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When Do You Need A Lawyer To Write A Hardship Letter?


“I was told to write a hardship letter to keep my wife from being deported. I need it for a family unity waiver. My nephew helped me write my hardship letter. He is in college. It has about 10 – 15 pages of evidence. The legal assistant helping us prepare the forms thinks this is good enough. But one of my friends heard some bad news stories about these letters. He said I should double-check with an attorney. I’m confused.”

(Submitted by William L., Highland, CA)


Without knowing more about your wife’s situation, I cannot say with 100% certainty that she needs a lawyer. However, in general, I believe proving hardship is too difficult for most immigrants to try to do on their own.

The risks are high, especially since your wife is hoping to become a lawful permanent resident. You do not want to take unnecessary chances.

I think your co-worker gave you good advice. Far too many times, I have been asked by immigrants to help them with preparing an immigration hardship letter – but they do not understand the purpose of a hardship letter.

They have been told perhaps by friends, perhaps by legal assistants, perhaps by notaries that a simple letter discussing their family situation, along with a few documents like birth and marriage certificates, is sufficient to prove hardship.

In almost all cases, this is bad advice.

Sure, the hardship letter is important. If completed properly, it serves as a cover letter which outlines and explains the main issues that you and your spouse want immigration officials to know about when they decide her case. Such letters are usually several pages long.

Each issue you mention in the letter should be backed up by materials in the waiver packet sent to USCIS. By submitting good, solid supporting evidence, it helps to prove you’re not making up false arguments simply to win an immigration waiver for your spouse.

This means the terminology, “immigration hardship letter,” is misleading. You really mean an immigration hardship packet. The packet should include not only a detailed letter, but also evidence which proves why your request for a hardship waiver should be granted.

As a result, in my opinion, there is a strong possibility that the 10 – 15 pages of evidence you have put together will not be enough to win your wife’s case.

Before closing, I’d like to talk about hardship.

After all, you have to demonstrate extreme hardship to win a waiver for your spouse.

Hardship is one of the toughest rules in immigration. There is no precise definition. It means how much and what type of suffering will the sponsoring family member – that’s you – experience if their spouse is not allowed to live in the United States.

Every family will incur some loss if a family member, especially an adult spouse and parent, is separated from them. Yet, the law says ordinary hardship is not enough to win. Worse, both judges and immigration officers feel most immigrants will only suffer ordinary hardship.

Personally, I do not agree with logic. Still, this is the law.

This is why the evidence you prepare, along with the hardship letter explaining what the evidence shows, is critical to winning your wife’s waiver.

Some immigrants, writing for themselves, rush through the process and do not take time to figure out the most important hardship issues. Others spend time studying what to address, but they exaggerate their situations. Both are bad ways to approach drafting a waiver letter.

No two cases are the same. Sometimes you need to address many issues about your family situation. Other times, only 2 – 3 concerns are necessary.

If you can figure out what issues to focus on, and you know how to effectively assemble your evidence, then you don’t need an immigration lawyer’s help.

Otherwise, it is probably in the best interests of your family to seek an immigration waiver attorney to assist and guide you.

By Carlos A. Batara, Filed Under Q&As: Green Cards And Permanent Residence.

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