Deciding Whether a Divorce is Valid for Immigration Purposes

Recently, this office has been receiving an increased amount of cases where lawful permanent resident status is taken away due to invalid divorces. In order to qualify for a greencard, the applicant must comply with the legal requirements for marriage. Interestingly, although getting married does not typically require proof of valid divorce documents to be presented, the greencard process does.  So, it is never safe to assume that just because you were free to marry in the United States, you will qualify for a greencard. No matter whether a person was previously married in the United States or overseas, this information must be disclosed. Failing to provide past divorce documentation indicates fraud and can prevent the grant of lawful permanent resident status.

Clearly, divorce proceedings vary throughout the United States and overseas.  Just because a divorce is considered legal in one jurisdiction, it still must comply with the United States laws. For example, in some countries, a divorce can occur where neither spouse resides any longer.  The divorce judgment would be considered legal in that country, but not in the United States.  This is what can sometimes be overlooked for unrepresented clients or those relying upon “immigration consultants and notaries” who lack the legal education to properly inform clients. Therefore it is extremely important to consult an experienced immigration attorney prior to filing any immigration paperwork.

Also, sometimes where the divorce documents were presented at the consular post for an applicant to enter, for example with a fiancé visa, the consular post can make mistakes in reviewing the divorce documents and issue the fiancé visa in error.  Unfortunately, even where the government office makes the mistake, the visa can be revoked, once the error is caught and a person can be placed in removal proceedings. This can happen even after the greencard is granted, even years later, so be careful.   There are various situations where this unfortunate event has occurred and this office has been retained to correct the problem.  Typically, when a divorce is deemed invalid, the former divorce must be redone and the current marriage must be repeated.  While this seems ridiculous to most, this is an ongoing problem for applicants with invalid divorces.  More often than not, the applicant is unaware of the problem until the  immigration office denies a case or revokes an existing visa or greencard.  This is true, even where the divorce occurred many years ago.  DHS must follow the laws of the United States and confirm that the current marriage is legally valid, otherwise an applicant may be considered to have entered into a bigamous marriage, even if unintentionally.

Before applying for any immigration benefits, you should consult with a qualified immigration attorney who can properly guide you through the process.

Cynthia Waisman, practices in the area of Immigration Law. For more information, go to our website http://www.immigrationattorneytampa.net or call our offices in Tampa 813.279.6180 or Clearwater 727.712.2299