In late 2018, USCIS issued a new policy memo that limits when officers can waive the interview requirement for Form I-751, the petition certain marriage-based green card holders must submit to remove the condition on their permanent residence. Under the previous policy guidance dated 2005, USCIS officers were advised that interviews should be scheduled only when (1) there is insufficient evidence of the bona fides of the marriage, and/or (2) in waiver cases, there is inconclusive evidence to establish eligibility for a waiver. In addition, the earlier guidance encouraged the use of Requests for Evidence (RFEs) to obtain additional evidence in lieu of transferring the petition to the local USCIS office for an interview. In contrast, the 2018 memo states that a waiver of the interview requirement can only be considered if the USCIS officer is satisfied that all the following conditions have been met:
- A decision based on the record can be made because it contains sufficient evidence about the bona fides of the marriage, and that the marriage was not entered into for the purpose of evading the immigration laws of the United States;
- For cases received on or after December 10, 2018, USCIS has previously interviewed the I-751 principal petitioner;
- There is no indication of fraud or misrepresentation in the Form I-751 or the supporting documentation; and
- There are no complex facts or issues that require an interview to resolve questions or concerns.
This means that permanent residents who received an immigrant visa outside the U.S. after approval by a U.S. consulate abroad or entered the United States as K visa holders and were never interviewed by USCIS will be required to be interviewed. The memo also contains language that suggests that even individuals who process in the U.S. will experience an uptick in in-person interviews.
I-751 petitions are already facing substantial processing delays that have increased from an average of 12 to 18 months. This new in-person interview requirement may further increase processing times and cause significant delays in obtaining a final decision on the petition. This is in line with reported trends across other USCIS application and petition types.