On his first day after taking office, the U.S. President-elect Joe Biden intends to sign a series of executive orders regarding immigration policy. In particular, the President’s team reported that the head of the White House might lift the ban for citizens from some Muslim countries to enter the United States with the purpose of permanent residence.
The President-elect will also allegedly restore immigration status to illegal immigrants who moved to America as a child. Ron Klain, the White House chief of Staff for Joe Biden, mentioned the new immigration bill to be proposed to the Congress in the memo to the Incoming White House Senior Staff. “He [President-elect Joe Biden] will fulfill his promises to restore dignity to our immigration system and our border policies, and start the difficult but critical work of reuniting families separated at the border,” he announced.
Biden’s bill would propose obtaining a legal permanent residence after only five years and U.S. citizenship in three more years. However, the bill would likely take a long time to pass due to possible opposition from the nation’s conservative party.
In the meantime, the easiest method to get into the country is through marriage with a U.S. citizen. In this way, obtaining citizenship does not require significant financial resources in bank accounts, education, or professional experience. This type of immigration requires a fiancé K-1 visa valid for 90 days. After the wedding, an alien spouse can apply for a Green Card.
What happens to the immigrant status upon divorce?
Approximately 24.7% of immigrants coming to America through marriage get divorced within 15 years of married life. Of these, 19% get divorced in the first two years, and 42% – in the next 5-6 years of residence. This data was taken from divorce rates research by OnlineDivorce.com and indicates that only 7.9% of former spouses return to their homeland after divorce.
A person who has married a U.S. citizen receives a so-called “conditional green card,” issued for two years. Within 90 days before its expiration, spouses must file a Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) to get a permanent green card. In the event of a divorce after receiving a permanent green card, a foreign spouse’s legal status, as a rule, does not change.
As for divorce procedure, it is roughly the same for both marriages concluded in a U.S. territory and overseas. International divorces have a significant advantage since they can be obtained either in the U.S. or in a foreign spouse’s home country, depending on where the terms would be more favorable. “Married couples shopping for better divorce conditions should keep in mind, however, that the court they choose must have a jurisdiction over their case,” Andriy Bogdanov, the CEO and founder of OnlineDivorce.com, points out. “Besides, it would be much more complicated to get a modification of the order issued by a foreign country in the future.”
What if a divorce occurs before obtaining the green card?
Suppose the divorce took place before receiving a permanent green card. In that case, the former spouse loses immigration status after the conditional card’s expiration and must leave the country. However, if the divorce took place before the expiry of the temporary green card, the alien ex-spouse can independently file a Form I-751 alongside the waiver of a joint petition and proof that the marriage didn’t end on their account.
It is also necessary to collect convincing evidence that the marriage was not fictitious. As a general rule, valid proof includes joint ownership of property, shared bank accounts and insurance plans, living at the same address, etc. Immigration officers are much more careful about such sole petitions compared to joint applications. That is why it is crucial to collect additional relevant documents and sufficient information.
What happens to the immigrant status if an American spouse dies?
Immigrants who have been married to U.S. citizens and become widows or widowers can apply for a Green Card if they prove their marriage’s authenticity. Now, there are several scenarios of proceeding with a green card, depending on the circumstances.
If a deceased spouse completed a petition (Form I-130) for a green card before their death, it would automatically be transformed into a Form I-360 as a petition from a widow(er), or “special immigrant.” On the other hand, if Form I-130 was not completed before the death of the U.S. citizen, the widow(er) must complete Form I-360 on their own within 24 months of their spouse’s death.
When the Form I-360 is pending or approved, it’s time to file a Form I-485 to register permanent residence or change status. It only applies to individuals living in the United States. If the applicant resides outside the United States, the petition will be sent to the U.S. Embassy in their country for further consideration.
The criteria for obtaining a green card through widow(er) status are to be officially married to a U.S. citizen, have an approved (or pending) Form I-130, or file a Form I-360 no later than two years after the spouse’s death. Additionally, a widow(er) must stay unmarried.
It is safe to say with much confidence that the immigration process, despite a significant number of its opponents among legislators and ordinary citizens, will continue improving regardless of who holds the reins of government. It is only natural for a country built by immigrants to welcome others to advance into an even more powerful and influential state.
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