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What is a Waiver of Inadmissibility?

S. Ashraf
S. Ashraf

A Waiver of Inadmissibility, also known as a Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility, is a waiver for entry into the United States given by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to individuals who have been deemed legally inadmissible either as non-immigrants or immigrants. Individuals who are not eligible for legal entry into the country on one or more grounds can make an Application for Waiver of Inadmissibility. If specific requirements associated with the grounds of inadmissibility are satisfied, a Waiver of Inadmissibility might be granted, and the person will receive permission to enter the country.

Waivers of Inadmissibility fall into two categories: non-immigrant and immigrant. Non-immigrant waivers, unless a security issue is the basis for inadmissibility, are generally granted on a somewhat flexible basis. Some of the factors that are considered in granting a non-immigrant waiver are what kind of risk the applicant represents if admitted, the seriousness of the person’s immigration law violation and why the applicant wants to enter the country. A Waiver of Inadmissibility for an immigrant visa is more difficult to get. This type of waiver is available only on a restricted set of grounds, and it usually requires proof that either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident will suffer serious hardship if the applicant is not admitted.

Businessman with a briefcase
Businessman with a briefcase

Only certain grounds qualify as a basis to request a Waiver of Inadmissibility. If a person has been denied admission based on health-related issues such as having a communicable disease or mental disorder, it is possible to submit an application for a waiver. In addition, a Waiver of Inadmissibility might be applied for if an individual is denied admission on certain criminal grounds involving, for example, commercialized vice, moral turpitude and controlled substances. Some people who have committed immigration violations — such as previous deportations, illegal entries, document fraud or student visa abuse — might also be eligible for a waiver.

It also is possible for one to request a Waiver of Inadmissibility on security grounds, such as previous espionage or terrorist activity or membership in a political party advocating the overthrow of the U.S. government. Economic grounds might also be a basis for a person to apply for a waiver. Finally, there are a number of miscellaneous grounds for denial, such as being a draft evader, that might be a basis for obtaining a waiver. Regardless of the type of waiver applied for, there is no guarantee that one will be granted.

Discussion Comments


@David09 - Yeah, some of these immigration waiver requests are pretty extreme. Do you mean you could have a prior history of attempted espionage and still apply for a waiver?

I would hope that the government would not grant a waiver in such circumstances. I think that’s where we have to draw a line with our so-called “compassion.”


@David09 - I had some friends who were in the country illegally. They came over from Asia, during the economic meltdown of the 1990s. In hindsight, they should have applied for asylum, because as ethnic nationals they had been targeted in some of the riots that happened overseas.

The problem was that they didn’t know anything about applying for asylum at the time. Ten years later – and after numerous evasions of the law – they finally decided to apply for asylum, and they were summarily deported.

I don’t honestly know what circumstances could get you a waiver, but it’s good to know all your rights up front.


I’m quite surprised that an illegal immigrant can apply for a waiver of admissibility if they have been guilty of some of the crimes listed here.

Why would you want to admit them if they have knowingly committed crimes or used drugs for example? This doesn’t make sense to me.

I assume that they would have to demonstrate that they would experience real pain if they didn’t get in, especially if you’re talking about immigrant visas. Frankly, with how the immigration issue has been politicized in the United States, I would venture to say that such a waiver would (or should) be impossible to get. If not, then our system is broken indeed.

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