Tag Archives: Notice of Intent to Deny

Updated Policy Makes It Easier for USCIS to Deny Petitions and Applications Without First Issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID)

As of September 11, 2018, an updated policy will make it easier for USCIS to deny a petition, application or request without first issuing a Request for Evidence (RFE) or Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) if initial evidence is not submitted or if the evidence in the record does not establish eligibility for the benefit sought. The new guidance applies to all petitions, applications and requests (except for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals/DACA cases) received by USCIS after the effective date.

The policy memorandum (PM), dated July 13, 2018, rescinds the prior June 3, 2013 guidance implementing the “no possibility” policy and restores to the USCIS officer full discretion to deny petitions, applications and requests without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate.  According to USCIS, this policy aims to discourage frivolous or substantially incomplete filings used as “placeholder” filings and encourage petitioners, applicants and requestors to collect and submit required evidence in the initial filing.

The prior 2013 PM provided that RFEs should be issued unless there was “no possibility” that additional evidence might cure the deficiency and lead to an approval. Thus, in practice, it limited denials without RFEs or NOIDs to requests where an adverse decision was mandatory under law (e.g. statutory denials such as when an applicant requests a benefit that no longer exists).

The updated policy provides guidance as follows:

Statutory Denials

USCIS will continue issuing statutory denials, when appropriate, without first issuing an RFE or NOID. This includes filings when the applicant, petitioner, or requestor has no legal basis for the benefit sought, or submits a request for a benefit under a program that has been terminated.

If all required initial evidence is not submitted with the application or petition, USCIS may exercise its discretion to deny the benefit request for failure to establish eligibility. Examples include:

  • Waiver applications that require a showing of extreme hardship to a qualifying relative (U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent), but there is no evidence of a qualifying relative and the applicant is claiming extreme hardship to another relative (e.g. U.S. citizen child).
  • Family-based immigrant petitions filed for relatives that do not fall under any of the family-based categories.

Denials Based on Lack of Sufficient Initial Evidence

USCIS, in its discretion, may deny the application or petition when the required initial evidence is not submitted with the original filing and the applicant or petitioner fails to establish eligibility for the benefit sought. Examples include:

  • Waiver applications submitted with little or no supporting evidence.
  • Cases when the regulations, the statute, or form instructions require the submission of an official document or other form of evidence establishing eligibility at the time of filing and there is no such submission. For example, a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, if required, was not submitted with a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.

This PM updates Chapters 10.5(a) and 10.5(b) of the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual and contains an “Additional Considerations” section, which is not new, and is nearly identical to the policy in the superseded 2013 PM. For instance, USCIS must still offer the applicant or petitioner an opportunity for rebuttal before making a decision if it has derogatory information and the applicant or petitioner is unaware that the information is being considered.

Conclusion

By restoring full discretion to USCIS officers to deny petitions or applications, when appropriate, without issuing a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny first, the new guidance reflects USCIS’ expanded enforcement priorities, which are also revealed in its updated policy on unlawful presence and Notices to Appear in removal proceedings.

For more information, read our related articles:

USCIS Policy Change Makes Nonimmigrant Students and Exchange Visitors More Likely to Accrue Unlawful Presence Toward 3/10-Year Bar and Permanent Bar

Updated Notice to Appear (NTA) Guidance Requires USCIS to Initiate Removal Proceedings In More Cases

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This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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Notice of Intent to Deny I-130 or I-129F Petition: Huge Hurdle to Clear in Marriage-Based Green Card Case

The filing of an I-130 or I-129F petition is the first step for a foreign national to obtain a marriage-based green card. When U.S. citizens or permanent residents file an I-130 for a spouse, they must submit evidence proving the marriage is not only legal, but also bona fide. Similarly, when U.S. citizens file an I-129F for a fiancé(e), they must present evidence of intent to enter into a good faith marriage.

If USCIS finds the initial evidence is not persuasive, it may issue a Notice of Intent to Deny  (NOID), which is more problematic than a Request for Evidence (RFE).

A response to the NOID is necessary to overcome USCIS’ doubts about the bona fides of the marriage or the couple’s intent to enter into a bona marriage. Typically, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to the NOID, which explains why the initial evidence is not persuasive and why USCIS is intending to deny the petition.

The most common reasons for USCIS to issue a Notice of Intent to Deny an I-130 or I-129F petition are described below:

1. Insufficient Evidence of a Bona Fide Relationship

Evidence of termination of prior marriages (e.g. divorce decree or death certificate of prior spouse) is required to show the couple is legally free to marry. In I-130 cases, the submission of a marriage certificate showing the validity of the marriage is also a must. But it’s not enough to prove the marriage is legal (in immigrant visa/green card cases) or the couple is legally free to marry (in K-1 fiancé(e) visa cases).

In a NOID, USCIS usually points to the lack of evidence of a bona fide relationship, i.e. the marriage was created (or will be created) with good faith intent to establish a life together as spouses, and not for the purpose of circumventing U.S. immigration laws.

USCIS also often raises concerns about the evidence that was submitted. Examples: photographs of the couple together are all taken at a single event, instead of at different events; joint billing statements are only from the last two months; joint bank account statements fail to show regular deposits and withdrawals.

The response to the NOID must address the deficiencies with additional evidence, such as:

  • Photos of the couple together and with family and friends taken over the course of their relationship, including before the marriage/engagement and long after the marriage/engagement
  • Federal income taxes showing the filing status as married (filing jointly or separately)
  • Joint residential lease or mortgage statements showing shared residence
  • Joint health, dental, disability, automobile, life, home, and renter’s insurance.
  • Joint bank account statements, joint credit card statements and other documentation of active comingling of financial resources
  • Receipts for shared purchases (e.g. furniture, motor vehicle)
  • Affidavits from third parties attesting to the bona fide nature of the marriage
  • Birth certificate for child born of the marriage, or evidence that the couple is expecting a child

Typically, it is harder to prove a bona fide relationship when you are living overseas and applying for an immigrant visa or K-1 fiancé(e) visa at the U.S. Consulate, instead of a green card within the U.S.  Alternative evidence includes:

  • Receipts of wire transfers or bank transfers from one person to the other
  • Evidence of international travel or visits to see each other, e.g. hotel reservations and bills; travel stamps in passports; travel itineraries; boarding passes; photographs of the trip
  • Records of written communication between the couple or between one spouse and a third party mentioning the other spouse, e.g. emails, letters,  and cards
  • Printouts of text messages or messages exchanged on social media
  • Telephone records showing regular conversations between the couple

2. Inconsistent Testimonies or Incomplete Answers Given at the Interview

When the spouse of a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) is in the U.S. and is eligible for adjustment to permanent residence, he or she may file an I-485 application concurrently with the I-130 petition.

USCIS will schedule both the petitioner and beneficiary for an interview at the Field Office that has jurisdiction over where the couple lives. At the interview, the officer will ask questions to determine whether the marriage is bona fide. The officer also observes the couple’s general demeanor, body language, and interactions with each other during the interview.

In some cases, the couple may be separated and questioned individually. Generally, the officer asks each person the same questions, takes notes, and later compares the answers to see if they match up.

In a NOID, USCIS may list out discrepancies or inconsistencies between the testimonies. Examples are: one spouse claims she has met the other’s siblings, while the other spouse says no such meeting occurred; one spouse states the premarital courtship lasted for six months, while the other says it was one month; one spouse recalls they traveled during the last July 4th holiday, while the other spouse notes they celebrated in town.

USCIS may also describe incomplete or deficient answers given at the interview. For example, one spouse doesn’t know the other’s birthday, parents’ names, work schedule, model of motor vehicle owned, or other personal information USCIS believes a bona fide married couple should know.

In the response to the NOID, both parties must address each and every one of USCIS’ concerns about their testimonies. Discrepancies and incomplete answers may be due to a variety of factors, including the USCIS officer’s misunderstanding of the answers, the foreign national’s limited English proficiency, different expectations about what couples should know about each other, and outright fabrication in testimonies.

3. Adverse Information Gathered in USCIS’ Investigation

In I-130 cases where the foreign national beneficiary is in the United States, USCIS expects the couple to live together. A legal separation of the couple gives USCIS solid ground to deny an I-130 petition. If there is no legal separation, but the couple simply resides separately, USCIS may not deny the I-130 merely because of lack of cohabitation. Maintaining separate residences, however, is relevant to determining the couple’s intent at the time of the marriage. USCIS also considers no cohabitation since the marriage as one factor indicating a sham marriage.

If the officer suspects the marriage is a sham, USCIS may conduct further investigation. This includes USCIS investigating officers showing up at the parties’ claimed residence to verify if they live together as a married couple. The “bed check” or “site visit” can occur at any time after the interview — sometimes as long as one to two years later — while the case is pending.

The site visit is unscheduled and typically occurs very early in the morning.  The USCIS officers will knock on your door and ask to enter your home so they can look around and ask questions. While the parties may refuse to admit the officers into their home, this could raise more suspicion and trigger other types of investigation. If no one is around to admit the officers inside the home, they can keep coming back or take a look around outside the home.

USCIS officers may also talk with your neighbors or your landlord/rental manager to verify whether you live together at your claimed residence. They may request records from your employer or school to confirm your reported marital status, residence, emergency contact, etc.

USCIS also often checks Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records, court records, social media, and other miscellaneous sources to  see if there is any adverse information, such as the parties claiming different residences or failing to hold themselves out as a married couple.

In a NOID, USCIS may describe adverse information gathered during its investigation, which indicates the marriage is a sham or at least raises doubts about its bona fide nature. Examples include: lack of personal belongings of one spouse in the shared residence; neighbor or landlord claims the couple do not live together; or DMV records lists an address other than the shared residence.

In the response to the NOID, the couple must tackle issues that arose during USCIS’ investigation. One spouse may keep his clothes in a separate room due to limited closet space. The neighbor or landlord might have been misquoted by USCIS. One spouse may have neglected to report an address change to the DMV after moving in with the other.

4. Fraudulent Marriage Prohibition Against Approval of I-130 or I-129F Petition

Section 204(c) of the Immigration & Nationality Act states:

…no petition shall be approved if (1) the alien has previously been accorded, or has sought to be accorded, an immediate relative or preference status as the spouse of a citizen of the United States or the spouse of an alien lawfully admitted for permanent residence, by reason of a marriage determined by the Attorney General to have been entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws[,] or (2) the Attorney General has determined that the alien has attempted or conspired to enter into a marriage for the purpose of evading the immigration laws.

Basically, USCIS cannot approve an I-130 or I-129F petition when the foreign national beneficiary is found to have previously entered into or conspired to enter into a sham marriage solely for immigration benefits.

When USCIS raises section 204(c) in an I-130 or I-129F petition, the case gets very complicated. The issue is not so much whether the current I-130 or I-129F petitioner and beneficiary share a bona fide relationship, but whether the beneficiary previously committed or conspired to commit marriage fraud.

In the response to the NOID, the couple must provide favorable facts and rebuttal evidence indicating the prior relationship was not a sham and section 204(c) does not apply. If USCIS finds the rebuttal is insufficient, and concludes there is substantial and probative evidence of a prior sham marriage, it cannot approve the I-130 or I-129F petition, even if the beneficiary has a bona fide relationship with the current petitioner.

More Points to Consider

1. A NOID is more appropriate than a RFE when initial evidence is mostly present, but: (a) the filing does not appear to establish eligibility by the preponderance of the evidence; (b) the case appears to be ineligible for approval but not necessarily incurable; or (c) the adjudicator intends to rely for denial on evidence not submitted by the petitioner.

2. The petition belongs to the U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Although the beneficiary may contribute to the response to the NOID, only the petitioner may file the response. The beneficiary has no standing to pursue an I-130 or I-129F alone.

3. USCIS examines the bona fides of the marriage, not its “viability” (i.e. the probability of the parties staying married for a long time). Nevertheless, once a NOID is issued, it becomes much more challenging to prove the marriage is bona fide.

4.  USCIS does not conduct interviews, prior to issuing a decision on the I-130 or I-129F, when the beneficiary will apply for an immigrant visa or K-1 visa abroad. But discrepancies or inconsistencies may arise later when the U.S. Consulate conducts the visa interview. If the consular officer finds, during the visa interview, that USCIS should not have approved the petition, it may return the case to USCIS with a memorandum explaining why the approval should be revoked. Marriage fraud issues can be raised by the Consulate. USCIS may then issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke the I-130 or I-129F approval, to which the petitioner has 30 days to respond.

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If the response to a NOID is not handled properly, the likelihood of receiving a denial is almost certain. In the denial notice, USCIS may not only find the petitioner failed to prove the bona fides of the marriage, but further rule the marriage is a sham (i.e. entered into solely for immigration benefits).

The NOID provides a taste of denial without its immediate consequences. It gives the petitioner an opportunity to address doubts about the relationship. Enlisting the help of an experienced immigration attorney is crucial to providing a timely, complete and effective response to a NOID.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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What to expect after your marriage-based green card interview

A marriage-based green card interview before USCIS is required when a foreign national files a Form I-485 (green card) application based on a U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) spouse’s I-130 immigrant petition for him or her.  A fiancé(e) who enters the U.S. on a K-1 visa, marries the U.S. citizen petitioner, and then files an Form I-485 may also be scheduled for an interview.

What is the best possible outcome of a marriage-based immigration interview? 

If, at the end of the interview, the officer determines your marriage is bona fide, the I-130 petition can be approved on the spot. The I-485 will be approved as well if the foreign national qualifies for adjustment of status, the background check has cleared, and the marriage is found to be bona fide.

You will receive approval notices in the mail, after which the green card is issued in about three weeks.

What delays may occur following a marriage-based immigration interview? 

Case put on hold due to delays in name check and FBI clearance

Sometimes the FBI and other outside agencies are unable to complete all the background checks on the foreign national before the interview date. The USCIS officer may still approve the I-130 petition, but not the green card application until all the background checks are clear. You may schedule an InfoPass appointment to check on the progress in your case.

Case put on hold because officer is undecided or has other priorities

Sometimes the officer is undecided on whether to approve or deny the case.  For example, the officer is convinced that the parties share a bona fide marriage, but questions whether the foreign national is eligible for adjustment of status. A false claim to U.S. citizenship to gain employment or a serious criminal conviction are two common reasons why an adjustment application can be held up, even if the officer intends to approve the I-130 petition.

The interviewing officer may forward the case to a supervisor for further review and guidance. The sheer volume of petitions and applications being processed at the USCIS field office can add to the delay.

Several months might pass before the officer finally approves the case. In some instances, the officer may approve the petition, but deny the I-485 adjustment application. If the foreign national is placed in removal proceedings, the adjustment application and other forms of relief can be reviewed by an Immigration Judge.

Case put on hold because more evidence is needed or negative information is in the file

When more information is needed to issue a decision in your case, the officer has several options.

Request for Evidence

The officer may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) specifying the additional documents you must submit.  You  will have a set time frame in which to submit the evidence (usually 12 weeks).  Although an RFE does not mean USCIS intends to deny the case,  your failure to file a timely response could lead to a denial.

Site Investigation

If the officer suspects the marriage is a sham, USCIS may conduct further investigation. This includes USCIS investigating officers showing up at the parties’ claimed residence to verify if they live together as a married couple. The “bed check” or “site visit” can occur at any time after the interview — sometimes as long as one to two years later — while the case is pending.

The site visit is unscheduled and typically occurs very early in the morning.  The USCIS officers will knock on your door or ring your doorbell and ask to enter your home so they can see firsthand where you live.  They may look inside your closets, check out your bathrooms and bedrooms, ask about family photos on your walls, etc. to get a sense of whether you really live together as a married couple. They may also ask you questions at the site visit, which you must treat like a formal interview.

