The U.S. immigration system is both a family-based system and a merit-based system. What this means is that most immigration application processes depend on a family member sponsoring an immigrant or an employer sponsorship. Since family immigration law depends on this relationship for someone to be able to obtain legal residency, there are always requirements for the relationship to maintain the same status. What does this mean? If a legal permanent resident parent sponsors their child for a green card and the child grows up or gets married, their status changes under the law and the process could either be eliminated or could require additional evidence that the immigrant is still eligible. This is mostly true dealing with processes dependent on marriage.
Most green card seekers based on marriage are well aware that the government will only grant a conditional approval if the couple has been married for under two years at the time of their green card request. After the first two years of the approval, the government then requires the immigrant to prove that they are still in the original relationship before removing the conditions on their green card granting full residency status. This requires a completely separate application process and the government is very careful in evaluating and judging whether the relationship is still bona fide or legitimate. If the immigrant is no longer married to their sponsor, this could be problematic as it is much more difficult to prove to the government that the relationship was not fabricated in order for the immigrant to receive legal permanent residency.
Most of the time there are ways to correct a case even if the relationship ends. For example, if a marriage ends because of domestic violence, the green card process can continue even without the sponsor supporting the process. In fact, even if the sponsor is actively trying to destroy the process, the victim can still win. Clearly this is a very technical area of immigration law and you should consult an experienced immigration attorney before moving forward.
It is very common for the government to deny a request or to challenge an applicant in order to create pressure on the immigrant to see if they really are part of a legitimate relationship. Recently, a client was going through their green card interview and the government challenged them on their application and threatened him with deportation as a way to see if their “story” was legitimate or not. Unfortunately, this client fell for the trick and withdrew their request at the word of the government agent without first seeking legal advice. Since the client withdrew their green card request, they put themselves in a very difficult position which placed them in a non-legal status requiring them to scramble to try to fix it and to pay a significant amount of money to re-file for their process.
Proving that an immigrant is maintaining a legitimate marriage relationship is also critical in other processes such as naturalization. When a US citizen sponsors their spouse for a green card, the law provides a special benefit to this applicant which is an expedited path to citizenship. If the immigrant takes this path, they can become a citizen within 3 years instead of 5 years. If, however, the immigrant is no longer married to their sponsor, they are no longer eligible for this expedited process. If they divorce before or after the filing of the naturalization process and try to get an expedited approval and the government agent discovers this, they could not only be denied, but could be charged with fraud. Again, it is critical to speak with an experienced attorney before making such decisions in order to properly communicate the facts of the situation with the government.
If you have any questions about any existing immigration process or announcements from the government about recent changes, please schedule a consultation today by calling 616-805-3435.