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     American immigration law is complex, detail oriented and often overwhelmingly confusing.  There are many traps that a petitioner or a beneficiary could get caught by.  Making a mistake can be very costly to try to fix.  Seeking the advice of a qualified and competent professional before taking any action is the best decision you can make.

     One of the most common ways for immigrants to seek permanent legal residence status in the United States is to marry a United States citizen.  By law, your United States citizen spouse is entitled to file a petition for you as an “Immediate Relative”, otherwise known as the I-130 petition.

     Be mindful however, that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service is highly suspicious of these “Immediate Relative” petitions.  In fact, USCIS takes the position that more than half of all such petitions are fraudulent.  In other words, USCIS believes that more than half of the marriage based petitions they receive are what are called “sham” marriages that are designed to circumvent the immigration laws of the United States in order to obtain an immigration benefit.

     Any petitioner and beneficiary should know that it is a criminal offense to file a Green Card application based on a “sham” marriage.  In addition to the possible criminal penalties, the beneficiary risks being permanently barred from the United States.

     In light of the highly suspicious nature of the petitions, even if the petition is granted, the beneficiary only receives a temporary Green Card.  This is otherwise known as the conditional Green Card, and it is valid for only two years.  The foreign national must file a petition to “Remove Conditions” within 90 days prior to the expiration of the temporary Green Card.  This complicated process requires, in general, the husband and wife to file a joint petition to prove that the marriage is legitimate, genuine and based on love and affection and not designed to circumvent the Immigration Act.

     But what if your marriage to the United States citizen has terminated prior to the two year temporary Green Card?  In certain circumstances, you, as the beneficiary and temporary Green Card holder, can petition the USCIS yourself to “Remove the Condition”.  To successfully do this, you must be prepared to prove that: 

            1.         Your spouse died but that you entered into the marriage in good faith, 

            2.         You are now divorced but that when you originally applied for the Green Card your marriage was legitimate and entered into in goof faith, 

            3.         Your deportation would cause you EXTREME hardship, or 

            4.         You were abused or subjected to extreme cruelty at the hands of your United States citizen spouse.

     Naturally, like any other Green Card holder, the immigrant who obtains the Green Card through a marriage to a United States citizen can have that Green Card revoked.  So, if the option becomes available, at least from an immigration perspective, it is wise to consider naturalizing to become a United States citizen as well.  For further discussion on how to naturalize and become a United States citizen, please see elsewhere in this site.