What Are the Chances USCIS Will Call Me in for I-751 Interview?

Learn the bases upon which USCIS can waive the in-person interview requirements for marriage-based conditional residents who've filed I-751s seeking U.S. permanent residence.

By , J.D., University of Washington School of Law

After a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen, they might receive only conditional residence, not permanent (reflecting the fact that their marriage is relatively new, as described in Why Some Marriage-Based Green Cards Are "Conditional"). That basically means two years following the initial residence approval, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) gets to take another look at the case and at whether their marriage is bona fide (not a sham or fraud to get a green card). That makes some couples nervous, particularly if their marital relationship is rocky, and they're not sure it's going to last. One of the big questions on their mind tends to be whether USCIS is likely to call them in for an interview, or can the agency just approve the case without one.

This article will discuss:

  • The admittedly slim possibility that USCIS will waive the interview, and
  • the need to prepare to explain the situation with your unstable marriage in any case, and to work hard to supply evidence that the marriage is bona fide.

Basic Requirement to Interview I-751 Applicants

According to U.S. immigration law, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is expected to schedule EVERY I-751 applicant to remove the conditions on residence for an in-person interview. In practice, however, many if not most of these interviews are "waived."

In order to grant a waiver, USCIS must decide, upon review of the case file, that it has received enough evidence with which to approve the immigrant's joint petition to remove the conditions on residence (Form I-751) without conducting an interview and meeting the couple personally. This documentary evidence must clearly show that the marriage is bona fide, and not a sham or fraud to receive a green card.

In addition, according to guidance for USCIS officers found in a 2018 memo, USCIS must have already conducted an interview with the immigrant, observe no signs of fraud or misrepresentation in the Form I-751 or supporting documents, and believe there to be no complex facts or issues of law that should be addressed in person with the applicant before it waives the interview.

As you can see, whether USCIS chooses to call someone in for an interview depends largely on the facts of the case and the quality of the I-751 submission. If yours was a marginal case to begin with (perhaps the officer had doubts about your relationship and asked for extra evidence at that time, for instance), the agency may call you in for an interview just to have a thorough second look at your case.

If You Haven't Yet Submitted Form I-751, Focus on Providing Extensive Documentation of Bona Fide Marriage

If the documents you submit with Form I-751 seem too sparse or don't really point to a shared life, with joint assets, shared financial obligations, and so forth, that might give USCIS cause to refuse to waive the interview requirement in your case; in other words, to insist that both of you come in for an interview. So be sure to provide recent, high-quality documentation; don't just copy the same documents you submitted the first time around.

Also, if your marriage was so rocky that the U.S. spouse refused to sign onto the joint petition, and the immigrant must ask for a waiver of the joint-filing requirement, that raises the chances of the would-be immigrant being called in for an interview.

If you have already submitted Form I-751 and are called in for a USCIS interview, you still have a chance to gather more documents proving your valid marriage, and bring them to the interview.

Handling Marital Difficulties at the USCIS Interview

If the marriage was the real thing, but you've had arguments or separations, that's not necessarily a strike against the immigrant's green card eligibility. The key is to show steps you've taken to try to save the marriage, such as getting couples counseling. Try to obtain written affidavits from friends, counselors, and religious leaders with whom either or both of you has discussed the situation or sought help. Get additional ideas from We're Separated: Can I Continue With My Marriage-Based Green Card Application?.

Getting Legal Help

Regardless of what stage of the process you're at, if your marriage isn't going well, and you're worried about proving that it's bona fide, seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney.

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