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APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS [Hon. Joseph L. Tauro, U.S. District Judge]

This case involves the manner in which the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) processes (or fails to process) petitions by citizens requesting permanent residence in the United States for their alien spouses. These importunings are commonly called “immediate relative” visa petitions (IRV petitions). The pertinent statute is 8 U.S.C. � 1154(a) (1994 & Supp. IV 1998), pursuant to which a United States citizen may file an IRV petition on behalf of an alien spouse to classify the spouse as a person who can apply forthwith for an immigrant visa. Id.; see also id. � 1151(b)(2)(A)(i) (defining “immediate relatives” to include spouses). The law assigns to the Attorney General the duty to decide whether a petition reveals facts sufficient to allow the alien spouse to satisfy the definition of “immediate relative.” Id. � 1154(b). After conducting an investigation, “the Attorney General shall, if he determines that the facts stated in the petition are true and that the alien in behalf of whom the petition is made is an immediate relative . . . approve the petition.” Id.

Such approval clears the way for the affected alien spouse to seek an adjustment of his or her status to that of a lawful permanent resident of the United States. See id. � 1255(a). To so qualify, the alien spouse must make a four-fold showing: (1) that he or she was lawfully admitted into the United States; (2) that he or she has duly applied for adjustment of status; (3) that he or she is eligible to obtain permanent residence in the United States; and (4) that, as a result of the granting of an IRV petition or otherwise, an immigrant visa is immediately available. See id.; see also Ruckbi v. INS, 159 F.3d 18, 19 (1st Cir. 1998). Because “sham” marriages historically have posed a problem in connection with IRV petitions, the INS may impose certain conditions on approval of adjustment-of-status applications involving recently married alien spouses. See 8 U.S.C. � 1186a(a)(1), (g)(1) (stipulating that if the marriage occurred within twenty-four months next preceding the date of adjustment of status, permanent resident status will be granted provisionally); see also id. � 1186a(c), (d)(2) (describing procedure for converting conditional status to unconditional status once two years have elapsed from date of adjustment).

 
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