Most Form I-130 Spousal Petitions Involving Minors to be Referred for Interviews

Introduction

On April 12, 2019, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services provided new guidance for visa interviews for spousal petitions involving at least one spouse who is a minor in its Adjudicator's Field Manual (AFM) [AFM PA-2019-02]. The USCIS had previously updated its guidance on spousal petitions involving minors on February 15, 2019. That guidance — which remains current — is covered in a comprehensive article on site [see article].

In this article, we will examine the additional guidance on spousal petition interviews in these cases [PDF version]. To learn more about this and related issues, please see our website's section on family immigration [see category].

AFM 21.3(a)(2)(D)(iv): Interview Guidelines for Form I-130 Spousal Petitions Involving a Minor

Under 8 C.F.R. 103.2(b)(7) and 8 C.F.R. 103.2(b)(9), the USCIS has the authority to interview any petitioner or beneficiary. In most spousal petition cases, “the eligibility of a spousal relationship for immigration purposes is generally assessed in person by USCIS when the alien spouse applies to adjust status or by Department of State when the alien spouse applies for an Immigrant Visa…” The USCIS determined that spousal petitions where at least one party is a minor warrant special attention.

Under the new AFM guidance, certain spousal petitions involving minors must be referred for interviews before being approved. The USCIS now requires that where the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, otherwise appears to be approvable under existing guidance [see article], it must be referred for an interview if (paraphrased):

1. The petitioner or the beneficiary is less than 16 years of age; or
2. The petitioner or the beneficiary is 16 or 17 years of age and there are 10 years or more difference between the ages of the spouses.

The USCIS may interview either or both parties to the Form I-130. These Form I-130 interviews should generally follow the same procedures used for Form I-485 spousal adjustment interviews. The AFM guidance instructs officers to “remain[] aware of the unique nature of interviewing minors. Interviews of minors must be conducted with sensitivity and may warrant special considerations, including determining whether a trusted adult should be present and conducting additional rapport building.” Additional lines of questions may be needed in cases where the officer suspects that the minor is a victim of forced marriage or human trafficking [see article].

The USCIS adds in its guidance that “while [minor spouses] warrant[] special consideration, spousal relationships involving a minor should not be viewed as inherently fraudulent or containing elements of forced marriage.”

Conclusion

The new USCIS guidance on spousal petitions involving minors will generally require interviews before the approval of the Form I-130. These interviews are normally reserved for after the approval of the Form I-130 but before the approval of an application for adjustment of status (USCIS) or for an immigrant visa (Department of State where the beneficiary is seeking a visa at a consulate abroad). This interview requirement only adheres in cases where the Form I-130 appears to be otherwise approvable. The underlying guidance for spousal petitions involving minors remains unchanged from the USCIS's February 2019 update. The new interview requirement reflects the USCIS's position that spousal petitions involving minors merit special consideration before being approved.