A new policy enacted by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on November 30, 2018 has made it substantially more likely that those seeking to remove the conditions on their permanent residence will have to attend an interview together with their U.S. spouse.
The Removal of Conditions is a step that applies only to those who gained permanent residence through marriage to a U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident where the marriage was less than two years old on the date of acquiring Permanent Residence. It effectively upgrades the Permanent Resident Card from a 2-year card to a 10-year card and converts the holder from a Conditional Lawful Permanent Resident to a Lawful Permanent Resident. Those who gained Permanent Residence other than through a marriage petition and those who were already married more than two years when they gained Permanent Residence do not have to engage with this process at all. For those who must, however, the Form I-751 and supporting documents must be filed no later than the second anniversary of their acquiring their Permanent Resident status. Those who fail to file are placed in removal proceedings.
In the past, it was quite rare for an interview to be part of this process. Most cases were decided based on the documents submitted by mail. In the November 30, 2018 policy memo, however, USCIS greatly changed its guidance to officers on this subject. Whereas before guidance stated that interviews were only needed under certain circumstances, the policy now states that interviews should be held unless certain conditions are met. One notable rule is that for any I-751 case received on or after December 10, 2018, USCIS must hold an interview if it has never before interviewed the principal petitioner. This would almost always be the case where the green card was obtained abroad through a consular interview since petitioners are normally not interviewed during that process. It would also often be the case where a petitioner was a parent or son or daughter of the applicant since interviews for such petitioners are often waived during the initial adjustment of status process.
Another notable difference is that whereas the old policy called for an interview where there is "evidence" of fraud or misrepresentation, the new policy calls for an interview merely where there are "indications" of fraud or misrepresentation. Though we don't know the precise significance of the change, it could mean for example that an age difference or a country of origin that is known to have a rate of marriage fraud could count as fraud "indications" requiring an interview even though there is no specific "evidence" that fraud occurred in this particular marriage.
In short, the answer to this question has shifted from "probably not" to "probably." If you are called for an interview, you have the right to bring an attorney with you. Doing so will help ensure appropriate conduct from the interviewing officer and make easier any necessary appeal or complaint since your attorney will have been a firsthand witness of whatever went wrong.
We assist people seeking to enter, or remain in the United States, through family-based petitions and defend individuals in Removal Proceedings before the Immigration Court, as well as those who have suffered persecution in their home country and seek asylum in the United States.
Attorney Jeff Jung blogs about important immigration issues.