Sun | Sep 20, 2020

Immigration Corner | Concerned about my daughter’s 10-year residency

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2020 | 12:08 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington
Dahlia Walker-Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My daughter went to the United States (US) on a student visa in May 2017 and completed an associate degree. While there, she met and married a classmate. He is from a different religion. However, at the time it didn’t seem to pose a problem, until his family found out about the marriage. He has since abandoned my daughter, and she doesn’t know where he is. She has recently filed for divorce but is unsure and anxious as to exactly how to proceed as her two-year residency expires next year. How exactly should she proceed if she wants to continue living in the US, and can she apply on her own for a 10-year residency? Please advise.

– Concerned Mother

Dear Concerned Mother,

Sadly, families can impact relationships and marriage and the interference can lead to terminations. Your daughter must have been married for less than two years when her US residency was granted, and she was given ‘conditional residency’ which is valid for two years. This status requires the immigrant to file jointly with their spouse to ‘remove the condition’ and obtain permanent residency with a 10-year green card.

Half of all marriages in America end in divorce, and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has made a provision for this fact. Although the removal of the condition requires both parties to file jointly – married and living together – an immigrant in your daughter’s position must divorce and file a single petition with a request for a waiver of the joint filing. This single filing still requires the immigrant to overwhelmingly demonstrate that the marriage was valid at its inception and dissolved naturally. Oftentimes, this proves to be a difficult task for the divorced immigrant because they do not have access to, or may not have sufficient documentary evidence to show the validity of the marriage. This process can be more difficult for the immigrant that the initial process.

Your daughter should ensure that she has evidence of the validity of the marriage, and she should begin to gather same now before her card expires. She can file to remove the condition and her waiver on her green card 90 days before it expires. If her filing is satisfactory, DHS will send her the permanent card in the mail. If not, they can send a Request For Evidence, or schedule her to go to a field office for an in-person interview. If DHS is not satisfied that her marriage was valid, they can unfortunately place her in removal proceedings before an immigration judge, where she can renew her application during a trial.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a mediator and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida.