Wed | Mar 21, 2018

Booted by wife and country

Published:Tuesday | December 15, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I went to the United States (US) in 1997 on a fiance visa. I got married during the prescribed time. After I got married, I got a work permit and a social security number and started working. I noticed that every Friday and Saturday, when my wife was not working, she and her friend went to the casino. I talked to my wife about it, and she said she was doing that for years and was not going to stop because of me. So we started having problems. My wife and her daughter asked me to leave, and I did.

I found an apartment, but my wife and I would visit each other, so she asked me to come back home and I did because I loved her. But things got worse. Three months later, she got so mad at me and told me it was best that I leave because she was not going to give up gambling for anybody. She and her daughter treated me so badly, I had to get out. In 2000, she filed for divorced and I stayed in America and worked. When my work permit expired, I applied to renew it and was denied. I was deported in 2008 to Jamaica. Can I return to the US after all these years?

- G. W.


Dear GW,

I am sorry that you experienced such trauma in your marriage and your life in the US. Unfortunately, some people who come to the States on a fiance visa end up in your situation. The relationship with the US citizen fiance does not work out and they are asked to leave the marital home.

When a person travels to the US on a fiance visa, the immigrant must marry the US citizen within 90 days and file for permanent residency. It appears that you did that and you even received a work permit. You didn't indicate if you went for an interview and received your first green card. If you had received the first Green Card (conditional Green Card) and then divorced before the expiration of the conditional card, you could have applied for the 10-year permanent card by yourself. You would have had to show that you entered into the marriage in good faith; that you lived with your wife for a period; and that the marriage failed.

What you should have done once the marriage failed was leave the States. The fiance visa that you received was only valid for marriage to the woman who filed the petition, and if she divorced you before you got your Green Card, your status became void.

You didn't indicate in what status you wanted to return to the US, and your ability to return also hinges on what grounds you were deported. If you have someone who can file for you for residency in the US, you may be able to return with a waiver. If it is that you want to go back on a non-immigrant visa (for example, a visitor's visa), you would have a harder than normal time because of the fact that you remained illegally in the US and worked without authorisation.

- Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida.