Category Archives: The Legal Immigrant – Immigration Blog

Section 204(l) Allows Certain Surviving Relatives to Become Permanent Residents Even When Petitioner or Principal Beneficiary Has Died

Section 204(l) of the Immigration & Nationality Act allows certain beneficiaries (and derivative beneficiaries) to continue with an Immigrant Visa request or Adjustment to Permanent Residence application even after the Form I-130 petitioner (or principal beneficiary) has died.

Normally, a pending petition must be denied or an approved petition must be revoked if the petitioner dies before the beneficiary has already obtained the green card, based on federal regulations. But INA 204(l) preserves U.S. immigration benefits for certain surviving relatives with pending or approved petitions.

A December 16, 2010 USCIS Policy Memorandum, titled Approval of Petitions and Applications after the Death of the Qualifying Relative under New Section 204(l) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, outlines who is protected by section 204(l) and how the relief works.

Who is Protected by Section 204(l)?

Unlike the survivor benefits for widow(er)s of U.S. citizens, and unlike humanitarian reinstatement for principal beneficiaries of approved petitions, section 204(l) relief protects a broader category of persons if they show they resided in the United States at the time of the death, and they continue to reside in the United States. It provides benefits not only when the U.S. citizen or permanent resident petitioner dies, but also, in some cases, when the principal beneficiary or other principal applicant dies.

You may be eligible for 204(l) relief if you are a:

• Principal or derivative beneficiary of a pending or approved I-130 family-based petition, when the petitioner died;

• Derivative beneficiary of a pending or approved I-130 petition, when the principal beneficiary died;

• Derivative beneficiary of a pending or approved I-140 employment-based petition, when the principal beneficiary died;

• Beneficiary of a pending or approved I-730 refugee/asylee relative petition, when the petitioner died;

• Derivative of a T or U nonimmigrant visa holder (T-2, T-3, T-4, T-5, U-2, U-3, U-4, U-5), admitted as a derivative, and the principal (T-1 or U-1) visa holder has died;

• Derivative asylee (AS-2 or AS-3) and the principal asylee (AS-1) has died.

Residence Requirement

Certain petitions have more than one beneficiary. For 204(l) relief to apply, at least one beneficiary or derivative beneficiary must be residing in the United States at the time of the death and continues to reside in the United States. If one beneficiary meets the residence requirement, all the beneficiaries can benefit from section 204(l) relief.

Residence is your primary home or your “principal, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.” Residence is not the same as physical presence or as having lawful nonimmigrant status in the United States. You may qualify while briefly abroad if you can show that your primary home is in the United States. Incidental travel for participating in business trips, taking a vacation, or visiting family abroad does not affect 204(l) eligibility.

Admissibility Requirement

204(l) applicants may be found inadmissible under INA 212 at the time of the immigrant visa or adjustment of status interview. Inadmissibility grounds include INA 212(a)(4)(public charge), INA 212(a)(9)(B)(unlawful presence), and INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i)(fraud or willful misrepresentation of material fact to gain U.S. immigration benefits).

Family-based applicants are normally required to submit a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, or Form I-864W, Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support, to show they will not become a public charge to the United States. The death of the petitioner does not change this requirement.

If the petitioner dies, there has to be a Form I-864 from a substitute sponsor who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, at least 18 years old, and the spouse, parent, mother-in-law, father-in-law, sibling, child (at least 18 years old), son, daughter, son-in-law, daughter-in-law, sister-in-law, brother-in-law, grandparent, grandchild, or legal guardian of the applicant. Otherwise, a Form I-864W may be submitted when appropriate.

You may still apply for inadmissibility waivers that require “extreme hardship to a qualifying relative” — such as the INA 212(a)(9)(B)(v) waiver for unlawful presence and the INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) waiver for fraud or willful misrepresentation — if the qualifying relative is also the relative who died. USCIS will consider the death of a qualifying relative as the “functional equivalent” of a finding of extreme hardship, i.e. USCIS will assume that the death of the qualifying relative amounts to extreme hardship for waiver purposes.

Your case, however, must still warrant the favorable exercise of discretion (positive factors outweigh the negative factors) for USCIS to grant the waiver. Furthermore, you must have a qualifying relative who was already a U.S. citizen or permanent resident at the time of the death to be eligible for the waiver. If the deceased relative is not a qualifying relative for waiver purposes, you still need a qualifying relative to be eligible for the waiver. For example, if the principal beneficiary of an I-130 petition dies before he becomes a permanent resident, his spouse (derivative beneficiary) may lack a qualifying relative to apply for a waiver if she is found inadmissible.

“Public Interest” Standard and Favorable Exercise of Discretion

Even when section 204(l) applies, USCIS may still deny the petition, as a matter of discretion, if the approval would not be in the “public interest.” This exercise of discretion is not subject to appeal, although USCIS may review a timely motion to reopen or motion to reconsider.

USCIS has stated, “USCIS officers will not, routinely, use this discretionary authority to deny a visa petition that may now be approved, despite the death of the qualifying relative. In a visa petition proceeding that is not subject to section 204(c) of the Act or some other approval bar, the overriding issue is simply whether the beneficiary qualifies for the visa classification sought. ”

Adjustment to permanent resident status, through the filing of a Form I-485 application, is also a discretionary relief that USCIS may deny as a matter of discretion. Furthermore, certain applicants are not eligible at all for adjustment and must depart the United States to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

What is the Effective Date of Section 204(l)?

Section 204(l) became law on October 28, 2009. The provision applies only to petitions and applications adjudicated on or after that date. It applies to cases where the petitioner or qualifying relative died before October 28, 2009, but the petition or application was pending on that date or adjudicated after that date.

USCIS has stated it will allow untimely motions to reopen a petition, adjustment application, or waiver application that was denied before October 28, 2009 if 204(l) would permit approval. If USCIS denies a petition or application on or after October 28, 2009 without considering whether 204(l) applies, the agency must reopen the case on its own motion.

How to Apply for 204(l) Relief

There is no specific application form to submit or filing fee to pay to request 204(l) relief. To apply for 204(l) benefits, you should submit a letter to USCIS explaining your eligibility and provide supporting documents. If a petition is pending, you need to ask for an approval under 204(l) despite the death. If the petition was approved prior to the death, you need to request the reinstatement of the approval under 204(l).

USCIS instructs applicants to include the following with a 204(l) request:

• Full name of the deceased relative, the principal applicant and any derivative beneficiaries

• Any A-numbers of the deceased relative, the principal applicant and any derivative beneficiaries

• The receipt number for the underlying petition or application

• The relative’s death certificate, plus certified English translation if document is in a foreign language

• Proof of residence in the United States at the time of the death up until the present time by at least one beneficiary (e.g. rental lease or mortgage, utility bills, school records, or pay stubs.)

• Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, by a substitute sponsor, or a Form I-864W, Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support, if applicable.

To determine where and when to file the section 204(l) request, you may refer to the USCIS If-Then chart on its website, which is replicated below:

IFTHEN

Your visa petition (e.g., Form I-130 or Form I-140) or Form I-730 was pending when your relative died and at least one beneficiary, or derivative beneficiary, resided in the United States when your relative died and continues to reside in the United States

Send your written request to the USCIS office currently processing your case (the address is on the receipt notice (Form I-797) or, if USCIS transferred the case to a different office, send your request to the new office listed on the transfer notice)

Your petition was already approved when your relative died AND you are not ready and/or able to file Form I-485 yet
Send your written request to the office that approved your petition

Your petition was already approved when your relative died AND you have a visa available and are ready to file Form I-485

Send your written request with your Form I-485 package per Instructions for Form I-485

You have already filed Form I-485 (whether or not your petition was pending or already approved)

Send your written request to the USCIS office having jurisdiction over your application

You are in T or U nonimmigrant status

Send your written request to the Vermont Service Center
You are in asylee status



Send the written request with your Form I-485 package when you file for adjustment of status, if applicable, per Instructions for Form I-485

Humanitarian reinstatement is not be confused with 204(l) relief. If, however, you believe the regulations allowing humanitarian reinstatement also apply to you, you should submit a single written request asking USCIS for both types of relief.

Consult a Qualified U.S. Immigration Attorney

Because there is no standardized application form, there is no means for USCIS to issue a receipt notice for a 204(l) request for relief. It is difficult for applicants to track progress or receive updates on such cases.

Work with a qualified U.S. immigration attorney to prepare and file a clear, properly documented 204(l) request with USCIS. The attorney can also help you notify the U.S. Department of State that you are asking for this relief from USCIS, if you will be applying for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate instead of seeking to adjust to permanent resident status within the United States.

For information on other possible remedies for surviving relatives, read our related articles:

Section 201(b)(2)(A)(i) Allows Certain Widows or Widowers of U.S. Citizens to Become Permanent Residents Even When the Citizen Has Died

Humanitarian Reinstatement Allows Certain Principal Beneficiaries to Become Permanent Residents Even When Petitioner Has Died

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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 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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Reversal of INA 204(c)/Marriage Fraud Finding + Approval of I-130 and I-485 = A True Success Story

On appeal, a USCIS Field Office reconsidered and reversed its denial of our U.S. citizen client’s Form I-130 petition for her spouse under INA 204(c), which is commonly known as the marriage fraud bar. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has authority to review such decisions, but USCIS chose to vacate the section 204(c) bar on its own and approve the petition without a BIA order. In addition, the spouse was granted a green card based on his concurrently filed Form I-485 application for permanent resident status. These favorable decisions were made within three months of our filing the Notice of Appeal and within two months of our submitting the legal memorandum to support the appeal.

Beneficiary’s File is Flagged Due to USCIS’ Denial of Prior I-130 Petition by Previous U.S. Citizen Spouse

Section 204(c) of the Immigration & Nationality Act states that no petition may be approved if the beneficiary was previously accorded, or sought to be accorded, an immediate relative or preference status as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, through a sham marriage, i.e. a marriage determined by USCIS to have been entered into for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws.

In our clients’ case, the beneficiary was previously married to another U.S. citizen who filed a prior I-130 petition for him. They completed two different interviews with USCIS over a two-year period. They were separated and asked various questions about their courtship and marriage, from which USCIS listed a total of five discrepancies between their answers.

USCIS investigators also went to their shared residence when neither of them was present. The petitioner’s mother – who lived with them – was at the home when the officers arrived. She confirmed the couple resided there with her, but the officers found very few personal items belonging to the beneficiary. Through further investigations, USCIS discovered the beneficiary was the lessee of a separate apartment and determined that he lived there instead of with the petitioner.

With the help of prior counsel, the petitioner and beneficiary submitted a Response to the Notice of Intent to Deny the I-130 petition, in which they described the reasons for the discrepancies at the interview, confirmed they lived together, and explained the separate apartment under the beneficiary’s name was being subleased to another person.

Three months after receiving the Response to the NOID, USCIS denied the I-130 petition based on the discrepancies at the interviews and their investigations from which they determined the beneficiary did not live with the petitioner. The evidence filed with the Response was disregarded. The decision was not appealed because the marriage fell apart and the parties ultimately divorced.

Beneficiary Faces INA 204(c)/Marriage Fraud Bar in Subsequent I-130 Petition by Second U.S. Citizen Spouse

Following his divorce from his first U.S. citizen spouse, the beneficiary entered into marriage to another U.S. citizen, who filed an I-130 petition for him about 18 months after the prior petition was denied. After interviewing the couple, USCIS issued a Notice of Intent to Deny the petition a year later.

In the Notice of Intent to Deny, USCIS acknowledged the couple’s marriage is bona fide and cited to no discrepancies between their testimonies at the interview. The Service, however, pointed out the beneficiary is ineligible for an I-130 approval under INA 204(c), in that his prior marriage was found to be a sham.

Petitioner Receives Guidance on Responding to Notice of Intent to Deny through Consultation

The petitioner contacted our firm, Dyan Williams Law, for help just four days before the Response to Notice of Intent to Deny was due to USCIS. Due to the time constraints and pre-existing commitments, we declined to represent her in the Response, but agreed to provide her with a consultation.

To prepare for the consultation, I reviewed the Notice of Intent to Deny the petition, the earlier Response to Notice of Intent to Deny that was filed by the prior U.S. citizen spouse, and other key items. During our telephone call, I gave the petitioner a list of documents and information to gather and present in her Response. I also summarized applicable case law and essential legal arguments she should mention in her Response.

Using my recommendations, the petitioner filed a timely and persuasive Response, which included a notarized declaration from the beneficiary’s ex-spouse confirming they had a good-faith marriage.

Representation on Appeal Leads to Reversal of INA 204(c) Finding and Approval of I-130 and I-485

A week after receiving the Response to Notice of Intent to Deny, USCIS issued a decision denying the I-130 petition under INA 204(c). The Service found there was no credible evidence to substantiate the claim of a bona fide marriage between the beneficiary and his prior U.S. citizen spouse.

The petitioner contacted me soon after she received the decision. This time, I accepted her case for representation and agreed to prepare and file the appeal on her behalf.

On appeal, I argued it was not the petitioner’s burden to prove her spouse’s prior marriage was bona fide. Rather, the Service has the burden to show by “substantial and probative evidence” that the beneficiary previously attempted or conspired to enter into a sham marriage for U.S. immigration purposes. I cited to applicable law, the credible explanations for the discrepancies at the interviews, and material evidence demonstrating the beneficiary and his prior spouse lived together and shared a real marriage before it ended in divorce. I noted the Service made a reversible error by applying the harsh statute – INA 204(c) – to deny the petition.

About two months after the legal memorandum to support the appeal was submitted, the petitioner informed me that USCIS approved the I-130 petition. She and her spouse also received notice that the concurrently filed I-485 application was reopened by USCIS, on its own initiative.

A couple weeks later, the beneficiary received his 10-year green card in the mail. He is now a permanent resident of the United States who may eventually file for naturalization (citizenship). After more than seven years of seeking to obtain permanent residence – first through a failed marriage and then via his current marriage – he finally achieved true success in his immigration journey with our counsel.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

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

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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 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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Avoid the NOID by Supplementing the Record and Responding to RFE

USCIS will issue a Notice of Intent to Deny a petition (e.g. Form I-130 or Form I-140) when it has derogatory information or has evidence the beneficiary is ineligible for the benefit sought. A common example is when there is insufficient evidence of a bona fide marriage between the U.S. citizen (or permanent resident) petitioner and the foreign national beneficiary seeking marriage-based permanent residence.

A NOID is one last opportunity to rebut adverse findings that support a denial of the petition. To avoid a NOID, the petitioner should proactively supplement the record and/or file a full and timely response to USCIS’ Request for Evidence (RFE), if one is issued.

In a July 13, 2018 Policy Memorandum, titled Issuance of Certain RFEs and NOIDS; Revisions to Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM) Chapter 10.5(a), Chapter 10.5(b), USCIS officers are given full discretion to deny applications and petitions without first issuing an RFE or a NOID, when appropriate. This includes cases when (a) there is no legal basis to receive the benefit sought and (b) the required initial evidence is not submitted with the petition or application.

RFE and NOID: Similar, But Not the Same

Request for Evidence

An RFE is issued when the officer is uncertain whether or not the request should be approved and needs more evidence to make a decision.

The Policy Memorandum states that in an RFE, USCIS should (a) identify the eligibility requirement that has not been established and why the evidence submitted was insufficient, (b) identify any missing evidence required by statute, regulation or form instruction, (c) identify examples of other evidence that may be submitted to establish eligibility; and (d) request that evidence.

The normal timeframe to submit a response to an RFE is 87 days. A follow-up RFE (or a NOID) might be in order if the response opens up a new line of inquiry or raises eligibility issues that were not considered during initial case review. USCIS may also deny the application or petition if all the requested evidence is not submitted, especially when this prevents a material line of inquiry.

Notice of Intent to Deny

A NOID is given when the officer is leaning toward a denial, but the applicant, petitioner or requestor is unaware of the negative information or its impact on eligibility for the benefit sought.

The Policy Memorandum states, “When a preliminary decision has been made to deny an application or petition and the denial is not based on lack of initial evidence or a statutory denial…the adjudicator must issue a written NOID to the applicant, petitioner, or requestor providing up to a maximum of 30 days to respond to the NOID.”

A NOID is much more serious than an RFE. Unlike an RFE that lists exactly what evidence is missing, a NOID describes derogatory information to support a denial. You have to figure out what evidence and explanations to submit to rebut all the allegations in the NOID and prevent a denial. You also have a shorter time frame (e.g. 30 days instead of 87 days) to address complicated issues. NOTE: When the decision is served by mail, there is an additional 3 days to file the response under 8 CFR § 103.8(b).

Supplement the Record and/or File a Full and Timely RFE Response to Avoid the NOID

While the case is pending — and before a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny is issued — it is sometimes appropriate to supplement the record with additional evidence.

In a recently approved I-130 petition and I-485 (green card) application case, I counseled my clients to submit written affidavits addressing discrepancies between their oral testimonies at the green card interview with USCIS. Among the discrepancies were very different accounts of the marriage proposal, including where, when and how it occured. In their follow-up affidavits, they provided credible explanations for the differences in their answers.

Furthermore, at the time of the interview, they were living in separate apartments due to financial reasons, cultural factors, and logistical considerations. I advised them to submit rental applications showing they were actively seeking to live together. The supplemental evidence was sent to USCIS a month after the interview.

Four months later, the couple finally moved in together after securing their own apartment. We submitted their joint lease agreement and newly filed joint tax return demonstrating the bona fide nature of their marriage.

Seven months after receiving this supplemental evidence, USCIS issued a Request for Evidence asking for more evidence of a shared life together. The RFE listed examples such as lease(s) showing the same residence, documents showing shared finances and obligations, pictures of their wedding, and sworn affidavits from others with personal knowledge of the validity of the marriage.

Within the 87-day timeframe, we provided a full response including the couple’s new joint lease agreement, shared car insurance and health insurance policies, life insurance record listing one party as the other’s primary beneficiary, letters from neighbors confirming they live together, family photographs, and affidavits from relatives describing their good-faith marriage.

A month after receiving the Response to RFE, the Service approved the I-130 petition. After the updated Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record) was provided, upon request, USCIS soon approved the concurrently filed I-485 application for permanent residence.

The couple had celebrated their second wedding anniversary by the time the I-485 application was adjudicated. A 10-year green card (instead of 2-year conditional card) was issued and there will be no need to file a Form I-751 petition to remove conditions on residence.

Despite the discrepancies at the interview and their living in separate residence for several months, my clients got their case approved by proactively supplementing the record and submitting a full and timely response to the RFE. These actions were key to avoiding a Notice of Intent to Deny, which is just one step short of a denial.

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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 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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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 always be filed first. A conditional resident may not become a naturalized U.S. citizen until the I-751 petition is first approved.

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
dw@dyanwilliamslaw.com

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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 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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Approval of I-601A Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver + Immigrant Visa Grant = A True Success Story

U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) approved the Form I-601A, Application for Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver, of the spouse of a U.S. citizen after denying his two earlier requests. On the first try, he had prior counsel’s help. His second attempt was made pro se. With our representation in the third and final I-601A application, he persuaded USCIS to grant the waiver on the merits, based on the extreme hardships his U.S. citizen spouse would suffer if he were denied lawful admission to the United States. He further received an immigrant visa within three weeks of attending his interview at the U.S. Consulate abroad.

Problem: Unlawful Presence Bar

Section 212(a)(9)(B)(i) of the Immigration & Nationality Act (INA) states that a person who accrues unlawful presence in the U.S. for more than 180 days, but less than one year, and then departs the U.S. prior to commencement of removal proceedings, is barred from re-entering the country for three years.  The bar to re-entry is 10 years if the unlawful presence lasted one year or more. The 3/10 year unlawful presence bar is triggered when the person departs the U.S. – even if it is to legalize his status by applying for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate overseas.

