Welcome back to Immigration Lawyer Blog! In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses an important new update to the USCIS Policy Manual clarifying the circumstances under which a USCIS officer may waive the in-person interview requirement for family-based conditional permanent residents filing to remove their conditions on permanent residence on Form I-751 Removal of Conditions. Conditional permanent residents are those who have received a 2-year conditional green card from USCIS and are seeking to remove those conditions to obtain the 10-year permanent resident card.
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As you may be aware, foreign nationals who apply for a green card based on a marriage to a U.S. Citizen that was less than 2 years old at the time of approval, receive a conditional green card valid for a 2-year period. This is done as a fraud prevention mechanism to ensure that the foreign national married the U.S. Citizen for the right reasons, and not solely to obtain an immigrant benefit. Foreign nationals who receive a 2-year conditional green card must file Form I-751 to remove their conditions, within the 90-day window before their conditional green card expires.
To ensure that the foreign national has a bona fide marriage, USCIS requires the conditional green card holder to appear for an in-person interview so that the officer has the opportunity to evaluate whether the marriage was entered on a genuine basis, and not to circumvent U.S. immigration laws.
The policy manual now clarifies that USCIS officers have the discretionary power to waive the in-person interview requirement for I-751 Removal of Conditions applicants, under certain circumstances.
According to the new guidance, USCIS officers may consider waiving an interview, if, generally, the applicant meets all eligibility requirements for removal of conditions, and the record contains sufficient evidence for approval, and there is no indication of fraud, misrepresentation, criminal bars, or such factors that would require the in-person interview to take place.
In practice this means that the conditional permanent resident must have provided sufficient documentary evidence to establish their eligibility for removal of conditions, including proof of cohabitation, joint ownership and responsibility for assets and liabilities such as joint federal income tax returns and joint checking and savings accounts, photographs of the couple throughout their relationship, children born to the marriage, and any other relevant documentation. The information stated on the I-751 Removal of Conditions application must also be free of any inconsistencies when compared to information provided in the applicant’s initial green card filing. For instance, inconsistencies in residential history or inconsistencies in facts stated can lead to an interview being required. Recent criminal offenses since the filing of the initial green card can also be a reason for an in-person interview to be required.
In general, however this interview waiver policy update is very exciting news because it will help reduce the current immigration backlogs, speed up the process for granting 10-year permanent resident green cards to conditional permanent residents who have adequately demonstrated the bona fides of their marriage.
In addition, the new policy eliminates automatic referrals for an in-person interview in cases where a conditional permanent resident obtained their status by way of Consular processing.
To read the language of the policy change please see below
Volume 6: Immigrants, Part I, Family-Based Conditional Permanent Residents, Chapter 3, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence [6 USCIS-PM I.3]
CPRs who file a Form I-751 must appear for an interview at a USCIS field office, unless USCIS waives the interview requirement. USCIS officers may consider waiving the interview in cases where:
- The officer considers they can make a decision on the petition based on the record because the record contains sufficient evidence about the bona fides of the marriage and that the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States;
- There is sufficient evidence in the record of the CPR’s eligibility for waiver of the joint filing requirement, if applicable;
- There is no indication of fraud or misrepresentation on the Form I-751, in the supporting documentation, or elsewhere in the record;
- There are no complex facts or issues that require an interview or sworn statement to resolve questions or concerns; and
- There are no criminal bars rendering the CPR removable.
When determining whether to waive an interview, the considerations listed above apply regardless of whether the Form I-751 is filed as a joint petition, individual filing request, or a waiver. For a joint petition, the statute requires USCIS to interview both the CPR and petitioning spouse. If the CPR is filing an individual filing request or waiver, only the CPR must appear for the interview.
If the required party or parties fail to appear for the interview, USCIS denies the Form I-751, terminates the CPR’s status, and initiates removal proceedings, unless the CPR establishes good cause for the failure to appear and USCIS reschedules the interview. USCIS determines whether there is good cause on a case-by-case basis.
To read the complete update please click here.
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