Eligibility to File for an I-212 Waiver to Reenter the U.S. After Deportation

Eligibility rules to apply for permission to reapply for admission into the United States after deportation or removal.

By , Attorney · University of Arizona College of Law

If you have been deported (removed) from the United States, you are legally inadmissible and barred from visa eligibility for five, ten, or 20 years; or perhaps permanently, depending on the reason for your removal. If you otherwise meet the requirements for a U.S. visa, but your period of inadmissibility hasn't yet run out, you can ask for "permission to reapply" or "consent to reapply" for a visa by filing USCIS Form I-212: Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal.

We'll explain the details below.

How Long Am I Inadmissible to the U.S. For?

The number of years for which you are inadmissible to the United States is determined by which of the following removal scenarios applies to you:

  • Five-Year Bar: If you were removed upon arrival in the U.S. (expedited removal) or were placed in proceedings upon arrival and then ordered removed by immigration judge, you are subject to the five-year bar on reentry from the date of your removal.
  • Ten-Year Bar: If you entered the U.S. and were later placed in removal proceedings, or if you left the U.S. willingly but before removal proceedings were concluded, you are subject to the ten-year bar on reentry from the date of your removal.
  • Twenty-Year Bar: If you have been removed from the U.S. on more than one occasion, you are subject to the 20-year bar from the date of removal.
  • Permanent Bar: If you were convicted of an aggravated felony, you are permanently inadmissible and forever barred from reapplying for a visa without filing Form I-212. If you are permanently barred under Section 212(a)(9)(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.), because you aggregated one year's unlawful stay in the U.S. and left, or you were ordered removed from the U.S, and then you attempted to reenter illegally, you must wait ten years before filing Form I-212.

If My I-212 Waiver Application Is Approved, Is My Previous Visa Status Restored?

No. An approved application for permission to reapply, does just that: gives you permission to reapply for a new U.S. visa. This means you must start over in the process and must qualify to receive the visa.

If, for example, you were deported for a crime you committed while you had a green card obtained through your U.S. citizen spouse, your spouse would have to file a new immigrant petition for you. But if you are now divorced from your U.S. citizen spouse, you would no longer qualify for this type of immigrant visa. In this situation, you might also need a separate waiver for your criminal conviction, which is likely a separate ground of inadmissibility.

What If I No Longer Qualify for My U.S. Visa?

If you no longer qualify for an immigrant (permanent resident) visa, you might still qualify for a nonimmigrant (temporary) visa, such as an employment visa.

If you no longer qualify for the nonimmigrant visa you previously held, look into whether any other nonimmigrant visas are potentially available to you.

When seeking permission to reapply for a nonimmigrant visa, you should contact the U.S. consulate where you intend to apply; you might not be required to formally file the I-212 form. Instead, the adjudicating officer will determine whether or not to request the I-212 waiver from DHS as a matter of discretion. This discretionary determination can be made only as part of the nonimmigrant visa application process and you must first meet all the qualifications of the visa before the officer can decide whether or not you meet guidelines for a waiver.

Where and How Do I File My I-212 Waiver Application?

You will need to file USCIS Form I-212: Application for Permission to Reapply for Admission into the United States after Deportation or Removal with either U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of State (DOS), the Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Which one to choose depend on where you are and how you intend to enter the United States. The different scenarios are set forth in a chart on the USCIS website for your reference.

What Is the Chance That the U.S. Government Will Approve My Application to Reapply?

There is no way to know for sure whether your application will be approved. Permission to reapply for admission is always discretionary and there are many factors that will be taken into consideration, including but not limited to:

  • Whether or not you have close family ties in the United States.
  • Any unusual hardship that might occur to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident relatives, yourself, or your employer if you are not permitted to reapply.
  • Whether or not you are rehabilitated (if criminal activity led to your deportation).
  • Your length of previous presence in the U.S. and your status during that time
  • Whether or not you demonstrated respect for laws and are of good moral character.
  • Whether or not admitting you into the U.S. would be contrary to the welfare, safety, or security of the U.S.

In deciding your case, any negative factors involved will be weighed against the favorable factors. Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis. It is important to note that the information provided here is not all-inclusive regarding the requirements and qualifications for filing Form I-212.

Getting Legal Help

The process of applying for a waiver on Form I-212 is complex, and the chances for a denial are high without the assistance of someone with thorough knowledge of U.S. immigration laws. For best results, consult with an experienced immigration attorney to discuss your situation in depth before filing your application.

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