US Immigration: question about approved visa suddenly "in review."
April 8, 2016 8:23 PM   Subscribe

My partner immigrated to the USA from Canada roughly one year ago, about two years after we got married and initiated the immigration process. She had an approved IR-1 visa at the time she entered the USA permanently, about one year ago. We recently got a text/email notification from USCIS telling us that our case had switched statuses from "approved" to "in review," and calling USCIS revealed nothing. How worried should we be?

Specifically, the text message I got reads: "On April 8, 2016, the Department of State sent us your case, Receipt Number XXXXXXXXX, for review. We are reviewing it, and will notify you by mail when we are done." I'm confused as to why this would happen and what we do about it, and really scared because my partner is scared. We can't find any people talking about this having happened to them online and following up with what happened next. I'm especially worried because both of our birth families are.... let's say, difficult, and it is not outside of the realm of possibility that my mother in particular would contact ICE and report our marriage as fraudulent.

(It's not. In any way. My partner has my back and I'm really scared at the thought that they might get deported or that something might happen to our status. But my mother has got it through her head that my partner is only with me for the green card, and no amount of pointing out the logical reasons that this is unlikely has sunk in--not even the point that starting a same-sex relationship with a broke grad student years before DOMA came down is a really weird way to get into the USA. Especially if you're Canadian to begin with.)

We've just scheduled an InfoPass appointment with the nearest immigration office in order to go in and find out exactly what's going on. We just bought a house together (closed a week ago!), have joint bank accounts, and I have years of chat logs if I need to prove relationship status. I have photos, I have birthday cards from their grandmother to me, this is a real bona fide relationship. But I'm scared, and I can't find any information to reassure me, and my partner is convinced that they're going to get deported and there's nothing we can do about it. And USA immigration is so, so opaque. How scared should I be?

Answers from people who have navigated the US immigration process in particular would be much appreciated.
posted by sciatrix to Law & Government (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
VisaJourney is the best place for these kind of questions.
posted by k8t at 8:24 PM on April 8, 2016

Response by poster: We have a VisaJourney question open, and no one has responded. I thought I would try here, too.
posted by sciatrix at 8:27 PM on April 8, 2016

When in doubt about a visa issue, I always recommend contacting a good immigration lawyer. You can likely call and speak to a paralegal for a free consultation. They could tell you not to worry or recommend you set up an appointment: I say this based on experience and can attest to it being a great relief; general suggestions online are a good start but a personalized professional opinion is best. Someone who works with transnational same-sex married couples would be most ideal. I wish you both luck!
posted by smorgasbord at 8:55 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

When your partner entered the US with the IR-1, they should have received a green card in the mail a few weeks after. Did this happen? Because the first green card is only valid for two years, at which point you have to go to an interview again to renew it (after that, they last 10 years). If they entered the US and received their green card over a year ago, it could just be approaching renewal time.

Of course, I am not a lawyer. And to be on the safe side, you should check in with one as well.
posted by Behemoth, in no. 302-bis, with the Browning at 9:02 PM on April 8, 2016 [1 favorite]

Definitely talk with an immigration lawyer; there are times when ICE employees don't know what they're talking about, and they aren't likely to give you a clear and binding written document explaining themselves. My step-aunt got to spend a few years in the Philippines largely due to relying on the spoken instructions of an INS employee at the wrong moment.

Her issue was a student visa being converted to a spousal visa, which is significantly more troublesome than your situation. I suspect this is really straightforward. But you should talk to an attorney.
posted by SMPA at 9:25 PM on April 8, 2016

Behemoth - a CR1 gives you a conditional 2 year green card. An IR-1 gives you a non-conditional 10 year green card.

Sciatrix: I really would make an appointment with an immigration lawyer, preferably one who specializes in the immigration process AFTER having received a green card.

This strikes me as a really odd case. Normally, post-green card issues revolve around not residing in the States as a permanent resident (in your partner's case, this would be spending too much time in Canada). However, that would be a problem encountered at the border, not while you both are physically in the States.

I don't think anyone has answered you on Visajourney because hardly anyone would have encountered this.

I'm sorry you're going through this.
posted by kinoeye at 12:18 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Nthing suggestions to talk to a lawyer.

Has your partner travelled overseas for more than a year after the green card? That could be an issue.
posted by divabat at 12:35 AM on April 9, 2016

I think you have taken the right step to get a InfoPass appointment. If they confirm that the application is actually under review, then I suggest to talk to an immigration lawyer.

But, I feel this is just a random glitch on USCIS side. I have seen other approvals gone back to initial review status without any actual impact or reason (not like your specific case, it was I-485). The closest one I found to your case is this one.
posted by thewildgreen at 4:28 AM on April 9, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: We came in on an IR-1, but received a two-year conditional green card because we'd been married less than two years when we applied. That said, we got the green card a little less than a year ago, and it shouldn't be time for renewal quite yet.

My partner hasn't gone back to Canada since entering the USA on the green card. (Neither of us have left the USA at all.) So it's definitely not "spent too much time overseas after immigrating."
posted by sciatrix at 6:26 AM on April 9, 2016

I think you're fine, because you have evidence, and I think the actual thing to be stressing over is whether to pursue charges against harassing family members filing false reports. However, only your own attorney can provide reassurance about the process and likely outcomes. offers an online intake form and a legal emergency national hotline on weekdays at (212) 714-2904. offers a directory of free and low-cost legal assistance providers that can be searched by state.

The American Immigration Lawyers Association offers a searchable directory of private immigration lawyers.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:10 AM on April 9, 2016

Sciatrix: please clarify what you mean when you said you should have received a conditional green card. If you received a conditional green card, it would've been because of an administrative error. If you came in on an IR 1, you are 100% supposed to receive a 10 year green card. I think we have found out what the problem is.

See the following:

IR stands for "Immediate Relative" visa which entitles the holder a permanent residence status allowing him/her a renewable 10-year stay in the US. Immediate Relatives of a US citizen can apply for this visa.

CR stands for "Conditional Residency" and this is applied for by spouses of American citizens/permanent residents whose period of marriage to their American/permanent resident spouses is less than two years. The applicant will be initially awarded a 2-year conditional permanent residency in the US. This can be removed through an application for removal of conditions filed 90 days before the CR 1 visa expires. They will receive unconditional permanent resident status or the "green card" after the successful removal of the conditions.
posted by kinoeye at 8:14 AM on April 9, 2016

Sounds to me like a computer glitch. I navigated the UK rather than the US visa process, but one time we received an update sort of like this that made no sense and freaked us out. It turned out to be a mistake.

I could be wrong but I wonder if this style of message that you received is reserved for the casual "we just now got your application and will get around to processing it" (sent erroneously) rather than "we are questioning what the deal is with your application" (which maybe they wouldn't declare so casually)
posted by johngoren at 11:22 AM on April 9, 2016

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