants to apply for a “waiver,” or legal forgiveness of the ground of inadmissibility. See the articles on the Waivers of Inadmissibility page of Nolo’s website for details.
The waiver application process is not, however, open to all applicants. This is different than saying that some applications will ultimately be denied. The point is that some categories of inadmissible applicants are not allowed to apply for a waiver at all, as a matter of law, including those who are inadmissible because they:
- have a history of drug abuse or addiction
- are known or reasonably believed to have been involved in drug trafficking
- have committed drug or controlled substance violations more serious than a single offense of simple possession of 30 grams or less of marijuana
- have been convicted of or admitted committing murder, torture, or conspiracy to commit either
- are foreign government officials who have committed particularly severe violations of religious freedom
- have trafficked in humans (including family members who benefitted financially)
- were unlawfully present in the U.S. for at least one year in total or were ordered removed and reentered or attempted to reenter the U.S. illegally
- are suspected of entering the U.S. to commit espionage, sabotage, or violations of U.S. laws prohibiting export of particular goods, technology, or sensitive information
- are members, supporters, or otherwise affiliated or active with a terrorist organization
- have participated in Nazi German acts of genocide or persecution
- have committed torture or extrajudicial killing
- were involved in political killings
- have participated in recruitment or use of child soldiers
- are likely to become “public charges,” that is, dependent on need-based government assistance
- have failed to attend a removal proceeding (immigration court hearing) within the five years before submitting the green card application
- abused a student visa
- are permanently ineligible for U.S. citizenship
- departed from or remained outside the U.S. to avoid serving in the Armed Forces in a time of war or national emergency
- are a practicing polygamist
- have committed international child abduction
- were formerly U.S. citizens but renounced citizenship to avoid paying taxes
- knowingly submitted a frivolous (baseless) application for asylum
- were involved in confiscating the property of U.S. nationals
- have been credibly alleged to have aided and abetted Colombian insurgent and paramilitary groups, or
- made a false claim to U.S. citizenship or voted unlawfully.
If you are seeking a U.S. green card and match one of the above descriptions, chances are you will not qualify for either a waiver or the green card itself.
Do not, however, rely on this list alone. U.S. immigration law is hugely complicated, full of exceptions and detailed definitions. Only an experienced U.S. immigration attorney can give you a full, personal analysis of your likely eligibility for a waiver of inadmissibility or green card.