While you may refuse to admit the officers into your home, this could raise more suspicion and trigger other types of investigation. If no authorized person is around to admit the officers inside the home, they can keep coming back or take a look around outside the home. In any event, it’s better to have at least one party and preferably both parties, in the marriage, at home when the officer conducts the site visit.

USCIS officers may also talk with your neighbors or your landlord/rental manager to verify whether you live together at your claimed residence.

USCIS does not, as a matter of practice, stake out your home for days. Once they have an opportunity to enter and see where you live, this is usually the end of the site visit. Sometimes they do not come back after the first attempt. Although this can be a daunting experience, go about your life as you normally would.

Source Checks

USCIS also often checks Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) records, court records, social media, and other miscellaneous sources to  see if there is any adverse information, such as the parties claiming different residences or failing to hold themselves out as a married couple.

In some cases, USCIS may contact your place of employment or school to verify certain information, such as your emergency contacts, marital status and current residence listed. The employer or school, however, does not have to give this information to USCIS, especially if they have privacy policies and rules to follow.

Follow-Up Interview

USCIS may also schedule you for another interview, which could occur as much as 6+ months after the first interview. The follow-up interview is usually to test whether you’re still living together and to question each of you separately. A new interview may also follow after USCIS has conducted a site visit to your home or completed other types of investigation.

When you are asked the same questions individually, the officer will compare your answers to see if they match up.

The officer will ask probing and personal questions to determine whether the parties really know each other and share a married life. Even bona fide married couples have trouble answering questions aimed at detecting fraud, such as:

  • what is the color of the walls in your bedroom?
  • what side of the bed do you sleep on?
  • what type of birth control do you use?
  • what did your spouse wear to bed last night?
  • what did you do for your spouse’s last birthday?
  • how did you celebrate last Thanksgiving?
  • how many rooms are in your home?
  • when was the last time you watched television together?
  • who woke up first this morning?
  • where did your spouse live when you first met?

Fraud interviews are intense and can last for an hour or more. It is rare for each party to provide the exact same answer on every single question, even when the marriage is truly bona fide. Unfortunately,  USCIS may use any discrepancies in your testimonies to support a denial decision.

Notice of Intent to Deny

In extreme cases, USCIS may issue a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) petition because there is evidence of a sham marriage, i.e. a marriage that is entered into solely for or primarily for immigration benefits.

In addition, USCIS may issue a NOID when the foreign national was the beneficiary of a prior spousal immigrant petition that was denied or found to be fraudulent. This is because section 204(c) of the Immigration & Nationality Act bars the approval of any subsequent petition for a beneficiary who is found to have previously entered into a sham marriage for immigration benefits.

Seek Immigration Counsel

If USCIS issues a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) the I-130 petition, it will be addressed to the petitioner, who will have 30 to 33 days to respond to it. Failure to timely or adequately respond to the NOID will result in a denial of the petition as well as the adjustment of status application. The I-130 decision is sent to the petitioner and the I-485 decision is sent to the foreign national applicant.

As long as the marriage is real and the parties fully rebut the marriage fraud allegations with objective and credible evidence, they can get the petition approved.

An experienced immigration attorney can help you prove the marriage is real, address discrepancies, overcome grounds for suspicion, and prevent a denial of the petition.

You are better off having an attorney present at the interview. And the best time to consult an attorney is before you file the marriage-based adjustment application or K-1 to green card application, not after USCIS issues a Request for Evidence, second interview notice, or Notice of Intent to Deny, when irreparable mistakes might have already occurred.

For more information, read our related article, What to expect at your marriage-based green card interview.

This article provides general information only. It is based on law, regulations and policy that are subject to change. Do not consider it as legal advice for any individual case or situation. Each legal case is different and case examples do not constitute a prediction or guarantee of success or failure in any other case. The sharing or receipt of this information does not create an attorney-client relationship.

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