Received a NOID (Notice of Intent to Deny) After Marriage-Based Green Card Interview: What to Do?

What does it mean when USCIS sends an applicant a notice of intent to deny an immigration petition or application, and what can you do about it?

If United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) doubts the legitimacy of your marriage or the validity of your I-130 visa petition it may, before making any final decision, issue you a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). USCIS can issue NOIDs to:

  • U.S. citizens and permanent residents who’ve submitted I-130s in the U.S. to start off the process of getting the foreign-born spouse a marriage-based green card (whether the spouse is in the U.S. or overseas), and
  • couples who submit the I-130 at the same time as the immigrant’s application for adjustment of status within the United States.

For couples applying for their 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.

Receiving a NOID is an urgent matter and requires a comprehensive response, in order to avoid an official denial and to salvage your application. Failing to respond sufficiently will result in USCIS denying your I-130 petition or application for adjustment of status based on marriage.

What Is a NOID?

A NOID is a letter issued by USCIS when the officer determines that the applicant has not demonstrated eligibility for an immigration benefit. The letter lists the 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 differ 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 may have provided all the right sorts of 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 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. Based on a June 28, 2018 memorandum, USCIS will now 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.

Who Should Respond to a NOID?

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 he or she 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 will respond jointly.

Why Does USCIS Issue a NOID to a Marriage-Based Applicant?

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. What’s more, some USCIS officers try to hold applicants to a higher standard than others.

USCIS might issue a NOID for any of a variety of reasons, such as:

  • Insufficient evidence of a bona fide relationship. This means USCIS feels that you’ve failed to provide enough proof that you have a legitimate marriage. Both concurrent marriage-based adjustments and stand-alone I-130 petition applications must provide evidence of a bona fide relationship. A NOID issued to request more bona fides is often the easiest to overcome. You’ll want to supplement with additional information proving that you intend to share a life together, for example documents showing shared housing, finances, and other aspects of your life.
  • Discrepancies or inconsistencies in each spouse’s testimony. Perhaps you and your spouse’s answers at your USCIS interview didn’t match up, or one spouse seemed unable to recall basic facts supplied by the other. This is particularly likely to come up if you’ve been interviewed separately in a Stokes interview, designed to root out cases of marriage fraud.
  • Discovery of negative information. The USCIS officer can look beyond the contents of your application package. It’s not uncommon for an officer to search Google, Facebook, or other social media and public records. In rare cases, they can even visit your house. An officer who finds information that raises questions about the legitimacy of the marriage will issue a NOID.
  • 204(c) fraud finding. If the immigrant was found to previously have committed marriage fraud, USCIS is barred from approving any future I-130 petition filed for that person, under Section 204(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (I.N.A.). This is the most difficult type of NOID to overcome, though not impossible, but you’ll definitely want an attorney’s help.

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, but others are vague. Consult an immigration attorney if there are any parts of the NOID that you don’t understand.

How Can I Overcome a NOID?

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 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.

How Long Do I Have in Which to Respond to a NOID?

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 flexible. If you cannot gather all of the evidence on time, USCIS may deny. To prevent this, 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.

What Happens Once USCIS Receives My NOID Response?

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, particularly under the Trump administration, where long delays are commonplace. You may make an Infopass appointment to visit a USCIS office 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 choose to reapply, make sure to proactively address and overcome all of the earlier issues. You must pay all of the 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.

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