Fri | Jul 19, 2019

Immigration Corner | I got married while waiting on my green card

Published:Tuesday | September 11, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

I saw an article in The Gleaner and realised that I was in the same situation and wanted to hear what my legal options were.

My mother filed for me on an F1 Visa application (unmarried over 21). However, I got married in the fifth year of waiting. They completed the filing, and now I'm waiting on my interview date. The thing is, I don't want to do anything illegal, and I want my wife to be able to migrate with me. Also, I'm in urgent need of surgery, so it's hard for me to wait much longer. How can I go about declaring my marital status without having to wait several more years for the visa? Can my situation be expedited legally?

I really would like to know what to do.

- DS

Dear DS:

You are treading on very thin ice here. Your mother filed for you as an unmarried over-21-year-old son of an American citizen. That placed you in line in the first-preference category to receive a green card. (F1). That category takes approximately seven years. In September 2018, visas are available for persons with a priority date earlier than April 8, 2011.

The minute you were married, your preference category changed to third-preference category (F3) - the married son of an American citizen. Currently, persons with a priority date earlier than May 1, 2006, have visas available to them. This means that married sons have to wait approximately 12 years for a green card.

You should have and must now advise the US government that you are married and not proceed with your interview as if you are single when legally, you are married. If you do that, you will be committing immigration fraud. If, by chance, the marriage remains hidden and you become a permanent resident, your green card can be revoked at any time, and you would be deported. This is so even if you manage to become a US citizen and the fraud is discovered afterwards - you would be denaturalised and deported.

Similarly, you would never be able to petition for your wife to join you in the United States as that would surely reveal the fraud.

If after you advise the US government of your marriage you decide that you cannot wait five more years for your green card, you can divorce your wife and move back to the first-preference category and advise the US to proceed as an unmarried son. Once you become a green card holder, you can remarry your wife and file for her - a process that currently takes two years.

You mention that you are desperate to have surgery in the United States. Be advised that as a new immigrant, you are not eligible for certain government benefits until you are a US citizen or have worked for 10 years in America. You need to ensure that you are able to afford surgery in America or schedule your surgery in Jamaica if time is of the essence for your health.

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