– Michael J. Gurfinkel
– The Philippine Star
USCIS recently announced a new policy where they will consider “waiving interviews for conditional permanent residence (CPR) who have filed a petition to remove the conditions on their permanent resident status.” In other words, when a person obtains a temporary green card through marriage to a US citizen and, two years later, they have to file a joint petition with their citizen spouse to remove the conditions, they may not necessarily be required to go in for an interview. Their case could be approved (or the conditions removed) with no interview required.
This is a welcome change to previous guidance or policy that required all conditional residents to undergo an interview if they obtained CPR status via consular processing. I also think this will help reduce backlogs and waiting times for everyone seeking immigration benefits, because it would eliminate the need for officers to devote time and resources for unnecessary interviews.
Who could be eligible for a waiver of interview? How can you prepare or document your case to increase your chances of avoiding an interview?
First, some background: When a person marries and is petitioned by a US citizen and their green card is approved within two years of the marriage, they are issued a temporary, two-year “conditional” green card. They must ordinarily be interviewed in connection with this initial green card. The policy of waiving the in-person marital interview does not apply to the initial or first interview.
Two years later, or actually 90 days before their two-year green card expires, the couple must file a joint petition to remove conditions, or Form I-751, which is like a status or probation report, demonstrating to USCIS that for the past two years, they have lived together, have joint documents and it is truly a bona fide marriage, as opposed to being fixed. They would then typically be scheduled for another interview, in connection with removing conditions. If the officer is satisfied, the conditions are removed, and they are issued a 10-year green card.
USCIS has now realized that, “prior policy requiring mandatory CPR interviews did not prove to be an efficient use of USCIS staffing resources.” In other words, in some cases, having a second interview was a waste of time.
According to USCIS, “Under this policy update, USCIS may waive the interview requirement if a USCIS officer determines there is sufficient evidence about the bona fides of the marriage, the joint-filing requirement is eligible for a waiver (if applicable), there is no indication of fraud or misrepresentation in supporting documents, there are no complex facts or issues to resolve, and there is no criminal history that would render the CPR removable.”
In other words, if, when filing the joint petition, the couple provides sufficient evidence and documents establishing the bona fides of the marriage and there’s no fraud or fixed marriage indications and they have no criminal history, they may not be required to undergo this second interview.
What can you do to increase your chances of getting a waiver of the interview? I would advise that during the two years of conditional residence, make sure to save and organize documents and evidence demonstrating you are in a good faith marriage. For example:
• Show you have joint bank accounts and there is activity in those accounts, such as ongoing deposits and withdrawals. Obviously, if a couple opens up a bank account with $100 and no other activity takes place, that’s not convincing.
• If the couple is renting or leasing, make sure the lease shows both their names. Maybe have the landlord add the spouse to the lease.
• If one of the spouses has a health plan at their workplace, add the spouse to that health plan.
• When filing tax returns, make sure to file as married.
• If you have a cell phone plan, make sure both are on that plan. The same is true with your other bills and utilities. Have them in the name of both, versus everything is in one person’s name or the other. And of course, it should be at the same address.
• If there’s life insurance, name the spouse as a beneficiary.
• Have pictures of yourselves together at various different times and places. If you have pictures or selfies of yourself alone, it’s not convincing that there is a love marriage. Also, try to have photos with your friends and family in them, demonstrating that you are holding yourselves out as a married couple.
• Be aware USCIS has access to various websites, including credit companies like TRW and Experian, to make sure you’re at the same address. They can also check your social media, such as Facebook, Instagram, etc. Obviously, if someone is posting photos of themselves with their boyfriend or girlfriend while on vacation, that’s not going to be a good sign they are in a bona fide marriage.
There are many other types of documents and evidence that could be presented to demonstrate and document you have a good faith marriage, so as to greatly increase the chances of having your interview waived. And I would suggest you may want to consult with an attorney who can assist you in preparing the joint petition.
But I think this is great news and is welcome news, and will help save time and resources for USCIS by waiving these interviews, so officers can devote more time to other cases and be able to more quickly adjudicate and approve other people’s petitions and applications.
I hope you found this article helpful and informative, and I will continue posting articles on a wide variety of immigration topics and updates. Also, make sure to like, share and subscribe to my YouTube immigration channel, US immigration TV.
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