“Can you get a 10-year green card without an I-751 interview?” is another popular question we receive with consistency. In my opinion, if you are doing your green card application right, you don’t need to have an I-751 interview. Your I-751 process should be as straightforward as an arrow: You send your application in, your green card arrives in the mail several months later.
If you receive an I-751 interview invitation, to me this would be a red flag. It may be a sign that you are not following a proper green card application process, your green card application is in trouble, or there is an immigration services officer out there suspecting that you and your marriage is a fraud. Neither of these possibilities sounds like good news to me. And if you decided that the green card through marriage is your choice of how to immigrate to USA, this development should be no good news for you either.
A Quick Recap on I-751: What Is It?
As we discussed previously, I-751 is used to apply for the removal of conditions to your green card (for a more detailed review of green cards, see What is a Green Card?). The conditions are put in place by the USCIS when you apply for the green card through marriage when your marriage is less than two years old. A marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner is a very easy arrangements to enter to. This is a built-in check mechanism to ensure that people don’t abuse this immigration provision and enter marriages just for the purposes of securing immigration benefits. After two years since your initial green card through marriage application approval, you have to re-apply to remove conditions on green card. Such application is done on the Form I-751.
A Traditional Fulsome Process: I-751 with Interview
A traditional process to remove conditions on green card is very similar to your original green card process. We provide high level outline in the green card definition post. All the green card through marriage process steps are similar: You prepare the application (this time on the Form I-751), you supply supporting documentation and you submit it to the USCIS for review. After the USCIS receives your application, it automatically extends your green card by about 12 months and sends you a letter to that effect. The USCIS does not provide you with a new green card; the letter together with your old green card is your “green card” package for the duration of the I-751 review. Shortly thereafter, you are supposed to receive an invitation for a biometrics appointment. After you attend the biometrics appointment, you will receive an invitation for your green card marriage interview. Not all people have similar green card interview experience: It may be joint with your spouse, or your spouse and you may be separated for the immigration appointment. After the interview, your green card decision will be made on spot, which may be an approval or denial. A third outcome may involve a request for additional evidence, in case the immigration services officer feels some more documents are required to be reviewed before a decision can be made. After you supply such documents, the decision about your green card will be made in absentia and you will be informed via mail.
Why Should I Care or Worry About the I-751 Interview?
The short answer is that if you are prepared, organized and careful about following protocols, you probably should not worry about the I-751 interview. It will be another milestone in the process, which you can pass with ease. However, if I can I’d like to avoid the interview for two reasons: Risk and Delays.
Risk is an uncertainty. With interview, more variables are introduced in your green card process. The immigration services officer bad mood or coffee. Bad weather on the day of your interview (increasing the chanced of you being late). Your performance during the interview. Your spouse’s performance during the interview…. Even though many of these variables you can control – although some you clearly can’t – the risk of something going wrong increases if more variables are tossed in the equation. I’d rather not introduce this extra risk.
Interview will more likely than not cause delays. With the USCIS backed up, it will probably be weeks before they can schedule you for an appointment. And if the interview leads to the request for additional information and evidence, that will further exacerbate the wait. So, my recommendation is to avoid the interview, especially since there are ways to do so.
How to Get a 10-year Green Card Without an I-751 Interview?
So how do you go about getting a 10-year green card without an I-751 interview? Having gone through this process successfully, I am sharing my biggest I-751 takeaway: Be put together, prepared and organized before you submit your application.
The USCIS is underfunded and overloaded. I am sure immigration officers review half-baked cases with no proper or believable supporting documentation. Sometime they have to evaluate cases that pretty much smell like fraud, but they still have to review them and give them proper time and evaluation. Make it easy for an immigration services officer. Put the application together right and fill out all information necessary. Provide them with adequate supporting documentation. Organize the supporting documentation logically and make sure it proves your relationship is a bona fide marriage. (For some help, see What Does Bona Fide Mean for the Purposes of USCIS?) The easier you are going to make it for them, the quicker and easier it will be on you.
I believe there are two parts to avoiding your I-795 interview. First, making your I-751 consistent with and tied to your original green card application. Second, making it as fulsome and continuous to your original green card application. So what does that mean?
First, making your I-751 consistent with your green card application. When I was submitting my I-751, I used as many documents as possible to draw connections to my original application and evidence. For example, I used exactly the same people who had written affidavits of bona fide marriage two years ago to supply affidavits about the relationship now in support of my I-751. As another example, I used the same joint bank accounts to demonstrate intermingling of assets between my wife and I. In my cover letter, I drew attention that it was the same bank account as in my original application. In short, I was trying hard to demonstrate a connection and strong relationship between my original application and the I-751 I was submitting to remove conditions to green card.
Second, I used supporting documentation to demonstrate continuity of both my green card application and the relationship with my wife. The moment I had received my conditional green card several years back, I knew that it was the beginning of the two-year journey (certainly not the end). Or, perhaps, even longer. So, I started passively but diligently preparing for the I-751 and started documenting my and my wife’s life. I started collecting evidence. I kept track of our travels, our major purchases and our apartment moves. By the time the I-751 time rolled in, I had all the evidence I needed in place. It was quick and easy for me to pull that application together. The evidence showed our lives progressively over the past several years, not just a few weeks prior to the I-751 application submission.
I believe that because I was so familiar with the process and because I was so thorough in documenting my life, the USCIS let me off the hook and never invited us for the interview. I dedicated a considerable number of pages to the I-751 process in the Do It Yourself Green Card guide. The guide talks a lot about the supporting documentation and how to ensure you go through the simplified I-751 review. And that’s my advice to the readers. Be prepared. Get the Green Card Through Marriage guide and organize your paperwork for success.