USCIS issued a policy memo that went into effect on December 10, 2018, which provides guidance to USCIS officers on waiving the interview requirement for filing I-751 Petitions. Individuals who obtain status through marriage, in certain circumstances, receive a conditional Green Card for two years. The conditions must be removed in order to maintain valid legal status. The I-751 is an application to remove the conditions on a Green Card and if approved the individual would receive a regular 10 year Green Card.
The new policy applies to all I-751 petitions received by USCIS on or after December 10, 2018. The policy is more expansive than the previous policy, which required interviews only when there was insufficient evidence of the bona fides of the marriage, and/or in waiver cases, there was inconclusive evidence to establish eligibility for a waiver. Additionally, the prior policy encouraged use of Requests for Evidence (RFE) to obtain additional information in lieu of transferring the petition to the local USCIS office for an in-person interview.
What Does This Mean?
For those who received their visa at a U.S. consulate overseas or entered the United States as a K visa holder and were never interviewed by USCIS will be required to attend an in-person interview, even if they are able to establish, through initial evidence, that the marriage is bona fide. This applies to individuals who file jointly with their spouse and to those who file individually and need a waiver because of divorce, death of the spouse, or other qualifying reasons.
This new guidance suggests that more I-751 petitions will be transferred to local USCIS offices and scheduled for an in-person interview. The processing times for I-751 petitions are already facing substantial processing delays and have increased from an average of 12 months to 18 months. The increase in interviews is likely to cause significant delays in obtaining a final decision on the I-751 petition.
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