Tag Archives: I-130 petition

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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What Triggers a Notice of Intent to Revoke an I-130 or I-129F Petition and What Can You Do About It?

popped balloonWhen USCIS finds that it approved an I-130 (immigrant visa) or I-129F (K-1 visa) petition in error, it will issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) to the petitioner. A NOIR is a letter to the petitioner fully explaining why USCIS intends to revoke a previously approved petition. Typically, the petitioner has 30 days to respond to the allegations and present additional information or evidence before USCIS decides whether to revoke or reaffirm the petition approval.

What Factors Usually Trigger a Notice of Intent to Revoke? 

In marriage-based green card cases, the two most common factors that trigger a revocation notice are:

USCIS Discovers Prior Marriage Fraud Determination

A common reason for a NOIR is when USCIS overlooked a prior marriage fraud determination that prevents the approval of a subsequent petition for the same beneficiary.

Section 204(c) of the Immigration & Nationality Act states that no visa 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, by reason of a marriage determined by USCIS to have been entered into for evading immigration laws (i.e. a sham marriage for immigration benefits).

It is not enough for the Consulate to have denied a prior immigrant visa or K-1 visa based on suspicion of a sham relationship. Rather, for section 204(c) to apply, USCIS must make an independent conclusion that the prior marriage was fraudulent.

If USCIS later discovers it should have denied the petition under section 204(c), due to an official determination of prior marriage fraud, it may issue a NOIR.

U.S Consulate Finds Lack of Evidence Showing Bona Fide Marriage

Although the U.S. Consulate has no authority to revoke a petition, it has the final say in whether to grant you an immigrant visa or K-1 visa to enter the United States. The doctrine of consular nonreviewability severely limits judicial or administrative review of a consular officer’s visa denial.

Furthermore, a consular officer who has doubts about the bona fide nature of the relationship between the petitioner and visa applicant, or observes material discrepancies in the record, may return the petition to USCIS for possible revocation.

At the immigrant visa or K-1 visa interview, the consular officer may question the visa applicant and conduct its own investigation. It may also require additional documentary evidence of the relationship, even though USCIS has already approved the petition.

If you do not communicate well, submit insufficient documents, or provide answers that cause the Consulate to doubt the bona fide nature of your relationship to the petitioner, this could lead to a NOIR citing lack of evidence to keep the petition approval. If you raise issues that conflict with the existing record, this could lead to a NOIR citing fraud or willful misrepresentation to gain immigration benefits.

Because the Consulate has no authority to re-adjudicate the petition, it must support the return of the petition with factual and concrete reasons that USCIS did not fully consider.

The Consulate should seek revocation only if the consular officer knows, or has reason to believe, that the petition approval was obtained through fraud, misrepresentation or other unlawful means, or that the visa applicant is not entitled to the benefits sought in the petition.  Generally, Consulates are instructed to not return the petition unless it discovers new information or evidence not known to USCIS at the time of approval.

What Can You Do to Avoid or Overcome a Notice of Intent to Revoke? 

In marriage-based green card cases, the documentary evidence and testimony you present is essential to getting and keeping a petition approval. You cannot obtain an immigrant visa, a K-1 visa, or adjustment to permanent resident status without an underlying petition approval.

Avoiding a Notice of Intent to Revoke starts with filing a strong petition with USCIS and preparing thoroughly for the visa interview at the U.S. Consulate. Overcoming a Notice of Intent to Revoke lies in submitting a timely and convincing response to USCIS.

The key stages to exercise caution and seek sound advice from an experienced immigration attorney are:

Filing the Petition

USCIS approves an I-130 for a spouse and an I-129F for a fiancé(e) only when it is convinced the couple more likely than not shares a bona fide relationship, i.e. a marriage or engagement based on mutual intent to establish a life together, and not just for immigration benefits.

In support of the petition, the couple may present documentary evidence such as email correspondences, telephone records, stamped passport pages, travel itineraries, hotel receipts, photos of the two of them together, and affidavits from relatives and friends demonstrating they have a bona fide relationship.

When reviewing a stand-alone I-130 or I-129F petition, USCIS does not interview the petitioner or beneficiary, or conduct independent investigation, but generally relies on the documentary evidence submitted with the petition.

USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE) if initial evidence is missing. USCIS will issue a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID) if 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.

Even when USCIS approves the petition, it may later issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke at any time before the immigrant visa or adjustment of status is granted. If the petition did not contain much evidence of a bona fide relationship or eligibility for the benefit sought, it’s a lot easier for USCIS to revoke the petition approval.

Obtaining guidance from an attorney on the appropriate forms and supporting evidence to submit is essential to getting a petition approval and avoiding a NOIR.

Attending the Visa Interview

In many cases, revocation proceedings are initiated by consular officers who suspect the couple do not share a real relationship. Consular officers often rely on their opinions about the nature of a genuine relationship, in light of cultural norms, local customs, and other factors.  In turn, USCIS may depend on the findings of a consular officer who has interviewed the visa applicant, verified documentary evidence, and performed investigation abroad.

