Category Archives: I-751

COVID-19 Update: Certain USCIS Field Offices Plan to Reopen to the Public

As of June 4, some USCIS Field Offices are planning to reopen for in-person services to the public. The Application Support Centers plan to reopen later. The Field Offices and Application Support Centers have been closed to the public since March 18, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The reopening of certain USCIS Field Offices will allow the scheduling and rescheduling of interviews for green cards, naturalization, and other U.S. immigration benefits. Biometrics appointment scheduling and rescheduling will also resume when the Application Support Centers reopen.

USCIS is following the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention’s guidelines to protects its employees and the public. USCIS intends to limit the number of appointments and interviews per day, regularly clean and sanitize its facilities, and restrict the number of persons in waiting rooms.

USCIS’ Health & Safety Guidelines

USCIS provided the following guidelines when visiting their offices.

  • You may not enter a USCIS facility if you:
    • Have any symptoms of COVID-19, including cough, fever or difficulty breathing;
    • Have been in close contact with anyone known or suspected to have COVID-19 in the last 14 days; or
    • Have been individually directed to self-quarantine or self-isolate by a health care provider or public health official within the last 14 days.
  • You may not enter the facility more than 15 minutes prior to your appointment (30 minutes for naturalization ceremonies).
  • You are encouraged to use hand sanitizer provided at entry points. 
  • You must wear facial covering (face mask) that covers both the mouth and nose when entering facilities. If you do not have one, USCIS may provide one or you will be asked to reschedule your appointment.
  • You should pay close attention to markings and physical barriers in the facility and follow social distancing guidelines.
  • You may have to answer health screening questions before entering a facility. 
  • You are encouraged to bring your own black or blue ink pens.
  • Individuals are encouraged to bring their own black or blue ink pens.

USCIS will send you an appointment notice when your interview or biometrics appointment is scheduled or rescheduled. The notice will provide more details for visiting USCIS offices. If you feel sick, you are urged to request a cancellation or rescheduling of your appointment.

While USCIS is readying certain offices to reopen on or after June 4, its employees are continuing to perform mission-critical services that do not involve face-to-face contact with the public. Most likely, the earliest date for reopening of some offices will be in July.

The reopening will not only provide relief to applicants, but may help bring much-needed revenue to USCIS. In Mid-May, the agency announced it will run out of money by the summer because the coronavirus pandemic led to a steep drop in applications and filing fees since March. Unlike most federal agencies, USCIS operates almost entirely on revenue from application fees. It requested $1.2 billion from Congress to help it stay afloat, and proposed a 10% surcharge to application fees in the coming months.

Not every application or petition for a U.S. immigration benefit requires a face-to-face interview with a USCIS officer. The USCIS Service Centers are also continuing to accept applications and petitions and issue Receipt Notices and other correspondences, even while Field Offices remain closed to the public.

For the latest information on individual offices, check the USCIS Office Closing page.

###

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.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

COVID-19 Update: USCIS Offices Temporarily Closed to the Public, March 18 to April 1

As of March 18, 2020, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has suspended routine in-person services until at least April 1 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 19). There will be no USCIS Field Office interviews, USCIS Application Support Center biometrics appointments, asylum interviews, or naturalization oath ceremonies during this period.

Field Office Appointments

USCIS Field Offices will send notices with instructions to applicants and petitioners with scheduled interview appointments. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the interviews and issue new notices.

Persons who had InfoPass appointments with a Field Office must reschedule through the USCIS Contact Center, after the Field Office is reopened.

Check the USCIS Field Offices page to see if your field office has reopened before reaching out to the USCIS Contact Center.

Application Support Center (ASC) Appointments

All biometrics appointments at USCIS Application Support Centers are suspended. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule the biometrics appointments and issue new notices. If you do not receive a new appointment notice by mail within 90 days, call 800-375-5283.

USCIS is unable to automatically reschedule appointments for Canadian and United Kingdom visa applicants.

Asylum Appointments

USCIS asylum offices will send interview cancellation notices and automatically reschedule asylum interviews. When the interview is rescheduled, asylum applicants will receive a new interview notice with the new time, date, and location.

