I-751 Removals of the Conditions of Residence Becoming More Difficult

During the last several weeks, our office has seen more “Requests for Evidence” (RFE) issued by the government in response to I-751 filings than we’ve seen in many years.  As a matter of fact, I can honestly say that for the hundreds of these petitions we have prepared and filed for our clients during the last few years, we have gotten only a handful of RFE’s before.  I don’t know if this is because the government has gotten more difficult or if it is just a temporary situation caused by the hiring of previously untrained officers, but what I do know is that it is no longer advisable to only submit a limited amount of documents that show the “bona fides” of the marriage from the time of its inception through the filing of the I-751 form.  It is now absolutely necessary to submit extensive documentation. In addition to joint tax returns, photos, etc., the government is now requesting (the below list is taken from a recent RFE that we received):

  • Evidence of children of the marriage;
  • Evidence of residing together and share responsibility for a common residence;
  • Evidence of combined financial resources;
  • Evidence of estate, health and financial planning arrangements; and,
  • Affidavits from people who have knowledge of the bona fides of the marriage

It is probably not necessary to submit all these things as some are obviously of more probative value than others (such as a birth certificate of a child of the marriage).  Considering that most of these marriages have been in existence for only two years, how many babies will have been born in this short period of time? How many young married couples do financial planning or prepare wills when their income is usually only sufficient to just meet their expenses? Why should a couple have to involve friends or relatives in their private lives by asking them to prepare detailed affidavits?

Thus, what is obvious is that these I-751adjudications are no longer “rubber stamp” decisions and are more comparable to the I-130 immediate relative petition adjudication that previously resulted in the conditional residence being granted.  Needless to say, if clients are not very sophisticated about our immigrant laws in general and not very familiar with these new requirements in particular, they should seek legal assistance.  As stated at the end of a typical RFE: “if you do not respond within the allocated time period, USCIS will deny your petition.  A denial of your petition may result in the termination of your conditional resident status and your possible removal from the United States.”  From my point of view, this is no way to address (threaten) the spouse of an American citizen who just 2 years earlier was determined by the USCIS to be in a “bona fide” relationship.

Contributed by Charles M. Goldsmith

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