USCIS recently released new guidance pertaining to I-130 marriage cases that directly impacts spousal petitions involving minors. Under the new guidelines, the agency will begin scheduling in-person interviews for I-130 petitions involving minor spouses. Ordinarily, the parties to an I-130 are normally interviewed during the adjustment of status stage or, if the case is abroad, the foreign national is questioned regarding the marital relationship at the visa interview. Now, however, USCIS will begin conducting interviews at an earlier stage, that is, at the time the I-130 is adjudicated. At the interview, the petitioner or parties will be expected to furnish evidence that the marital relationship is genuine. Such evidence is often referred to as the "bona fides" of the marriage and can include such things as joint financial accounts, leases, insurance policies, and any other relevant evidence tending to prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith and out of genuine motivations. USCIS will also be determining whether the marriage was legally performed and whether the marriage is not outlawed in the jurisdiction where the couple resides or intends to reside, even if the marriage was valid in the jurisdiction where it was originally performed. So, for example, one state or country may permit marriages by minors under certain circumstances while others don't. If the couple will live in a state that would not recognize the marriage if performed in that state, that might pose a substantive obstacle in getting the I-130 approved.
This new mandatory interview policy will specifically apply where:
· The petitioner or beneficiary is less than 16 years old; or
· The petitioner or the beneficiary is 16 or 17 years old and there are 10 years or more difference between the ages of the spouses.
This is just another development in a long line of changes implementing in-person interviews for most applications. Now nearly all types of employment-based adjustment of status cases require interviews. We are also seeing many parent-child cases as well as adjustments based on K-1 fiancés also being summoned. This only underscores the importance of ensuring that all aspects of the case have been thoroughly explored. A case may look perfect on paper but fail disastrously at an interview without proper planning and preparation.
The above is general information only and not intended to serve as legal advice. It does not create an attorney-client relationship, nor should it be relied upon in lieu of consultation with an attorney.