We were surprised to receive an approval for our Santa Margarita client’s joint I-751 petition to remove conditions on permanent residency. We filed the case in mid-June 2013 and expected that we would be called for an interview because the couple was not currently living together at the time of the filing. I had helped this couple navigate the I-130 visa petition and adjustment of status process two years earlier. Although I knew this couple was involved in a good faith marriage, circumstances arose that forced the couple to live apart against their will, and I knew USCIS would look at the case critically.
In our I-751 packet we did not hide the fact that the couple was living apart. We explained the circumstances thoroughly and included substantial documentation to support our statements. Although I was confident that we would eventually win the case, I did not think we would receive an approval within two months of filing. I certainly did not expect to receive an approval without an interview.
In general, when filing a joint I-751 petition to remove conditions, USCIS wants to see evidence that the couple is living together, commingling assets and conducting themselves as one might expect of a married couple. Within the 90-day period immediately preceding the second anniversary date on which the alien obtained permanent residence, the alien and the petitioning spouse must file a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) with the Service Center having jurisdiction over the alien’s place of residence. USCIS wants to see evidence such as:
- Documentation showing joint ownership of property
- Lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence
- Documentation showing commingling of financial resources
- Birth certificates of children born to the marriage
- Affidavits of third parties having knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship
Failure to file the I-751 before the expiration date on the conditional green card shall result in automatic termination of the alien’s permanent resident status and the initiation of removal proceedings against the alien. USCIS has three options when deciding an I-751 case: waive interview and approve, waive interview and deny, or call for an interview prior to deciding the case. In cases in which the adjudicator believes an interview would be useful, the adjudicator forwards the case to the district director along with an assigned fraud level of A, B, or C.
Fraud Level C means there are no technical problems with the case and there is no indication of fraud. Fraud Level B means there are no technical problems but there is something that creates a suspicion about the bona fides of the marriage. Lack of evidence can result in a Fraud Level B classification. Fraud Level A cases involve a strong suspicion of fraud and can result if the petitioner fails to sign the petition, there is insufficient evidence, a large age disparity, married couple not living together, a prior I-751 was denied, or the petition was filed untimely without good reason.
In the current case, our couple was living separately, which caused me to believe that we would need an interview. I felt like we had sufficiently addressed the reason for them living apart, but I thought USCIS would want to speak with them at a minimum before approving the case. The client was thrilled when I told of the good news. I had told her we would definitely be called for an interview, so she was amazed when she found out there would be no interview.
If you need to file the I-751 petition to remove conditions, contact The Nunez Firm to schedule a consultation. Managing attorney Jay Nunez will personally meet with you and help you better understand the process. For more in depth information about the I-751 process, click here.