U.S. Customs and Border Protection to Issue Waivers to Qualifying Nonimmigrants for 5 Years

The Admissibility Review Office (ARO) of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) announced that it will begin approving nonimmigrant waivers for a five year period, rather than the previous one or two year period.

As background, all non-citizens seeking to be admitted to the United States must be admissible – that is, not have engaged in certain conduct which would prevent their admission to the United States, such as criminal conduct, or unlawful presence, and if a foreign national did engage in prohibited conduct, that person may still become admissible if he or she obtains a waiver of the ground or grounds of inadmissibility. A section of federal immigration law contains a broad waiver provision that allows nonimmigrants such as tourists, students and foreign workers to qualify if the ARO approves their waiver application. The grant of a waiver is a discretionary decision.

Current processing times for nonimmigrant waivers averages four to six months, but in some cases can take much longer. Waivers have typically been issued with an initial renewal period of one or two years, and with a five-year renewal issued thereafter.

The combination of a long processing time and short waiver period led some applicants to file a new application immediately upon receiving approval of the initial application. To improve efficiency and reduce backlogs, the ARO announced that beginning in or around January 2017, both initial and renewal waiver applications would be approved for five year periods.