Do not take the petition approval for granted or treat the visa interview as just a formality. The doctrine of consular nonreviewability severely limits administrative or judicial review of consular decisions. The visa applicant (beneficiary of the petition) must prepare fully for the visa interview, respond consistently, truthfully and appropriately to questions, and provide any requested or missing documents.

Having counsel prepare you for the visa interview, including questions and concerns that are likely to be raised by the consular officer, is critical.

Responding to a NOIR

Even couples who share a bona fide relationship can end up with a Notice of Intent to Revoke. If USCIS issues a NOIR, it means it found good and sufficient cause to revoke the petition approval. When responding to a NOIR, it’s important to rebut each and every issue raised, including allegations against the bona fide nature of the relationship.

USCIS must provide derogatory information unknown to the petitioner or applicant in the NOIR. The petitioner typically has 30 days to respond to the allegations and present additional information or evidence before USCIS makes a decision.

Due to the time constraints, multiple issues raised in the NOIR, and the petitioner’s lack of experience with complicated immigration matters, it’s important to get counsel’s help. An experienced attorney can advise you on the rebuttal documents and information to submit, prepare a persuasive legal brief, and submit the best possible response within 30 days.

Challenging a Revocation Notice

If USCIS agrees to sustain the petition approval – following review of the response to the NOIR –  it will issue a reaffirmation notice to the petitioner. After receiving the reaffirmation notice, the Consulate may accept the petition as valid, schedule a second interview, and issue the immigrant visa or K-1 visa.

If, however, USCIS decides the petition should not have been approved, it will issue a revocation notice to the petitioner. The petitioner may appeal an I-130 or I-129F revocation to the higher agency, or file a motion to reopen or reconsider with USCIS, within 15 days. If the petitioner does not challenge the revocation, the decision becomes final and the petition may no longer be used to continue the immigration process.

When the couple is already married, the petitioner may file a new I-130 petition, but must include evidence to rebut any claims that led to the NOIR or revocation notice in a prior petition. When the couple is engaged, filing a new K-1 fiancé(e) petition is not a cure-all solution because USCIS and the Consulate will be aware of problems in the prior petition. Getting married and filing an I-130 petition is a more effective, but not foolproof, course of action.

A petitioner who files a new I-130 or I-129F petition still has to overcome issues listed in a Notice of Intent to Revoke a prior petition approval, or address concerns raised by the U.S. Consulate.

If you receive a revocation notice, consult an immigration attorney to determine whether to file an appeal, a motion to reopen or reconsider, and/or a new petition, and help you pursue your options.

To learn more about the revocation process, read our other article, Notice of Intent to Revoke I-130 or I-129F Petition: Big Stumbling Block to Overcome in Marriage-Based Green Card Case.

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 Revoke I-130 or I-129F Petition: Big Stumbling Block to Overcome in Marriage-Based Green Card Case

big wall

In marriage-based green card cases, USCIS’ approval of an I-130 petition does not entitle you to an immigrant visa or adjustment to permanent residence. Likewise, mere approval of an I-129F petition does not necessarily mean you will get the K-1 fiancé(e) visa. Until you are admitted to the U.S. as an immigrant or you adjust status, USCIS may revoke the approval of the petition at any time, for good and sufficient cause.

Some petitions may be automatically revoked, such as when the petitioner withdraws the petition, divorces the beneficiary, or dies and section 204(l) survivor benefits do not apply. Other petitions may be revoked on notice when USCIS determines it issued the approval in error. A Notice of Intent to Revoke (NOIR) is a big stumbling block to overcome when seeking to immigrate to the United States.

Why is the Notice of Intent to Revoke a Big Stumbling Block?  

An approved I-130 petition by a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse allows you to apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate or file for adjustment of status within the U.S. (if eligible). An approved I-129F petition permits you to apply for a K-1 visa to come to the U.S., marry the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of arrival, and then file for a green card. Getting the petition approved is just a preliminary step.

USCIS may seek to reverse its decision and revoke the approval based on information or evidence that it did not previously consider. The information or evidence need not have been unavailable or undiscoverable at the time the petition was approved. A NOIR may be based on plain USCIS error, such as overlooking a prior marriage fraud determination or lacking information or evidence discovered by the U.S. Consulate.

Receiving a Notice of Intent to Revoke is disheartening, especially when you have already completed the visa application process and attended your visa interview. Even if the NOIR is based on misinterpretations of the facts, false allegations, or erroneous conclusions, a full and timely response is still required to keep the approval of the petition and continue with the green card process.

How Does the Revocation Process Work?

Once you are permanent resident, revocation of the petition approval is no longer possible. Instead, the U.S. government must use rescission or removal (deportation) proceedings to take your green card away.

