I’m a conditional resident through marriage to a U.S. citizen. I submitted my I-751 (as a joint filing with my U.S. husband) several months ago. USCIS then sent me a long Request for Evidence, asking for more documents to prove that our marriage is bona fide, plus more financial information and so on. I think USCIS was suspicious of our case the first time around, because my husband is a lot younger than me and we’re of different religions. On top of that, he has been living in a different city for the last few months while he finishes up his degree. I’ve got a bad feeling USCIS might deny the I-751. What happens then? Can I file an appeal?
No, there is no appeal from the denial of an I-751. But that doesn’t mean you’ve reached the end of the line. USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) will next refer your case for removal proceedings in Immigration Court.
At that point, you can once again present all your documents and more, plus testify and call witnesses, in order to convince the judge that your marriage is the real thing. If the judge is convinced, he or she has the power to approve you for U.S. lawful permanent residence (a green card).
If you haven’t already consulted with an immigration attorney, now would be a good time to do so. The attorney can help you strategize about what to do – perhaps send USCIS some additional documents now, to help get an approval.
If you end up in Immigration Court, you will really want to hire an attorney if at all possible, because the court procedures are complex and difficult for nonlawyers to understand, and you will have to face cross-examination by an attorney for the U.S. government. The attorney will need to spend many hours preparing you and attending the hearings with you.
Most immigration court proceedings involve, at a minimum, a master calendar (scheduling) hearing and a merits hearing, where you actually present your case. Sometimes the merits hearing lasts for more than one session. So paying a lawyer for a consultation now could turn out to be an excellent investment if it helps you avoid removal proceedings later.