Previously, USCIS overseas offices had responsibility for reviewing I-601 immigrant waiver applications. This led to inconsistent adjudications among various overseas offices and extreme variations in processing times. We first discussed the patent unfairness of this system on this blog back in November 2011. To remedy these problems, in June 2012 USCIS centralized the processing of I-601 waivers at the Nebraska Service Center in the United States. The impact can now be seen, and should give those who had been previously denied by a USCIS overseas office hope.
As noted in our 2011 blog, the approval rates at certain USCIS overseas offices were dismal at best. For example, in Accra, Ghana, which had jurisdiction and reviewed waiver applications from numerous countries in Africa, its approval rate in 2010 was 22%. The Rome USCIS Office had an approval rate of 25%. Moscow and Athens hovered around 40%. Contrast that with the approval rates at other USCIS overseas offices, such as Frankfurt, with an approval rate of over 70%, and one can see that success in a waiver adjudication was more dependent on where the applicant filed his waiver application than the underlying merits of the application. Applicants in Frankfurt were more than 3 times likely to have their waiver applications approved than those in Accra.
Since centralizing I-601 adjudications, the approval rates have increased. While there is not a country breakdown provided by USCIS nor do its statistics provide an I-601 approval rate, the overall approval rate for waivers (not including provisional waivers) is approximately 90%. In the first quarter of 2015, 19,233 waiver applications of various categories were approved, while 2,567 were denied. In the first quarter of 2016, 18,670 were approved, while 1,599 were refused. While the statistics make an exact apple-to-apple comparison difficult, it is abundantly clear that with the centralization of the I-601 process, the chances of a successful waiver application have significantly increased.
For those who had an I-601 waiver application previously denied by an overseas USCIS office, do not despair. There are no restrictions on the filing of a new immigrant waiver application. This also applies to those who were rejected by the Nebraska Service Center and the Adminstrative Appeals Office. Contact us to discuss how we may be of assistance.