What Happens if You Marry or Divorce a Foreign Spouse?
While many foreign nationals marry U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens solely for love, some see this type of marriage as a way to bypass the typically lengthy immigration laws and enter the U.S. quickly. In fact, some immigration officials estimate that fraudulent marriages may occur in anywhere from 5 to 15 percent of these types of marriages. While immigration authorities may never discover some fraudulent marriages, those that they do discover can result in serious consequences for the parties involved.
Obtaining a Temporary Green Card Through Marriage
In order to marry a foreign national, a U.S. citizen (or a permanent resident alien) must file an immigration application to sponsor a foreign spouse and grant him or her legal status to remain in the U.S. For a marriage that is less than two years old, immigration officials will grant the foreign spouse conditional permanent residence, or a temporary green card, which permits him or her to live in the U.S. on a temporary basis.
Removing the Temporary Condition From the Green Card
Once the parties have been married for two years, the couple must file an application to remove the temporary condition from the foreign spouse’s green card. This application is absolutely essential for a foreign spouse. If the temporary green card expires and the couple fails to file the necessary application, then the foreign spouse is unlawfully present in the U.S. Unlawful presence will cause the foreign spouse to be subject to a three-year bar from reentering the U.S. if he or she is removed or leaves the country. If the foreign spouse maintains an unlawful presence for more than one year, the bar to reentry will last ten years.
At this point, immigration authorities will review the couple’s situation in order to determine if the couple is still together and if the marriage is bona fide. The foreign spouse must prove that the marriage was legal in the place in which it occurred and that the marriage has not terminated. The couple also must show that they did not marry to procure U.S. residence for the foreign spouse and that no fee was exchanged between the parties in exchange for marriage. If a couple adequately proves that they are part of a bona fide marriage, the foreign spouse can receive permanent resident status. After three years of permanent resident status, the foreign spouse then can apply for U.S. citizenship.
Consequences of a Fraudulent Marriage
If immigration officials determine that the marriage is fraudulent, then the foreign spouse will be charged with removal. There are some defenses to removal for the foreign spouse, depending on the circumstances. For instance, if the foreign spouse can prove that removal would cause extreme hardship, that the marriage was entered into in good faith, or if the U.S. spouse subjected him or her to extreme cruelty, then the foreign spouse may be able to get permission to remain in the U.S. These defenses often are more successful if the couple has children together.
Get the Advice That You Need From Your Palatine Divorce Attorney
The Law Office of Nicholas W. Richardson, P.C. knows how complex divorces from foreign spouses can be with respect to federal immigration laws, and can advise you of the potential consequences for both of you should you ultimately divorce. Skilled Palatine divorce attorney Nicholas Richardson is here to help you throughout the divorce process, no matter what types of issues it involves, including immigration, allocation of parental responsibilities, property division, and spousal support. His goal is to make the divorce process as easy as possible for you; he will focus on the legal aspects of your case, while you focus on the emotional recovery from your divorce.