Sun | Jul 22, 2018

Immigration Corner | Should we get married?

Published:Tuesday | December 13, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I am from Jamaica and my wife is a United States (US) citizen and we want to try for the finance visa. Would it be OK if we got married here (in the US) and then applied for the visa? How long would we have to wait for the green card?

- TW

Dear TW,

Language is extremely important - you said you and your wife, but you are asking where to get married. So many Jamaicans have got into an immigration pickle because they refer to their live-in partner or long-time partner as their spouse or husband or wife. Common- law marriages are not recognised by US immigration.

Some persons, when completing the non-immigrant visa application either innocently or purposely check the married box when they in fact are not legally married. Some believe that if they check that they are married, they will have a better chance of obtaining a visitor's visa. Those same persons who, if granted the visitor's visa and travel to the US, overstay, marry a US citizen and then want to file for adjustment of status face a challenge as to how their non-immigrant visa application does not match their application to change status. Those who check the box innocently, also face the same challenge. While as Jamaicans we know that people use the words 'spouse', 'husband' or 'wife' in a certain manner, it is difficult to explain to a non-Jamaican.

It would appear that you might already have a US visa. If you do and are in the US with your fiance and decide (after 30 days) to get married, you can file to change your status and within four to six months be scheduled for an interview for permanent residency.

If you already have a visa and know your fiance well, there is no need for a fiance visa - it takes just about the same time (nine months to a year) as your partner filing for a green card for you while you remain in Jamaica.

It does not matter where in the world you are married for immigration purposes, as long as you abide by the rules in that local jurisdiction.

- 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.