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USCIS Strengthens Guidance on Spousal Petitions Involving Minors

In the United States, state law determines the minimum age that an individual can be married. Every state but two requires that both members of the married couple be 18 years of age or over to be married without parental or judicial consent. Occasionally, immigrants coming into the United States have minor spouses, or immigrants living in the United States want to bring minor spouses into the country. Immigration officers subject petitions involving these minor spouses to special scrutiny.
USCIS has just announced that it will be publishing additional clarifying instructions for its officers to consider when adjudicating spousal immigration petitions involving minors. These additional instructions were published as an update to the USCIS Adjudicator’s Field Manual (AFM). It clarifies age requirements for a petitioner filing an Affidavit of Support for a spouse in conjunction with a concurrently filed I-485, and identifies factors officers should consider when adjudicating a Form I-130 spousal petition involving a minor. 
What does the updated guidance instruct USCIS officers to look for when considering a petition? While there are no statutory age requirements to petition for a spouse or to be sponsored as a spousal beneficiary, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will consider three things pursuant to the new update to the AFM:

  1. Whether the age of the beneficiary or petitioner at the time the marriage took place violates the law of the country in which it took place and whether the marriage is recognized as valid in that country.
  2. Whether the marriage violates the law or public policy of the state where the couple resides or plans to reside. In some U.S. states and in some foreign countries, marriage involving a minor might be permitted under certain circumstances, including where there is parental consent, a judicial order, emancipation of the minor, or pregnancy of the minor.
  3. If the minor provided free and informed consent to enter into the marriage.

USCIS created a flagging system that sends an alert in the electronic system at the time of filing if a minor spouse or fiancé is detected. After the initial flag, the petition is sent to a special unit that verifies that the age and relationship listed are correct before the petition is accepted. If the age or classification on the petition is incorrect, the petition will be returned to the petitioner for correction. 
If you have questions about a green card, be sure to contact Berardi Immigration Law to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys today!