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In many cases, marriage to a United States citizen creates a path to citizenship for noncitizens. However, a noncitizen does not automatically gain lawful status upon marriage to a U.S. citizen.
The road to permanent residence is considerably less challenging and less lengthy when a U.S. citizen petitions for his or her noncitizen spouse. Significant obstacles arise, however, when the noncitizen spouse is unlawfully present in the United States.
We represent clients before the Philadelphia Immigration Court, York Immigration Court and beyond. From our offices in West Chester in Chester County, our immigration lawyers are ready to assist you in your marriage-based immigration case.
If an individual is unlawfully present in the United States for more than 180 days, he or she is considered inadmissible or ineligible adjust to permanent resident status. Before applying for permanent residence, the individual must apply and be approved for an unlawful presence waiver, called an I-601 or I-601A waiver (also referred to as inadmissibility waivers).
I-601A waivers remedy an individual’s inadmissibility of unlawful presence. In more complicated instances, such as when the beneficiary spouse has multiple criminal convictions, has been charged with immigration fraud, or is considered inadmissible on other grounds, the spouse must apply for an I-601 waiver.
Applying for an I-601 or I-601A waiver can be a timely and strenuous process. Proof of extreme hardship often requires extensive documentary evidence and written affidavits. Also, the process could take months or years. Inadmissibility waivers are discretionary and obtaining one can be challenging. It is best to consult an experienced attorney when filing such waivers.
Due to the immigration benefits derived from marriage to a U.S. citizen, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), there exists a large concern for marriage fraud. USCIS will investigate every marriage case, question the legitimacy of the marriage during the lawful permanent residence application process, and investigate possible fraudulent cases.
Under immigration law, a marriage entered for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits is considered void for immigration purposes and no immigration benefits will be bestowed.
To ensure a marriage is legitimate or “bona fide,” USCIS will schedule a mandatory interview with an immigration officer. Both spouses must attend the interview.
During the interview with the immigration officer, the officer will request documentation and make several inquiries regarding the legitimacy of the marriage. Ordinarily, the immigration officer asks general questions about the marriage, courting relationship, family dynamic, household expenses, and other relevant information. It is impossible to predict the exact questions the immigration officer will ask; however, an experienced attorney will appropriately prepare the spouses for the interview.
Following the interview, the immigration officer will either grant lawful permanent residence or mail a Notice of Intent to Deny (NOID). The NOID will explicitly contain the reasons the immigration officer questions the legitimacy of the marriage and will give reasonable opportunity for rebuttal.
If the immigration officer is not satisfied with the rebuttal evidence, the permanent residence application will be denied and the application process must be started over. Skilled attorney representation during the interview and any possible subsequent rebuttal process is imperative.
The attorneys at Skinner Law Firm have successfully represented clients during these interviews. The attorneys know how to properly prepare you and compile the proper documentation to ensure the most stress-free case.
The validity of a marriage may be questioned by immigration officials for many reasons. The most scrutinized marriages are those entered into after the commencement of removal proceedings. Immigration officials likely consider these type of marriages illegitimate and only done for the purpose of preventing deportation. For this reason, the unlawfully present spouse will encounter obstacles at every step of the permanent residence process.
The first obstacle encountered would be the denial of the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The I-130 is the first petition filed on behalf of the beneficiary (nonresident spouse). This form must be approved before any further steps can be taken. Generally, an I-130 will be denied if the beneficiary married the U.S. citizen spouse after the commencement of removal proceedings. A bona fide marriage exemption must then be filed. A skilled attorney may be able to prevent this denial by submitting a bona fide marriage exception letter along with proof of a valid marriage.
Following the receipt of the I-130 by USCIS, the couple will be scheduled for a mandatory interview with an immigration officer. Somewhat similar to the earlier discussed adjustment of status interview, the purpose of the interview is to determine the legitimacy of the marriage.
However, “Stokes interviews” – as they are called – are more intrusive and generally last for several hours. The spouses are separated and asked a series of questions about the marriage and daily life. For example, common questions include: where did you go to dinner, who drove to the interview, what hours does each spouse work, what each spouse ate or drank for breakfast, etc.
These interviews can be stressful and intimidating. It is important to have an attorney to prepare you for the interview and to provide the proper documentation. Following these interviews, the officer will mail a decision. The officer will either approve the I-130 or provide a NOID. As earlier discussed, the couple is given an opportunity for rebuttal.
If the immigration officer is not convinced by the information in the rebuttal, the I-130 is denied. Allowing an attorney handle this matter is incredibly important. The denial of the I-130 destroys eligibility for most forms of relief in removal proceedings and may result in deportation.
Obtaining a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen can be confusing and challenging. Allow an experienced lawyer navigate this process for you. If you are eligible for a green card based on marriage, your lawyer can make the best case for why you deserve one.
At Skinner Law Firm our bona fide marriage lawyers can review your case to determine if you are eligible to adjust, if you need a waiver, or if you are likely to face scrutiny from USCIS. We can help you build the strongest possible argument for you. Call us today at (610) 436-1410 to set up a consultation.
We represent clients before the Philadelphia Immigration Court, York Immigration Court and beyond. From our offices in West Chester, Chester County, PA, our immigration lawyers are ready to assist you.