Naturalization Oath Ceremonies

Naturalization oath ceremonies are cancelled. When normal operations resume, USCIS will automatically reschedule naturalization oath ceremonies. If you do not receive a new naturalization oath ceremony notice by mail within 90 days, you may contact the USCIS Contact Center.

During the temporary closure, USCIS staff will continue to perform duties that do not involve contact with the public. USCIS Service Centers and the National Benefits Center will receive and process applications and petitions; the National Records Center will receive and process FOIA requests; and the Administrative Appeals Office will receive and adjudicate appeals of denied benefits.

###

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.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Timely Response to Request for Evidence + In-Depth Preparation for I-751 Interview = A True Success Story

The USCIS Field Office in Minneapolis approved our clients’ joint Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence, even though they lived apart in different states during the marriage and had just moved in together at the time of the interview. A timely response to the Request for Evidence and in-depth preparation for the I-751 interview were essential to getting the approval.

When the U.S. citizen’s I-130 petition and the beneficiary’s I-485 green card application were approved years earlier, the couple resided together. But the beneficiary later moved to another state where job opportunities were better and the living expenses were lower. The couple lived apart for about three years following their marriage. The U.S. citizen delayed relocating with his spouse to fulfill family obligations in his home state. In the meantime, they made a few trips to visit each other and kept up long-distance communication through telephone calls and text messages.

Explanatory Response to Request for Evidence

On their own, the couple filed the joint Form I-751 petition with their tax returns and a few affidavits as supporting evidence. The conditional resident contacted me, for the first time, when she received a Request for Evidence from USCIS instructing her to submit more evidence to show she and her spouse entered the marriage in good faith and continue to share a life together.

USCIS noted the evidence should include proof of children as a result of the marriage, evidence of joint residence, documents showing combined financial resources, and affidavits from third parties who have direct knowledge of the relationship.

In the consultation, I described the documentary evidence to submit in lieu of a joint residential lease, joint bills and other proof of a shared residence. I also noted that detailed affidavits from the couple were necessary to explain the compelling reasons for living separately in different states and their concrete plans to move in together where the conditional resident lives.

The Service may waive the interview requirement only when the documentary evidence is enough to support an approval without question. Because the conditional resident and her U.S. citizen spouse would continue to live in separate states at the time the RFE response was due, I explained that an interview with USCIS was likely.

Maintaining separate residences is a serious negative factor to consider when evaluating the bona fide nature of a marriage. USCIS will not approve an I-751 without an interview when there is no proof of a joint residence.

Falsely claiming to live together is a foolish and risky action to take. This makes the conditional resident subject to being charged with INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain U.S. immigration benefits), which is a lifetime inadmissibility bar to receiving permanent residence. In addition, USCIS may conduct an investigation – such as search open source records and make unannounced visits to the claimed residence – to verify whether the couple really lives together. Such investigations may occur at any time while the petition is pending.

Thorough Preparation for I-751 Interview

Eight months after the RFE was issued, USCIS sent the conditional resident an interview notice to complete the Form I-751 processing. At that point, the U.S. citizen had recently relocated and entered into a new lease agreement with his spouse for their shared residence.

The couple contacted me for representation at the I-751 interview. Before agreeing to attend the interview as counsel, we had a telephone consultation in which we discussed the status of their relationship, the re-establishment of their joint residence, and the potential concerns and questions the USCIS officer would likely have at the interview.

I also counseled them on the additional documentary evidence to submit at the interview. This included their joint residential lease, joint bank account statement, joint utility bill, and home property insurance.

After thoroughly preparing them for what to expect, I attended the interview with them a few days later. The USCIS officer interviewed them separately and asked a variety of questions on the premarital courtship, marital history, living arrangements, medical conditions, family dynamics, reasons for the separate residences, the U.S. citizen’s relocation, and current home they share. Their testimonies were credible and overall consistent with each other.

Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence Following Completion of I-751 Interview

At the end of the interview, the USCIS officer issued a notice stating the petition has been recommended for approval and an approval notice would be mailed if final approval is granted.

A week later, the couple received the official Form I-797, Approval Notice removing the conditions on residence. The 10-year green card was also mailed in a separate correspondence. Because the applicant had received her conditional residence four years ago and remains married to the U.S. citizen petitioner, she already meets the continuous residence requirement for naturalization (U.S. citizenship).

