If you're applying for a marriage-based immigrant visa or green card, one possible bump in the road to approval is that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could doubt the legitimacy of your marriage or the validity of your I-130 visa petition. In that case it may, before making any final decision, issue you what's called a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID).
Receiving a NOID is an urgent matter. It requires a comprehensive response, in order to avoid an official denial and salvage your application. Failing to respond adequately will result in USCIS denying your I-130 petition or application for adjustment of status based on marriage. Below, we'll discuss what to do next.
A NOID is a letter issued by USCIS when the reviewing officer determines that an applicant has not demonstrated eligibility for the requested immigration benefit. The NOID letter lists reasons why USCIS intends to deny the case and provides a chance to overcome those concerns. Your NOID response is likely your last chance to convince the USCIS adjudicator of your eligibility.
NOIDs are different from Requests for Evidence (RFEs). USCIS issues an RFE when an application is missing particular pieces of evidence, such as joint bank statements or birth certificates.
In contrast, USCIS issues a NOID when an applicant has provided sufficient initial evidence but, for some other reason, the USCIS officer does not believe that the case should be approved. For example, you and your spouse might have provided all sorts of good documents showing the legitimacy of your marriage but, at the interview, been unable to answer basic questions about each other.
Couples who had a Stokes interview, in which USCIS interviews each spouse separately in order to detect fraud, are the ones most likely to receive a NOID. This is because the U.S. immigration officer already had concerns about their eligibility. However, even if you did not have a Stokes interview, you may still receive a NOID.
A NOID is also far more urgent than an RFE and has a shorter time period in which to respond.
In some respects, you can consider yourself lucky to receive a NOID. USCIS can deny certain cases without issuing a NOID. If you receive a denial and have never received a NOID, it means that USCIS found that your application lacked sufficient initial evidence or was statutorily ineligible for approval. Consult a qualified immigration attorney immediately.
USCIS can issue NOIDs to:
For couples applying for a green card entirely in the U.S. (through adjustment of status) USCIS typically sends the NOID after the marriage-based adjustment interview at a USCIS office.
In cases where the immigrant is coming from overseas, and will be interviewing at a U.S. consulate run by the State Department, USCIS has no power to issue a NOID beyond when it's in the process of making a decision on the I-130, before it transfers the case to the Department of State.
Who exactly is responsible for responding to the NOID depends on what phase the case is at.
If USCIS issued the NOID following submission of the I-130 petition, then the petitioner (the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident who prepared and filed the I-130) should be the party responding to it. The immigrating beneficiary cannot respond to a notice of intent to deny an I-130 petition, although they can assist the petitioning spouse in preparing a response.
If USCIS issued a NOID to a couple who filed a concurrent marriage-based adjustment application (with a Form I-130 and Form I-485 filed together), it will usually do so after the marriage interview at a USCIS office, although it can technically issue the NOID at any time. In that case, both members of the couple will respond jointly.
Many couples are disappointed to find that a marriage certificate isn't an instant ticket to receiving a U.S. green card. It's the couple's job to convince USCIS that the immigrant deserves a U.S. green card. In order to do so, you must demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence (or that it is more likely than not) that the application is eligible for approval.
So, USCIS already has the power to ask for a lot of evidence before it is convinced that the marriage is valid and bona fide. What's more, some USCIS officers try to hold applicants to a higher standard than others do. USCIS might issue a NOID for any of a variety of reasons, such as:
USCIS will often have multiple reasons for issuing a NOID. It's not surprising to find a laundry list of allegations from the USCIS officer within the NOID. Some NOIDs are highly detailed, making them easier to understand and rebut, while others are vague. Consult an immigration attorney if there are any parts of the NOID that you don't understand.
Depending on the reason given for the NOID, you'll probably want to submit a variety of evidence to USCIS in order to overcome it. Review and address every single point the officer raises in the NOID. If, for example, the NOID contains ten alleged inconsistencies, and you respond to nine of those inconsistencies but miss one, your case can be denied on the basis of that one point alone.
Even if you believe that you previously answered one of the points, you should still address it. Let's say that USCIS questions the legitimacy of the marriage because of a lack of bona fides. You've already submitted proof that you and your spouse live together, including a lease agreement and copies of your joint bank statements and tax returns. Normally, this would be enough, but given USCIS's doubts, you might also want to submit copies of shared insurance policies and gym memberships, photographs and text messages over the course of your relationship, evidence of anything new, such as a letter from your doctor saying you've begun fertility treatment, and so on.
For ideas on additional documents to provide in your NOID response, see Proving the Bona Fides of Your Marriage for Immigration Purposes.
Sworn affidavits can also help in demonstrating the legitimacy of your marriage, such as from employers, religious leaders or figures of authority in your community (see Creating Substitute Documents or Affidavits for Immigration Applications.)
If the NOID includes information from USCIS that you believe is incorrect, you should prepare a written rebuttal. For example, if you believe that the reason USCIS perceived your answers to the interview questions as inconsistent can be traced to language barriers, a misunderstood question, a partially correct answer that USCIS interpreted wrongly, or an inaccurate recording of testimony by the officer, don't hesitate to explain this and refute the officer's interpretation.
If USCIS has discovered negative information outside of your application packet, for example by visiting your home or looking you up online, make sure to address those concerns, as well. For example, if immigration officers visited your home and found only one person's set of clothing in your bedroom, the agency may consider it incriminating evidence that you and your spouse do not cohabitate. But you can provide a reasonable explanation, such as that you are using two separate closets because of limited space.
In some cases, the social media account or public records the USCIS officer reviewed might be for a different person entirely, who shares your name or has a similar name. You'd thus have grounds upon which to mount a vigorous defense.
The NOID itself will state how long you have to respond. Typically, it's 30 days plus three days for mailing, counting from the date on the top of the NOID.
This time period is not ordinarily flexible. If you cannot gather all of the evidence on time, USCIS may deny your case.
IMPORTANT EXCEPTION: In light of the COVID-19 epidemic, USCIS states that if you receive a NOID dated between March 1, 2020 and (after a series of extensions) March 23, 2023, you will be permitted some extra time, and can respond up to 60 calendar days after the response date set forth in the NOID.
To prevent a denial, submit as much evidence as you have, along with a letter advising USCIS that you will supplement the information as soon as possible. If possible, provide evidence that you are waiting on the missing information. Even if you don't have all of your evidence, your response letter must still address in writing every single issue raised in the NOID.
USCIS will review the information you provided in response to your NOID. If you submitted sufficient evidence to change the adjudicator's mind, it may approve the case. This process may take USCIS several months. You might get in touch with the USCIS Contact Center and check the status of your application.
If USCIS finds your NOID response insufficient, it will issue a denial letter and explain the reasons.
You have the option of appealing a denial following a NOID. However, it is often faster to simply reapply. If you reapply, be sure to proactively address and overcome all the earlier issues. You must pay all of filing fees again.
Receiving a NOID on your marriage application is an urgent matter and must be promptly addressed in order to avoid a denial of your application. Because of the high stakes involved, you may want to consult a qualified immigration attorney.