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USCIS Announces New Guidelines for Spousal Petitions Involving Minors

On April 12, 2019, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) added to its February update on spousal petitions involving minors. USCIS has now decided that I-130 spousal petitions involving a minor require more heightened scrutiny than has been applied in the past. The new guidance was released as an update to the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM), and it directs officers to conduct an additional interview, early in the petition process, for I-130 spousal petitions involving a minor. The purpose of interviewing spousal applicants earlier on during the I-130 process is to create an extra opportunity for USCIS to evaluate the petition and the claimed spousal relationship.
This new interview requirement is an add-on to guidance published earlier in the year by USCIS, which detailed factors that officers should consider when evaluating I-130 spousal petitions involving a minor. For instance, officers should consider whether the marriage is valid in the country in which it took place, and officers should also take note if the marriage violates the law or public policy of the state where the couple plans to reside.
The circumstances under which USCIS will be conducting these new, in-person interviews are laid out clearly in the AFM. USCIS officers will now conduct interviews for I-130 spousal petitions when either (1) the petitioner or the beneficiary is less than 16 years old, or (2) the petitioner or beneficiary is 16 or 17 years old but there is a 10-year age difference between the spouses. 
Should the USCIS officers be unconvinced by the newly-required interview and by their review of the spousal petition, they may always issue a request for evidence (RFE) from the petitioner in order to acquire additional proof of the features of a spousal relationship involving minors. USCIS also has a flagging system that issues an alert through an electronic system at the time a petition is filed involving a minor spouse. After flagging, the petition is sent to a special unit that verifies the age and relationship listed.
If you have any questions or concerns on this, please feel free to call Berardi Immigration Law and ask for a consultation with one of our knowledgeable and experienced attorneys today!