Chapter 3: Admissibility and Waiver Requirements

Refugees must be admissible to the ​United States​ as an immigrant at the time adjustment of status is granted. However, ​an officer​must remember​ that applic​ants who were admitted to the United ​S​tates​ as refugees were subject to grounds of inadmissib​ility at the time of admission.​

Therefore, any information contained in the A-file known to the refugee officer, consular officer, or inspections officer at the time of admission is ​generally ​not ​used to find the ​refugee​inadmissible at the time of adjustment, unless the law or interpretation of the law has changed subsequent to admission​,​ or a clear error was made by the original adjudicating officer​.​ [1] For example, a ground of inadmissibility was waived for which no waiver was available, or a national security issue was not properly addressed.

An officer makes a​determination ​regarding ​the refugee’s admissibility at the time of admission and ​the ​officer​ adjudicating the adjustment of status application​ should give deference to ​this ​prior determination​. ​

A. Exemptions​

The following grounds of inadmissibility ​do not apply​ to refugees adjusting status:​

Public Charge – ​INA 212(a)(4)​

L​abor ​C​ertification and ​Q​ualifications for ​C​ertain ​I​mmigrants​ – ​INA 212(a)(5)​

D​ocumentation ​R​equirements for ​I​mmigrants​ – ​INA 212(a)(7)(A)​

B. Applicable Inadmissibility Grounds​

The following grounds of inadmissibility ​apply​ to refugees adjusting status:​

H​ealth-​R​elated​ – ​INA 212(a)(1)​

C​rim​e-Related – ​INA 212(a)(2)​

S​ecurity​-Related – ​INA 212(a)(3)​

I​llegal ​E​ntrants and ​I​mmigration ​V​iolators​ – ​INA 212(a)(6)​

I​neligib​ility​ for ​C​itizenship​ – ​INA 212(a)(8)​

Foreign Nationals Previously Removed – ​INA 212(a)(9)​

Practicing Polygamists, Guardians Required to Accompany Helpless ​Persons​, International Child Abductors, Unlawful Voters, and Former Citizens who Renounced Citizenship to Avoid Taxation – ​INA 212(a)(10)​

Health-Related Considerations​

Generally, i​f ​an officer waives the ​grounds of inadmissibility at the time of the refugee admission, the waiver carries forward​ to the adjustment application.​ A notable exception would be for waivers of medical inadmissibility f​or Class A medical conditions. ​In these instances, the waiver does not carry through to adjustment and the ​applicant​must submit to a new medical exam to determine whether the Class A medical condition has been resolved.​

C. Inadmissibility Grounds that May Not Be Waived​

While waivers are generally available for most of the grounds​ listed in ​Section B, Applicable Inadmissibility Grounds​,​ [2] See 7 USCIS-PM L.3(B). the following grounds of inadmissibility ​cannot​ be waived:​

C​ontrolled ​S​ubstance ​T​raffickers​ – ​INA 212(a)(2)(C)​

Espionage; Sabotage; Illegal Export of Goods, Technology, or Sensitive Information; Unlawful Overthrow or Opposition to U.S. Government – ​INA 212(a)(3)(A)​

T​errorist ​A​ctivities​ – ​INA 212 (a)(3)(B)​

Adverse F​oreign ​P​olicy ​I​mpact​ – ​INA 212(a)(3)(C)​

P​articipants in Nazi ​P​ersecutions or ​G​enocide​ – ​INA 212(a)(3)(E)​

An officer​ should deny the ​adjustment application if​ no waiver is available due to the type of inadmissibility found.​

National Security ​I​ssues​

In the event that ​an​adjudicating officer identifies at any stage one or more national security indicator(s) or concerns unknown at the time of the refugee grant, ​an​officer should refer to USCIS guidance on disposition of national security cases.​An o​fficer should also follow current USCIS instructions on cases that involve ​T​errorist ​R​elated ​I​nadmissibility ​G​round ​(TRIG) issues ​for disposition of the case or see their supervisor for questions on material support to terrorism.​

Unless sent specifically to a field office for resolution of ​a ​TRI​G​ issue, ​an ​officer​should return any refugee adjustment case with unresolved TRIG issues to the ​N​ebraska​S​ervice​C​enter​ for resolution. ​

D. Waivers​ [3] See Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 41.6, Waivers of Inadmissibility for Refugees and Asylees for more information on waivers of inadmissibility for refugees under INA 209(c).

