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Extreme Hardship Considerations and Factors 

 A. Totality of the Circumstances

The officer must make extreme hardship determinations based on the factors, arguments, and evidence submitted. Therefore, the officer should consider any submission from the applicant bearing on the extreme hardship determination. The officer may also consider factors, arguments, and evidence relevant to the extreme hardship determination that the applicant has not specifically presented, such as those addressed in Department of State (DOS) information on country conditions  or other U.S. Government determinations regarding country conditions, including a country’s designation for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). Officers must base their decisions on the totality of the evidence and circumstances presented.

B. Common Consequences

The common consequences of denying admission, in and of themselves, do not warrant a finding of extreme hardship. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has held that the common consequences of denying admission include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Family separation; 

  • Economic detriment;

  • Difficulties of readjusting to life in the new country; 

  • The quality and availability of educational opportunities abroad;

  • Inferior quality of medical services and facilities; and

  • Ability to pursue a chosen employment abroad.

While extreme hardship must involve more than the common consequences of denying admission, the extreme hardship standard is not as high as the significantly more burdensome “exceptional and extremely unusual” hardship standard that that applies to other forms of immigration adjudications, such as cancellation of removal.

C. Factors Must Be Considered Cumulatively

The officer must consider all factors and consequences in their totality and cumulatively when assessing whether a qualifying relative will experience extreme hardship either in the United States or abroad. In some cases, common consequences that on their own do not constitute extreme hardship may result in extreme hardship when assessed cumulatively with other factors. 

For example, if a qualifying relative has a medical condition that alone does not rise to the level of extreme hardship, the combination of that hardship and the common consequences of inferior medical services, economic detriment, or readjusting to life in another country may cumulatively cause extreme emotional or financial hardship for the qualifying relative when considering the totality of the circumstances. 

Ordinarily, for example, the fact that medical services are less comprehensive in another country is a common consequence of denying admission; but the inferior quality of medical services, considered along with the individual’s specific medical conditions, may create sufficient difficulties as to rise to the level of extreme hardship in combination with all the other consequences.

The officer must weigh all factors individually and cumulatively, as follows:

  • First, the officer must consider whether any factor set forth individually rises to the level of extreme hardship under the totality of the circumstances. 

  • Second, if any factor alone does not rise to the level of extreme hardship, the officer must consider all factors together to determine whether they cumulatively rise to the level of extreme hardship. This includes hardships to multiple qualifying relatives. 

When considering the factors, whether individually or cumulatively, all factors, including negative factors, must be evaluated in the totality of the circumstances.

D. Examples of Factors that May Support a Finding of Extreme Hardship

The chart below lists factors that an applicant might present and that would be relevant to determining whether an applicant has demonstrated extreme hardship to a qualifying relative. This list is not exhaustive; circumstances that are not on this list may also be relevant to finding extreme hardship. 

The presence of one or more of the factors below in a particular case does not mean that extreme hardship would necessarily result from a denial of admission. But they are factors that may be encountered and should be considered in their totality and cumulatively in individual cases. All hardship factors presented by the applicant should be considered in the totality of the circumstances in making the extreme hardship determination.

Some of the factors listed below apply when the qualifying relative would remain in the United States without the applicant. Other factors apply when the qualifying relative would relocate abroad. Some of the factors might apply under either circumstance. 


  • Qualifying relative’s ties to family members living in the United States, including age, status, and length of residence of any children.

  • Responsibility for the care of any family members in the United States, particularly children, elderly adults, and disabled adults.

  • The qualifying relative’s ties, including family ties, to the country of relocation, if any.

  • Nature of relationship between the applicant and the qualifying relative, including any facts about the particular relationship that would either aggravate or lessen the hardship resulting from separation.

  • Qualifying relative’s age.

  • Length of qualifying relative’s residence in the United States.

  • Length of qualifying relative’s prior residence in the country of relocation, if any.

  • Prior or current military service of qualifying relative.

  • Impact on the cognitive, social, or emotional well-being of a qualifying relative who is left to replace the applicant as caregiver for someone else, or impact on the qualifying relative (for example, child or parent) for whom such care is required.


  • Loss of access to the U.S. courts and the criminal justice system, including the loss of opportunity to request or provide testimony in criminal investigations or prosecutions; to participate in proceedings to enforce labor, employment, or civil rights laws; to participate in family law proceedings, victim’s compensation proceedings, or other civil proceedings; or to obtain court orders regarding protection, child support, maintenance, child custody, or visitation.

