It is possible to avoid the dreaded I-751 interview. No couples wants to visit USCIS to be prodded with personal questions about their marriage. What’s more, the stakes are high. If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) isn’t convinced that you have a bona fide marriage, the conditional resident’s status may be in jeopardy.
As a matter of law (INA §216) a couple must appear for a personal interview in order for the conditions of residence to be removed. But if USCIS is satisfied that the marriage was not for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, they may waive the interview and approve the I-751 petition. Let’s help you avoid the I-751 interview all together.
USCIS Determines the Need for an I-751 Interview
The USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual, details the procedure to determine if your case will require an interview.
Your I-751 petition is initially reviewed by a USCIS Service Center. If fully satisfied that the marriage was not for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, the Service Center may waive the interview and approve the petition. However, if an interview is deemed necessary, the case is sent to the Service Center’s Adjudications Unit and given to an adjudicator to assign a fraud level. The fraud levels of A, B, and C are assigned to the I-751 petition based on the documentation submitted with the application.
If the adjudicator is fully satisfied that the case can be approved, then a fraud level of C is assigned. If the adjudicator is less than fully satisfied, but still feels that (based on the information available at the time) the case can be approved, then a fraud level of B is assigned. If the adjudicator has serious concerns about the approvability of the case and/or wants the applicant and the spouse to be interviewed, then the case would be assigned a fraud level of A.
Reasons for Assigning Fraud Level C
If assigned a fraud level C, it means that there are no technical problems (signatures, missing information, lack of evidence, etc.) and the USCIS adjudicator thinks the case can be approved (no interview necessary). All required supporting documents are attached and there is no indication of fraud that can be identified in the documents or through the biographic data of the parties involved.
Reasons for Assigning Fraud Level B
Fraud level B cases which have no technical problems that need correction and have the minimum number of proper supporting documents, but there is something, or an absence of something that creates suspicion about the bona fides of the marriage, the veracity of the evidence, etc. The reasons for suspicion are so varied that a concise list cannot be made. An example would be where the I-751 is supported by the minimum required number of documents, however the documents are all of recent origin.
Reasons for Assigning Fraud Level AC
Fraud level A will be assigned when the adjudicator strongly suspects fraud. Reasons fraud level A might be assigned include:
Once the fraud level is determined, the case is sent to the district office in your area. The district office assigns a percentage to each fraud level. All level A cases are interviewed. The district office may choose to interview between 30% to 100% of all level B cases; and between 10% and 50% of all level C cases.
In summary, this means that a very well-prepared I-751 petition will likely avoid the I-751 interview. But some strong cases will be randomly selected for an interview.
How to Avoid an I-751 Interview
USCIS determines the need for an I-751 interview, but there are things you can do to greatly improve your chances of avoiding it.
Remember, the purpose of the I-751 process is to prove that your marriage was entered on the genuine basis of living a life together. If there is insufficient evidence to prove a bona fide marriage or there are circumstances that raise questions about your marriage, USCIS is more likely to schedule the interview.
In fact, even waiver cases (petitions not filing jointly) may be approved without an interview when they are accompanied by sufficient supporting documentation to establish the bona fides of the marriage. Keep in mind, waiver cases are more complex and require additional documentation to establish eligibility for the requested waiver. It is recommended that you speak to an attorney before filing Form I-751 with a waiver.
As you can see, your best strategy to avoid an I-751 interview is to prepare a strong I-751 petition with overwhelming evidence to prove a good faith marriage. You want the USCIS Service Center to quickly approve your petition instead of forwarding it to the district office.
First, prepare Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. You may download the form and filing instructions from the USCIS website, or use CitizenPath to help you prepare the form in about 20 minutes. Designed by immigration attorneys, the CitizenPath website guides users through Form I-751 with step-by-step instructions and even alerts users when there’s a problem.
Next, gather evidence indicating that the marriage upon which you were granted conditional status was entered in “good faith” and was not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. Submit copies of as many documents as you can to establish this fact and to demonstrate the circumstances of the relationship from the date of marriage to the present date, and to demonstrate any circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship, if it has ended. The documents may include but not be limited to, the following examples:
- Birth certificate(s) of child(ren) born to the marriage.
- Lease or mortgage contracts showing joint occupancy and/or ownership of your communal residence.
- Financial records showing joint ownership of assets and joint responsibility for liabilities, such as:
- joint savings and checking accounts with transaction history
- joint credit card statements
- joint Federal and State tax returns
- joint insurance policies that show the other spouse as the beneficiary
- joint utility bills
- title of car showing joint ownership
- other joint loans
- Any other documents that you consider relevant to establish that your marriage was not entered for the purpose of evading U.S. immigration laws.
- Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by at least two people who have known both of you since your conditional residence was granted and have personal knowledge of your marriage and relationship. Learn How to Write an I-751 Affidavit.
- 10-20 photographs of married couple together. Examples could include wedding photos, traveling, special events with family and friends, etc. (You should also hand write the place, names and dates on the back of photos.)
Financial and insurance records can be some of the strongest evidence that you have a bona fide marriage. Sharing ownership of assets and responsibility for financial obligations is a good indicator that a couple plans to remain together and build a life.
Follow the status of our case. See What Happens After Filing the I-751 Petition.
How to Prepare for the I-751 Interview
This article assumes that you have filed the I-751 petition jointly with your spouse and you continue to remain a married couple. If you were forced to file I-751 petition with a waiver (for any reason) or filed jointly and have since split up, CitizenPath recommends that you contact an experienced immigration attorney before attending the interview. These cases are more complex and require special consideration and strategy from a legal expert.
Nonetheless, there are some best practices when preparing for the I-751 interview:
- Gather Supporting Evidence of Your Good Faith Marriage
If you prepared a strong I-751 petition to prove a good faith marriage when you originally filed, you should have kept a copy of these documents. Shared bank accounts, shared financial responsibilities, travel records, wedding records, and children born into the marriage help support your bona fide marriage.
- Dress Formally
Formal dress communicates that you take the interview seriously. Dress as if you are going to the church or a job interview.
- Arrive Early to the I-751 Interview
Get to the interview location a half an hour ahead of the scheduled time. Avoid rescheduling the interview unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Be Honest and Open about your Relationship
The USCIS officer will likely ask questions about how you spend your lives together. For example, you may be asked how you celebrated a spouse’s birthday, what foods he or she enjoys, and what your spouse’s friends are like.
The I-751 interview will likely dive into some very personal issues about your marriage. If you are a private person, or if you are from a cultural background where talking about relationship issues is somewhat taboo, you may want to prepare yourself by talking to a friend or relative. Although this is not a complete list, and some of the subjects may not be covered at all, here is a list of some topics that you should be prepared to discuss:
- How and where you met your spouse
- Your relationship with your spouse’s family
- The length of your courtship
- How you spend time together
If your I-751 petition package did not include sufficient evidence of shared financial and/or insurance records, you should expect USCIS to ask why. If the couple doesn’t live together, USCIS will want to know more. In many cases, couples have very reasonable explanations.
As long as you are honest throughout the process, you’ll have no problem answering the interviewer’s questions.
CitizenPath is the online service that makes immigration forms simple. The website provides simple, step-by-step guidance through USCIS applications and petitions. Our low-cost service helps to simplify the process by explaining each question and providing alerts if your answer to a question could be a problem. Most people do not need a lawyer to prepare USCIS forms, but many need a little assistance. That’s where CitizenPath can help. CitizenPath provides support for the Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751), Green Card Renewal (Form I-90), the Citizenship Application (Form N-400), and several other popular forms.