All grounds of inadmissibility listed ​at ​Section B, Applicable Inadmissibility Grounds​ [4] See 7 USCIS-PM L.3(B).are subject to waiver, if the applicant can establish he or she qualifies for a waiver.​A​n officer may have waived a​ refugee adjustment applicant​’s​ ground of inadmissibility for humanitarian purposes, to assure family unity, or when it is otherwise in the public interest.​This is a more generous waiver provision than ​what is​used for general adjustments, which typically require an applicant to prove extreme hardship.​

In adjudicating a discretionary waiver application for refugee adjustment, ​an officer must balance ​the humanitarian, family unity, or public interest considerations ​with​the seriousness of the offense that rendered the applicant inadmissible.​In making this determination, ​an officer​ should recognize that the applicant has​ already​ established either past persecution or a well-founded fear of future persecution, which is an extremely strong positive discretionary factor.​Therefore, unless there are even stronger negative factors that outweigh the positive ones, the waiver application should generally be approved.​

Often, waiver applications for refugees are handled overseas before the ​foreign national​is approved for ​the ​refugee classification.​However, if a ground of inadmissibility arose after the ​applicant’s​approval for ​the ​refugee classification, or ​if it ​was not known to the officer who approved the refugee classification, the ​applicant may seek a ​waiver​. The officer should​ adjudicat​e​ the waiver​ as ​a ​part of the refugee adjustment process.​The ​applicant generally seeks a ​waiver through the filing of ​an​ Application by Refugee for Waiver of Grounds of Excludability​ (​Form I-602​)​.​

When an officer determines that an applicant is inadmissible and a waiver is available, ​an​officer may grant the waiver without requiring submission of ​a ​Form I-602​, if:​

T​he applicant is inadmissible under a ground of inadmissibility that may be waived​ (other than health related grounds)​;​ [5] See Health Related Considerations in Section B, Applicable Inadmissibility Grounds [7 USCIS-PM L.3(B)].

USCIS records and other information available to ​an​officer contain sufficient information to assess eligibility for a waiver; ​

There is no evidence to suggest that negative factors would adversely impact the exercise of discretion​; and​

It is appropriate to grant a waiver​.​

If ​an​officer determines that ​the applicant does not need to file ​a ​Form I-602​, the officer should indicate that the​y have waived the​inadmissibility ​by annotating the ​adjustment application ​to reflect this action​.​An o​fficer may use a written annotation, stamp, or pre-printed label to indicate the specific inadmissibility ground that ​they are ​waiv​ing.​

The officer’s signature and approval stamp on the ​adjustment application​ also serves as the signature and approval of the waiver.​Waivers granted because the vaccinations were not medically appropriate do not require a waiver annotation on the ​adjustment application​ or the ​medical record (​Form ​I-693​).​ [6] See INA 212(g)(2)(B). A​ll​ others ​do ​require an annotation. ​

In cases that require a ​Form I-602​, ​there is no need for a separate waiver approval notice​because​ the approval of the adjustment application will indicate the approval of the waiver application​. ​The officer should s​imply stamp the ​waiver application ​as ​approved, check the block labeled “Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility is Granted,” and make the appropriate endorsements in the space labeled “Basis For Favorable Action.” ​


​If the applicant is statutorily ineligible for a waiver (i.e., he or she is inadmissible under a ground of inadmissibility that cannot be waived) or if there are sufficient negative factors to warrant denial of the waiver application, the officer should check the block
on ​Form I-602​labeled “Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility is Denied,” and write “See Form I-291​”​ [7] USCIS uses the Form I-291 to notify the applicant that his or her application has been denied. in the space labeled “Reasons.”​

The denial of the waiver should be fully discussed in the denial of the adjustment application.​While there is no appeal from the denial of the ​Form ​I-602​, the immigration judge may consider the waiver application ​de novo ​when he or she considers the renewed adjustment application during removal proceedings.​