Interviewer: As far as the waivers go, typically, how long is that process going to be?
Jeanne Morales: I can only speak specifically to the consulate in Juarez. Consulates and embassies are run by the State Department, and the State Department issues visas. A visa is a permission to enter that country, the United States. However, the waivers are adjudicated by the Immigration Department, the Department of Homeland Security, different departments.
However, because the American consulate in Juarez is the busiest consulate in the world, they do have onsite not just State Department personnel but they have Immigration personnel. One thing that they try and do is if you take your waiver paperwork with you when you go to your consulate appointment, they will have the Immigration officer who’s there look at it.
The More Complete the Application, the Faster It Can Be Processed: It Is Advisable to Retain an Attorney to Assemble the Required Documentation
If it’s clearly approvable, that can expedite the process. If your attorney has created that packet in such a way as to leave an inescapable conclusion that there’s a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident in the United States that needs this immigrant to come to the United States, undoubtedly, and there’s a hardship and it’s genuine, then that Immigration officer can authorize right then the waiver.
If More Information Is Required by the Immigration Officials, the Process Can Take 18 to 24 Months to Resolve
If it’s something that he needs to look into or they need to get extra records or follow up on something that adds time to the process. It gets put on a bus or in the mail and then gets sent to one of the service centers in the United States where specialists can look at it and follow up and request more information and things like that. In that situation, it can take 18 months to two years.
We had one down in Nicaragua that took about 45 days, but again, the Central American embassy that it went through was not as busy as Ciudad Juarez.
Interviewer: Is the process any different from many other South American countries?
Jeanne Morales: No. It’s just that not everybody in the world that comes to the United States goes through Ciudad Juarez, only the Mexican immigrants. In Central America, many times they won’t have individual processes for each one. They’ll just say, ‘Everybody has to go through this one embassy in this country.’
Most of the established countries in the world have an American embassy or consulate that is in charge of the people who want to emigrate from that country. The amount of people that are trying to emigrate from that country, it dictates how long it takes.
What Can You Do to Expedite the Waiver Process?
Interviewer: While they’re in this process of the waiver, what can someone do to help or what information can they help gather?
Because of the Time- and Labor-Intensive Nature, It Is Better to Obtain Professional Help for the Waiver Process
Jeanne Morales: It’s all about getting it done before you submit it. That’s what I want people to know. I’ve seen individuals who don’t want to pay an attorney. They just print off a form from online, and they fill it out three pages, mail it off and think that they have applied for a waiver. All they’ve done is waste their time.
They say that once you submit it, you really can’t add to it, but that’s not true. Until it’s adjudicated, you can add to it. The key is, when it leaves you, whether it’s you or your attorney’s office, and goes to Immigration, whether it’s the 601a which you filed in the United States or the 601 which you filed at the consulate, it needs to be in the shape right then and there to win you your waiver. Have it as comprehensive as possible, not, ‘Well, we’ll look up some more stuff later.’ That’s what people need to know.
I know that people look up information on the Internet and think, ‘Oh, I’ll just apply for a pardon and everything will be fine, we’ll live happily ever after in the United States.’ That’s not how it works. It’s a serious undertaking and it’s time-consuming.
The practice of putting together a package that’s going to win the waiver is time-consuming and there’s an art to it. You have to have experience, you have to know what’s worked before, and you have to know how this consulate does it as opposed to this consulate.
You Will Have to Pay an Attorney for Their Work on the Process but You Are More Likely to Obtain a Favorable Result, in Less Time than Completing the Process on Your Own
It’s just something that people shouldn’t try and do on their own. I know that we charge people for it, and people who try and save money, this is not the place to save money. Buy generic at the grocery store if you want to save money, because it’s not going to work unless you do it right. Even then, waivers do get denied.
It Is Not Advisable to Try to Conceal Information about a Prior Criminal History
Speaking for just a little bit about waivers other than the 601, anybody who starts an immigration process may experience a bump in the road along the way. They know that they have a criminal record. It could be something simple like shoplifting or it could be something like DWI.
That needs to be addressed first because the issue will come up during the process.
Is It Common for People to Withhold Information about Their Past That Might Negatively Impact the Application?
Interviewer: Do you think the reason they may not bring it up is because they may be embarrassed or do you think it helps their case if they try to conceal that information?
Jeanne Morales: I don’t think embarrassment is part of it. I think some people misunderstand. I think some people don’t want to admit to themselves. We encourage people to divulge any details. Our process is designed to get information.
We do a complete check on everybody that we work with because it’s easier to correct something before it becomes a problem than to wait and then have the client go, ‘Oh, was that important? Should I have told you that?’
So we ask, and we do background checks on people, and we get Freedom of Information Acts, we get people’s prior immigration records. That’s the way to make sure you have the biggest success in any situation in immigration. You have to have information, you have to have correct information, and you have to know how to put it together.