The revocation process may begin at any time after the petition is approved, but before you adjust to permanent residence or before you are admitted to the U.S. on an immigrant visa.

When USCIS, on its own initiative,  determines it approved an I-130 or I-129F in error, it retrieves the petition from the USCIS office, consular office, or National Visa Center (NVC) for possible revocation.

In other cases, the U.S. Consulate initiates revocation by sending the case back to USCIS for further review, due to negative information it obtained during review of the visa application or during its interview of the visa applicant.  The consular officer typically denies the visa application under INA section 221(g) (temporary refusal of immigrant visa), pending USCIS’ review of the returned petition. The Consulate returns the petition to USCIS with a  memorandum explaining why it believes the petition should not have been approved or is no longer approvable.

Consulates return immigrant petitions to the National Visa Center, which then route them to the appropriate USCIS offices.

Case Status Information

When a petition is returned and relocated to USCIS, the status of the petition is logged into the national USCIS database system, which in turn updates the Case Status Online system on USCIS’ website.

Not all the USCIS service centers issue receipt notices to petitioners, informing them that the petition is now at a particular USCIS office. For many months (sometimes six months to over 12 months), petitioners often cannot obtain specific case status information through the National Customer Service Center (NCSC) or Case Status Online, until USCIS issues a decision reaffirming the approval or a Notice of Intent to Revoke.

Notice Reaffirming Approval or Notice of Intent to Revoke

Upon receipt of the returned petition, USCIS prepares the case for additional review and forwards it to the adjudications officer who will evaluate the reasons provided by the Consulate for the return.

If USCIS finds the petition is not revocable for the reasons stated by the Consulate, it will reaffirm the petition and return it to the Consulate with an explanation of its decision not to revoke the petition.

If USCIS agrees with the Consulate’s reasoning, it will issue a Notice of Intent to Revoke to the petitioner. A NOIR must be based on “good and sufficient cause.” This means there is evidence in the record, if unexplained and unrebutted, would support a denial of the petition.

A NOIR is a letter to the petitioner fully explaining why USCIS intends to revoke a previously approved petition. USCIS must provide derogatory information unknown to the petitioner or applicant in the NOIR. The petitioner has an opportunity to rebut the allegations and present additional information or evidence before USCIS makes a decision.

USCIS gives the petitioner a specific time frame (usually 30 days) to respond. Petitioners may request additional time if they need it for legitimate reasons, like obtaining documentation from abroad.

If the petitioner does not provide a full and timely explanation on why the petition should not be revoked, and support it with additional evidence, USCIS will revoke the petition. When the approval of a petition is revoked, you may no longer use it to immigrate to the United States.

K-1 visa petitions are especially problematic because they expire after four months from the date of approval by USCIS (or date of last action by U.S. Consulate).  An expired petition may be revalidated by USCIS or the U.S. Consulate in four-month increments upon finding that the K-1 beneficiary is free to marry and intends to marry the petitioner within 90 days of arrival in the United States. The decision on whether to revalidate the petition is discretionary.

What are the Steps for USCIS to Decide on a Notice of Intent to Revoke? 

USCIS will review the petitioner’s response to a NOIR before it decides whether to revoke the petition.

Reaffirmation Notice

If USCIS agrees to sustain the petition approval – following review of the response to the NOIR – it will issue a reaffirmation notice to the petitioner. It will also return the petition to the National Visa Center for transfer to the Consulate with the reaffirmation notice, a copy of the NOIR, and the petitioner’s response.

The Consulate may accept the petition as valid, schedule a second interview, and issue the immigrant visa or K-1 visa. In rare cases, however, the Consulate may return the petition again to USCIS with new evidence that was not previously considered. In that event, the revocation process begins again.

Revocation Notice

If the petitioner does not provide a satisfactory response or fails to timely respond to the NOIR, USCIS will issue a revocation notice to the petitioner.

The petitioner may appeal an I-130 or I-129F revocation to the higher agency, or file a motion to reopen or reconsider with USCIS, within 15 days. If the petitioner does not challenge the revocation, the decision becomes final and the petition may no longer be used to continue the immigration process.

Consult an Experienced Immigration Attorney from Start to Finish

An experienced immigration attorney can help you get an I-130 or I-129F approval by advising you on the appropriate forms and supporting documents to submit. Before you attend the visa interview, it’s best to have the attorney prepare you for likely questions and requests for documents, as well as potential actions by a consular officer.

If a NOIR is issued, you typically need counsel’s guidance in filing a timely, complete and satisfactory response to obtain a reaffirmation notice. If USCIS revokes the petition approval, consult an immigration attorney to determine whether to file an appeal, a motion to reopen or reconsider, and/or a new petition, and help you pursue your options.

To learn more about the revocation process, read our other article, What Triggers a Notice of Intent to Revoke an I-130 or I-129F Petition and What Can You Do About It?

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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Photo by: Joe Murphy