Our client could not adjust to permanent resident status within the United States, despite being the beneficiary of an approved I-130 immigrant petition filed by his U.S. citizen spouse. The reason is he entered the United States without proper inspection and did not meet the lawful admission requirement to file for a green card inside the country. A departure from the U.S. was necessary for him to get his immigrant visa and then return as a permanent resident.

Because he had been in the U.S. for almost 20 years without authorization (by the time the third waiver request was filed), he was subject to the 10-year unlawful presence bar to re-entry. USCIS’ grant of the I-601A provisional waiver gave him some assurance – but no guarantee – that he would be issued the immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate. The I-601A waiver covers only the unlawful presence bar, so it is subject to revocation by the U.S. Consulate if other inadmissibility grounds apply.

In its decisions denying the previous two I-601A waiver requests, USCIS stated that prior to his last illegal re-entry, the applicant may have entered the U.S. without inspection and admission or parole on more than one occasion and he may have been unlawfully present in the U.S. for more than one year during prior stays.

I advised the applicant and his spouse that if he had indeed illegally re-entered the country after accruing more than one year of unlawful presence, he would have a permanent bar under INA 212(a)(9)(C). While a person may file a separate Form I-212 application to be excused from this permanent bar, he may not do so until he has been outside the United States for at least 10 years.

After being advised of the risk of being found inadmissible under INA 212(a)(9)(C), in addition to INA 212(a)(9)(B)(i), the applicant agreed to still move forward with the I-601A waiver application and depart the U.S. for consular processing.

Solution: Provisional Waiver

To support the I-601A waiver application, I submitted a legal memorandum clarifying the applicant had just one illegal entry to the United States and was subject only to the 10-year unlawful presence bar. I pointed out that the earlier entry date on his Temporary Protected Status (TPS) application was filled out in error by a notario – without his knowledge and consent – to meet the TPS eligibility requirement. In the TPS request, he did not provide any evidence or information reflecting that earlier entry date because it did not actually occur.

I also counseled the applicant and his spouse on the documentary evidence and information to submit to meet the extreme hardship requirement. This came with challenges because the spouse did not have any serious medical condition, life-threatening illness, or other individual factor to show she would face extreme hardship due to her staying in the U.S. without her spouse or relocating abroad to be with him.

The legal memorandum outlined a multitude of factors and the totality of the circumstances to satisfy the extreme hardship standard. For instance, we described the spouse’s vulnerability to psychological problems, her reliance on him to care for their three young children, and the poor living conditions and high crime rate in his home country.

Outcome: Waiver Approval + Immigrant Visa Grant

Within four months of receiving the Form I-601A waiver application, USCIS approved it. I next provided further counseling to the applicant and his spouse on the Immigrant Visa application process and what to expect at the visa interview.

As planned, the applicant departed the United States to appear for his immigrant visa interview at the U.S. Consulate in his home country. No additional inadmissibility grounds, such as the INA 212(a)(9)(C) bar, were found by the Consulate. The I-601A waiver excused him from the 10-year unlawful presence bar and allowed him to receive the immigrant visa.

His spouse sent me a note confirming he was admitted to the United States with his immigrant visa and was granted lawful permanent residence. She wrote, “We thank you for your diligent work and your representation. I am very satisfied with your legal services and will refer you with no hesitation.

The two prior I-601A denials and possible INA 212(a)(9)(C)(i) bar did not deter the applicant from pursuing the waiver a third time before finally receiving it and the immigrant visa 11 years after the I-130 had been filed. Thankfully, he was able to return home to his family and continue his life in the U.S. as a permanent resident, after living in the country for almost 20 years without status.

Representing the applicant in his third and final I-601A waiver request and guiding him through the Immigrant Visa process led to true success.

Cheers,

Dyan Williams

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

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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 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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