  • Fear of persecution or societal discrimination.

  • Prior grant of U nonimmigrant status.

  • Existence of laws and social practices in the country of relocation that would punish the qualifying relative because he or she has been in the United States or is perceived to have Western values.

  • Access or lack of access to social institutions and structures (official and unofficial) for support, guidance, or protection.

  • Social ostracism or stigma based on characteristics such as gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, race, national origin, ethnicity, citizenship, age, political opinion, marital status, or disability.

  • Qualifying relative’s community ties in the United States and in the country of relocation.

  • Extent to which the qualifying relative has integrated into U.S. culture, including language, skills, and acculturation.

  • Extent to which the qualifying relative would have difficulty integrating into the country of relocation, including understanding and adopting social norms and established customs, including gender roles and ethical or moral codes.

  • Difficulty and expense of travel/communication to maintain ties between qualifying relative and applicant, if the qualifying relative does not relocate.

  • Qualifying relative’s present inability to communicate in the language of the country of relocation, as well as the time and difficulty that learning that language would entail.

  • Availability and quality of educational opportunities for qualifying relative (and children, if any) in the country of relocation.

  • Availability and quality of job training, including technical or vocational opportunities, for qualifying relative (and children, if any) in the country of relocation.


  • Economic impact of applicant’s departure on the qualifying relative, including the applicant’s or qualifying relative’s ability to obtain employment in the country of relocation.

  • Economic impact resulting from the sale of a home, business, or other asset.

  • Economic impact resulting from the termination of a professional practice.

  • Decline in the standard of living, including due to significant unemployment, underemployment, or other lack of economic opportunity in the country of relocation.

  • Ability to recoup losses, or repay student loan debt.

  • Cost of extraordinary needs, such as special education or training for children.

  • Cost of care for family members, including children and elderly, sick, or disabled parents.


  • Health conditions and the availability and quality of any required medical treatment in the country to which the applicant would be returned, including length and cost of treatment.

  • Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to either separation from the applicant or departure from the United States, including separation from other family members living in the United States.

  • Psychological impact on the qualifying relative due to the suffering of the applicant.

  • Prior trauma suffered by the qualifying relative that may aggravate the psychological impact of separation or relocation, including trauma evidenced by prior grants of asylum, refugee status, or other forms of humanitarian protection.


  • Conditions in the country of relocation, including civil unrest or generalized levels of violence, current U.S. military operations in the country, active U.S. economic sanctions against the country, ability of country to address significant crime, environmental catastrophes like flooding or earthquakes, and other socio-economic or political conditions that jeopardize safe repatriation or lead to reasonable fear of physical harm.

  • Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation.

  • Danger Pay for U.S. government workers stationed in the country of nationality. 

  • Withdrawal of Peace Corps from the country of nationality for security reasons.

  • DOS Travel Warnings or Alerts, whether or not they constitute a particularly significant factor, as set forth in Part E below. 

LEARN MORE: Chapter 5 - Extreme Hardship Considerations and Factors | USCIS 

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Valerie Catt Joglar

Valerie Catt is a certified master mental health psychologist and a rehabilitation impact education coach with an advanced degree certificate in health and wellness coaching and rehabilitation education. Val has been creating online course curriculum since 2012 and has extensive experience in court mandated education services including elearning courses and impact coaching curriculum.


  • 1

    Chapter 1: Psychological Evaluations for Immigration Court

    • Psychological Evaluations for Immigration Court: The 7 Cases When You Might Need an Evaluation

    • VAWA Evaluations: 7 Common Questions Applicants Have About VAWA Evaluations and Petitions

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    • (01:02) Immigration Psychological Evaluations

    • (03:18) Psychological Evaluations for Immigration

    • (04:28) How do Immigration Attorneys Use Psychological Evaluations in Immigration Cases?

    • Question, Answer, Feedback Quiz: Psychological Evaluations for Immigration Court

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    Chapter 2: The Difference Between I-601 and I-601A

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    • Question, Answer, Feedback Quiz: Understanding the I-601 an I-601A Waiver

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    Chapter 3: "Extreme Hardship" Waiver Basics Following an Immigrant Visa Denial

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    • (06:04) 06 5 Things To Know About Filing The I-601 Waiver

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