What Is a 212 Waiver?

Renee Booker
Renee Booker
Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

Individual countries throughout the world are responsible for enacting, implementing, and enforcing their own immigration laws and procedures. Within the United States, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is the agency responsible for overseeing the immigration laws and procedures. When a foreign national has been deported from the United States and banned from re-entry, he or she must file an USCIS Form I-212 — Application for Permission to Reapply for Permission to Enter into the United States After Deportation or Removal, commonly referred to as a "212 Waiver."

The immigration laws and procedures that allow entry into the United States are very strict and very complex. A foreign national must first obtain a visa in order to enter the U.S. legally. Both non-immigrant and immigrant visas are issued. Non-immigrant visas are used for educational, business, and tourist purposes and allow the holder to enter for a limited time only. Immigrant visas are issued to applicants who plan to live in the United States and eventually seek citizenship.

When a foreign national is present in the United States illegally, either because he or she overstayed his or her visa or because he or she entered without a visa to begin with, a removal proceeding is initiated. If the person does not have a valid, legal reason to remain in the country, then an order for removal is entered by the court. In most cases, a person who has been ordered removed, or deported, also receives a ban to re-entry for a number of years, generally ranging from five years to life. If the foreign national subsequently has a valid reason for obtaining a visa, the only way he or she may re-apply for entry is to complete a 212 waiver.

Completion of a 212 waiver does not, in any way, guarantee the applicant that he or she will be given permission to enter the United States. Filing the 212 waiver is only the first step in gaining legal permission to re-enter. The application form and instruction may be downloaded from the USCIS website, as well as instructions for where and how to file the form.

Once the 212 waiver form has been filed, it will be reviewed by USCIS and a determination will be made as to whether or not the waiver will be granted. If the 212 waiver is approved, then the applicant has permission to apply for re-entry despite the ban to re-entry that he or she was given pursuant to his or her deportation. It is important to understand that the 212 waiver itself does not give an applicant permission to enter the United States; it only allows the applicant permission to apply for entry.

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