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One of the consequences immigration clients have been facing recently as a result of the significant backlog of pending cases within immigration is when a fundamental change occurs in the relationship between a sponsor and the immigrant beneficiary. Whether intentional on the government’s part or just bad luck, many immigrants are finding themselves in a position where they are now unable to finish their green card process because their spouse can either no longer financially support the process or no longer wishes to be in the relationship with them. It is not uncommon for our office to receive questions about what to do if either of these situations occur.
When this happens, clients then ask whether they can continue their case even if they are no longer married. Legally, they cannot continue. To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the immigrant must be married to their sponsor. If there is no legal relationship between the two people, there are no legal grounds for the immigrant to obtain a green card, and the government is required by law to deny the request.
So, is the immigrant or sponsor required to inform the government that they are no longer married? This question is a bit trickier. Abandonment of the immigration process is well within an immigrant’s rights, so technically there is no obligation to inform immigrants of any changes in the relationship. At the same time, however, the immigrant cannot legally move forward with their process if they are no longer married and they run a significant risk if they decide to do so anyway.
Depending on when the petition was originally filed and the length of most relationships, a significant period usually passes from the point that the immigrant started planning for their process. When you add the time most applicants have to wait for the government to process and set the final interview, it can be several years. To make this more difficult, most immigrants and their families spend a large amount of money on their process as well. For many applicants, there is the added pressure of potential deportation if the applicant is not able to get a green card and the risks that living without status brings. Because of all this pressure, many (if not most immigrants) will try to keep moving forward even if they have no actual legal right to do so. This is completely understandable but it is also very risky.
What will happen if an applicant does not tell immigration about divorce and, instead tries to continue with the process? The answer to this depends on where the case is in the overall process when the divorce occurs. If the interview occurs before the divorce, most immigrants will be fine and will still be allowed to continue with their case and will even be able to obtain their 10-year green card if the paperwork is submitted correctly.
If, however, an interview is not done before the divorce, the couple either has to abandon the process or appear at the interview together and lie to the government about the relationship in order to get the green card approved. It goes without saying that lying to the government about such a fundamental part of an immigration matter is very serious and not recommended. If, however, this is the path chosen by the couple, their representation to the government would be considered a fraudulent attempt to obtain an immigration benefit and, whether immediately discovered or not, the green card would legally and automatically be invalidated. If immigration happens to identify the misrepresentation, the beneficiary will swiftly be invited to immigration court to fight deportation. Normally the consequence of this sort of fraud will result in the immigrant being barred from future immigration benefits.
Due to the seriousness of this situation, it is highly recommended that you consult with an experienced immigration attorney before making any bad decisions. Please contact our office to schedule a consultation if you have any immigration matter you need assistance with. You can do this either by calling our office at 616-805-3435 or by using the following link to schedule an appointment online: https://marvinlawoffice.com/schedule-a-consultation/