Fri | Feb 23, 2018

Immigration Corner | My fiancée was turned away

Published:Tuesday | June 28, 2016 | 12:04 AM


Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My fiancée was coming from Jamaica to visit me in the United States (US) in April and she got stopped by US Customs. They went through her phone as they assumed that she was coming to work in the States. She was placed in handcuffs and taken to a nearby county jail. Her visa was revoked and she was sent back home to Jamaica the next day. I am a permanent resident set to get my citizenship early next year and I want to know what's the best way to start filing for her. Should I go overseas and get married to her or file for the fiancée visa?

- J.


Dear J.,

I am sorry that your fiancée had to experience being detained in handcuffs. However, this happens because US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) believed that she was breaking immigration laws. You did not indicate how often your fiancée  travelled and how long she remained in the US when she did travel. It is understandable that having a fiancée in the US would make a person want to spend as much time as possible in the US with them, however you have to be careful not to spend as much time as to make CBP question whether you are living and working in the US on a non-immigrant visa.

What many persons do not realise is that in some instances, you do not have to be a US citizen to file a petition for a family member to be allowed to live in the US. This is why it is important to seek consultation with a US immigration attorney when you have immigration questions.

As a permanent resident, you can file for a green card for your husband or wife; your children under 21 years of age; and your unmarried son or daughter. You do not have to be a US citizen to file for your husband or wife. In your situation, you can go to Jamaica, marry your fiancée and file a petition for her green card. You do not have to wait until you are a US citizen. Filing as a US citizen does make the process go faster, but it is not necessary to wait to become a US citizen then file for your wife. In your situation, if you marry her now and file, she may receive her immigrant visa interview at the US embassy earlier than if you wait to become a US citizen then file for her. Only a US citizen can file a fiancée visa.

As I have not seen the removal documents that your fiancéee was given at the airport when she was denied entry to the US, I cannot say if she will have a problem at the US embassy when she goes in for her immigrant visa interview. Depending on the legal reason she was denied entry and her visa revoked, she may or may not have an issue when she goes in for her immigrant visa interview, and she may or may not be eligible for a waiver if there is an issue.

- 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.