Separate Residences During Marriage Creates an Obstacle to Receiving I-751 Approval

The years of maintaining separate residences made it harder for this otherwise bona fide married couple to receive an I-751 approval. Without evidence of their trips to visit each other and long-distance communications, as well as their own affidavits and third-party affidavits describing their marriage, the interview would have been tougher.

Further preparation on the testimonies and documentary evidence to present at the I-751 interview was also critical to getting the conditions on permanent residence removed. It was important for them to tell the truth about the separate residences instead of offer fabricated information about their living arrangements. Falsifying evidence is one of the quickest ways to end up with inconsistencies and a denial.

With guidance from counsel, the conditional resident received an I-751 approval despite living separately from her U.S. citizen spouse for several years during the marriage.

This is a true success story.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

###

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 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.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

Well-Documented Form I-751 Petition (After Divorce) + Full Preparation for Interview = A True Success Story

A USCIS Field Office in Ohio approved our client’s Form I-751 petition with request for waiver of joint filing requirement, despite her not living with the U.S. citizen (who had petitioned for her CR1 spousal immigrant visa) after she arrived in the United States as a conditional resident.

Her detailed affidavit describing the premarital courtship, married life abroad, and reasons the relationship ended in divorce was key to getting a timely approval. Her being fully prepared for the I-751 interview was another driving factor. 

Divorce and No Joint Residence with U.S. Citizen Petitioner After CR1 Spousal Immigrant Visa was Granted

The couple met in the United States while the client was in lawful, nonimmigrant status. At the end of her stay, they departed to her home country, where they married and lived together for a few months. The U.S. citizen filed an I-130 petition for her, but moved back to the United States before the immigrant visa process was completed.

Their relationship was rocky from the start. Marriage counseling and other good-faith efforts to resolve their marital problems did not help. The U.S. citizen petitioner, however, did not withdraw the I-130 or his I-864 affidavit of financial support.

At the CR1 spousal immigrant visa interview, the U.S. consular officer asked very few questions and granted the application. The client became a conditional resident upon her arrival in the United States. She received a conditional green card set to expire within 2 years because her immigrant status was based on a marriage that was less than two years old.

A few weeks after she landed in the United States, she contacted the U.S. citizen petitioner to let him know she was in the country. He was not interested in maintaining their marriage and asked for a divorce. They went their separate ways when he made it clear the relationship was over.

After three years of being legally married to the U.S. citizen and one year following the grant of her conditional residence, she received the court order terminating the marriage.

Individual Form I-751 Petition with Request for Waiver of Joint Filing Requirement

The client contacted me for the first time after she arrived in the United States as a conditional resident and before the divorce occurred. In the consultation, I explained that to get the conditions removed and maintain lawful permanent residence, she normally needed to file a joint I-751 petition with the spouse before the two-year card expires, and no earlier than 90 days before the expiration.

I noted there are only three types of waivers (exceptions) to the joint filing requirement. We determined the most appropriate option was to file for the waiver based on divorce (good faith/divorce waiver), after the divorce proceeding was completed.

I counseled her to start gathering evidence of their married life, including documents showing joint residence abroad, photographs of the two of them together, text messages and emails they exchanged with each other, third-party declarations attesting to the good faith nature of their marriage, a supporting affidavit from the U.S. citizen petitioner, and her own affidavit describing in detail their relationship history and the reasons for the divorce.

Following the divorce, the client contacted me again for full representation in her Form I-751 petition with request for waiver of joint filing requirement. We submitted the petition with the documentary evidence she had collected based on my advice. I included a legal memorandum explaining how she qualified for the I-751 waiver, including the concrete steps she took to salvage a marriage that was beyond repair.

Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence Following Attorney Appearance at Out-of-State I-751 Interview

Although Dyan Williams Law PLLC is based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I represent clients from all across the United States and around the world in U.S. immigration matters, which is governed by federal laws, regulations and policies.  I-751 interviews are scheduled at the USCIS Field Office with jurisdiction over the residence of the applicant who, in this case, is in Ohio. 

The day before the I-751 interview, I flew out to Ohio to prepare the client for possible questions from the USCIS officer and address concerns she had about the pending petition. 

When we appeared for the I-751 interview, the USCIS officer asked questions about when and how the couple met, their life together abroad, and the circumstances that led to the divorce.

Because the officer had reviewed the client’s detailed affidavit prior to the interview, she already had a good understanding of the relationship history. The officer also took note of the U.S. citizen petitioner’s affidavit confirming the marriage was based on love and intent to build a life together, but ultimately he no longer wanted to be in the relationship. 

At the end of the interview, the USCIS officer informed us she had no issues with the I-751 petition. In essence, she determined the marriage was entered into in good faith, even though it did not last and  there was no joint residence after the CR1 immigrant visa was granted.

The USCIS officer handed us a Notice of Interview Results stating, “Your case is being held for review. At this time, USCIS does not require any further information or documents from you…” She added that we would receive, in the mail, a decision or a request for evidence if more information or documents was needed. 

Within a week, we received the USCIS Field Office’s Notice of Removal of Conditional Basis of Lawful Permanent Resident stating the (10-year) green card would be mailed and the request for removal of conditions on permanent residence has been approved. The USCIS National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit, Missouri also issued the official Form I-797C, Notice of Action approving the I-751 petition. The applicant received her 10-year green card directly from USCIS. 

Divorce from the U.S. Citizen Petitioner and Lack of Joint Residence During Marriage Make it More Difficult to Get an I-751 Approval

A combination of factors made it possible for the applicant to get an I-751 approval even though she divorced the U.S. citizen petitioner and did not live with him after she arrived in the United States on the CR1 visa. Without proper counselling, an I-751 applicant in this type of situation is highly likely to get a denial and end up in removal proceedings before the Immigration Court.  

The I-751 applicant made a wise decision to discuss her options with skilled counsel prior to getting divorced and before her conditional residence expired. My guidance helped her to know when to initiate divorce proceedings, what documentary evidence to gather, and how to file for removal of conditions on residence after divorce. 

The legal memorandum submitted with the I-751 petition and counsel’s preparation for and appearance at the interview were also significant. If the applicant had not submitted her detailed affidavit with an explanation letter from counsel in support of the I-751 petition, and had no counsel present at the interview, the questions from the USCIS officer would have likely been a lot tougher. 

The applicant had the backup option of filing for a green card based on her second marriage to another U.S. citizen. This current marriage is solid and includes joint residence throughout the entire marital relationship. But I explained that a new I-130 petition and green card or immigrant visa application only had to be filed if her I-751 petition was denied and her permanent residence was terminated. 

Instead of needing to start from scratch, she received an I-751 approval and had the conditions on her permanent residence removed. She remains a lawful permanent resident who will meet the continuous residence requirement for naturalization (U.S. citizenship) within 5 years of when she was initially granted the (2-year) green card. 

This is a true success story. 

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

###

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 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.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT

 

Continue reading

Combined Approval of Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence + Form N-400, Application for Naturalization = A True Success Story

USCIS Field Office in California

A USCIS Field Office in California approved both our client’s Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence and Form N-400 application for naturalization in a single naturalization interview, held in early March 2019. With the conditions on his residence now removed, he is set to attend his naturalization oath ceremony and become a U.S. citizen.

Conditional Resident Awaiting I-751 Decision May Consider Filing For Naturalization

In many cases, conditional residents are eligible to file for naturalization before the conditions on their residence are removed and they get the regular, 10-year green card. Persons who are granted marriage-based permanent residence when the marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner is less than two years old are issued a two-year, conditional green card. To get the conditions removed and maintain lawful permanent residence, the applicant and his spouse must file a joint I-751 petition before the two-year card expires, and no earlier than 90 days before the expiration. There are only three types of waivers (exceptions) to the joint filing requirement.

Continuous residence is one eligibility requirement for naturalization. You must reside continuously in the U.S. for at least 5 years as a permanent resident at the time you file your naturalization application. An exception is if you are a qualified spouse of a U.S. citizen, in which case your continuous residence must be at least 3 years at the time you file for naturalization. Continuous residence for naturalization purposes begins on the start date of your permanent residence, even if it is conditional.

As of June 2018, USCIS began issuing Receipt Notices for I-751 petitions that automatically extend the conditional resident status for 18 months past the expiration date of the two-year card. Previously, the extension was for 12 months, after which the person would need to obtain a temporary I-551 stamp (evidence of conditional residence) at a local USCIS office. The change was made to accommodate longer processing times for I-751s and to allow conditional residents to automatically keep their lawful status and maintain work and travel authorization in the interim.

Naturalization Interview Scheduled Before Conditions Removed

Our client’s naturalization interview was scheduled before he received a decision on the Form I-751 petition. At the naturalization interview, the USCIS officer exercised his authority to approve the I-751 even though it was still sitting at a USCIS Service Center awaiting adjudication. This cleared the way for the conditional resident to become a U.S. citizen.

Filing of Form I-751 Petition

Although both the Form N-400 and Form I-751 may be pending at the same time, the I-751 must be filed first in most cases. The two exceptions are if the conditional resident is filing for naturalization on the basis of qualifying military service or as the spouse of a U.S. citizen employed abroad, and thus may be naturalized without removal of conditions. In all other situations, such as our client’s, USCIS needs to first approve the I-751 petition before naturalization may be granted.

In December 2017, we filed a timely, joint Form I-751 petition with the USCIS California Service Center in Laguna Niguel, California. To demonstrate the conditional resident entered into and continued to have a good faith marriage with his U.S. citizen spouse, we submitted affidavits describing their relationship, shared car insurance policy, joint bank account and credit card account statements, and evidence of their home ownership.

The I-751 was initially transferred from the California Service Center to another USCIS Service Center. In June 2018, we received a Transfer Notice from the Service Center in Arlington, VA stating it was transferring the I-751 back to the California Service Center to speed up processing. Then in December 2018, we received a Transfer Notice from the California Service Center stating it completed a preliminary review of the petition and was transferring the case to the National Benefits Center in Lee’s Summit, MO for adjudication.

Filing of Form N-400 Application

The I-751 had been pending with USCIS for 10 months when the naturalization application was filed. Within three months of receiving the Form N-400, our client received his naturalization interview notice. It did not instruct him to have his U.S. citizen spouse accompany him or to bring evidence of their bona fide marriage. Nonetheless, I counseled him to do so, particularly because USCIS had yet to approve the I-751 petition and lift the conditions on his residence.

Attorney Appearance at Out-of-State Naturalization Interview

With our law firm based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, I flew out to California to attend the naturalization interview. My client could have retained local counsel to appear with him, but he insisted on having me there. (U.S. immigration is governed by federal laws, regulations and policies, which allow for representation at a USCIS Field Office by an out-of-state attorney.) 

The naturalization interview started off with his completing and passing the Civics Test and English Test. Then the USCIS officer went through his naturalization application, page by page. 

To prepare for the naturalization interview, my client and I had discussed potential questions about his marriage to the U.S. citizen petitioner, their relationship history, and his U.S. immigration record. Among his concerns was that he had been previously denied entry to the United States as a visitor by the U.S. Customs & Border Protection, after being employed in the country on a temporary worker visa for an extended period. I advised him on how to best respond truthfully to this issue, which did end up being raised by the USCIS officer at the interview.

Naturalization Expected

When the USCIS officer stated he would approve the N-400 application, I reminded him the I-751 petition was still pending. The officer was not aware of this because the file had not been flagged. He agreed to call in the U.S. citizen spouse, who had accompanied us to the Field Office and was seated in the waiting room.

Both the conditional resident and his spouse answered questions and presented documentary evidence on the bona fide nature of their marriage. At the end of the interview, the officer said he would also approve the I-751 petition. Even though he did not have the original I-751 filing,  and did not review the copy we had with us, he favorably adjudicated the petition based on the testimony and evidence presented.

A day after the interview, USCIS issued the Form I-797, Approval Notice for the I-751 petition. My client soon sent me an email stating, “When I checked online the status of the N-400 on USCIS website it now says they approved my application, and the next step is to wait for the Oath Ceremony invitation letter in the mail, so looking forward to this very much…Thanks again for all your help. You really made a difference in our lives.

We expect him to be scheduled for a naturalization oath ceremony and to become a U.S. citizen. This is a true success story. 

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

Founder & Principal Attorney
Dyan Williams Law PLLC
(612) 225-9900
info@dyanwilliamslaw.com

###

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 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.

SUBSCRIBE           CONTACT