Many people believe marriage-based green cards are the easiest way to immigrate to the United States. But denial rates have been steadily increasing over the years. In fact, marriage-based green card denials comprise nearly half of all family-based application denials. This escalating rate is due to the fact that USCIS now has a zero-tolerance policy for errors or inconsistencies.
According to recent reports, some of the most common pitfalls for marriage-based green card applicants include the following:
- The application is incomplete or lacks sufficient evidence
- The couple did not adequately prepare for the interview
- The marriage is not legal or bona fide
- The prospective green card holder is residing in the U.S. without lawful status
- The prospective green card holder has one or more criminal convictions
- The couple cannot meet financial requirements
With marriage-based immigration, avoiding these pitfalls is critical because the stakes are high. A denied application could mean not just wasted time and money but potentially permanent separation from your partner. Furthermore, USCIS does not look favorably upon previous application denials, so this could inhibit you from receiving a different visa in the future.
Because there is so little room for error, retaining counsel right away is one of the most powerful strategies you can employ. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Most often, application shortcomings occur because couples attempt to handle cases on their own or with help from a notary, paralegal, or simply a friend. Only experienced immigration lawyers can tailor the supporting materials to your unique situation, sufficiently prepare you for your green card interview, and physically accompany you at the interview as your lawyer. A company that simply helps you fill out the forms cannot fulfill any of the above services, and this inadequacy regularly leads to case denials.
A Case Study
In March of this year, a bona fide married couple came to our firm after struggling through the application process without an attorney for 3 years. They had begun their case in January of 2017, hiring an “Immigration Service Center” for assistance with their forms.
Working with the center resulted in the following:
- Multiple errors on the application
- A missed fingerprint appointment
- Inability to receive communications from USCIS
- Wrong information about their rights—specifically, the couple was not told they could file the work and travel permit with the green card application, meaning the prospective permanent resident was stuck in the US for 3 years without employment
In February of the following year, the couple went to their green card interview without preparation or legal representation. They didn’t pass, and USCIS scheduled a second interview. During the second interview, USCIS separated and interrogated them for multiple hours.
After the interview, they were told to wait for further instructions from USICS. Two years passed before they decided to reach out to USCIS, upon which they were told the case was still pending with no available updates.
The couple finally contacted us. We sent Form G-28 to USCIS to inquire about case status, and we immediately received a denial letter.
The reasons for denial included:
- Insufficient evidence to support a bona fide marriage; and
- Inconsistent statements during the interview.
Although the couple had a truly legitimate marriage, they were not prepared to present their case to USCIS, and they received a green card denial based on marriage fraud. Now, they face a lengthy and expensive litigation process, and the spouse’s likelihood of obtaining a green card through the court system is much lower than it was when they first began in 2017.
Marriage-Based Visas Are NOT on Hold—Take Action Now
Even the recent executive order halting green card issuance until June 21, 2020 has a substantial list of exceptions that may allow you to continue your process. Specifically, if you or your spouse is a U.S. citizen, your sponsorship is still permitted to continue.
If you’re currently stuck at a certain phase of your application process because of the COVID-19 shutdown, working on your case with an attorney can help you prepare for the exact moment the government continues processing applications. An attorney can analyze your case to identify potential pitfalls, allowing to gather additional evidence and make changes before submitting forms.
Let Us Help You Overcome Challenges
Despite current obstacles and delays, your case will move along steadily if you begin your application process now—with the help of our team at The Law Office of Zhang. Our attorney has years of experience helping clients successfully navigate the marriage-based green card process. Waiting to file your case will only delay the achievement of your goals, and handling your application on your own could permanently prevent you from building a future with your partner here in the U.S.