Presumptive immigration marriage fraud

When a permanent resident obtained a green card by marriage which later ends in divorce, an immigration petition for a new spouse cannot be approved if filed within 5 years of obtaining permanent residence unless the permanent resident can prove that the earlier marriage by which he obtained a green card was in good faith. But the standard of proof of the earlier marriage is raised beyond that required when the permanent resident was issued a green card by that marriage.

Presumptive immigration marriage fraud – from permanent resident by marriage to immigration petition for a new spouse in less than 5 years

When a permanent resident obtained a green card by marriage which later ends in divorce, an immigration petition for a new spouse cannot be approved if filed within 5 years of obtaining permanent residence unless the permanent resident can prove that the earlier marriage by which he obtained a green card was in good faith. But the standard of proof of the earlier marriage is raised beyond that required when the permanent resident was issued a green card by that marriage.

If the permanent resident by marriage files an immigration petition for a new spouse within 5 years of receiving permanent residence by law (The Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986) the former marriage by which he obtained permanent resident is presumed to have been entered into for immigration purposes without the intent to live together as husband and wife.

In this type of special circumstances marriage fraud is presumed based upon the earlier marriage by which the permanent resident obtained a green card, not the current marriage. The presumption of fraud based on the earlier marriage arises even if there was no finding of marriage fraud and the permanent established that the earlier marriage was in good faith, passed the immigration marriage interview and the joint petition for removal of conditions upon resident (I-751) was approved by USCIS.

What is presumptive immigration marriage fraud?

The Bureau of Administrative Appeals defines immigration marriage fraud as a marriage which may comply with all the formal requirements of the law but which the parties entered into with no intent, or “good faith”, to live together and which is designed solely to get around the immigrations laws. There is no requirement that the person be convicted of fraud. Presumptive immigration marriage fraud is a presumption of law applied to all cases where a permanent resident by marriage petitions for a new spouse in less than 5 years after obtaining permanent residence.

Presumptive fraud is about the earlier marriage

But with presumptive fraud a spousal petition for a new spouse within 5 years of obtaining permanent residence by marriage is enough for the adjudicator to presume that the first marriage was a fraud. The presumption however can be successfully challenged. The USCIS will issue a Notice of Intent to Deny giving the petitioner the opportunity to send evidence to show by clear and convincing evidence that the earlier marriage was in good faith. The rebuttal evidence is directed towards the earlier marriage.

A petition for a new spouse within less than 5 years alone is not unequivocal evidence of a sham marriage. Therefore the petitioner can give evidence that adequately explain the rapid sequences of events. A denied petition does not affect the permanent resident’s ability to re-file the petition for the new spouse after the 5 year period.

Evidence used to rebut presumptive marriage fraud

The evidence used to challenge a finding of presumptive marriage fraud is evidence to prove the good faith of the earlier marriage by which the permanent resident gained his status (not the current marriage to the new spouse). Some examples of the type of evidence that can be used to challenge a finding of presumptive marriage fraud are:

1.            Affidavit from Petitioner

2.            Affidavit from former spouse and former in-laws – don’t burn your bridges

3.            Affidavit from friends – who he knew the couple, how often they saw each other

4.            Affidavit from professionals – e.g. life insurance salesman, doctors that interacted with the couple and observed them during the marriage

5.            Greeting cards from family (dated) – showing family is aware of the marriage

6.            Birth Certificate of children born to the marriage

7.            Photographs of the couple together with family and friends (identified and dated)

8.            Financial statements in both names

9.            Joint Tax returns

10.          Statements in both names

11.          Divorce decree – showing property settlement and other terms of divorce (reason for termination of the marriage)

12.          Evidence showing the length of time the earlier couple lived together

Conclusion

There are lots of factors involved in successfully rebutting presumptive immigration marriage fraud. A lot depends upon the facts of the particular earlier marriage. When entering an immigration marriage it is important to have proper legal advice every step of the way. Even if you former marriage and present marriage were in good faith, your petition for your new spouse could be denied if you cannot successfully rebut the presumption that the earlier marriage was a fraud and do so using the correct legal standard.

Presumptive marriage fraud does not prevent the filing of an immigration petition for a new spouse but it makes it more difficult by requiring the permanent resident to prove the good faith of a former marriage using a higher standard. Presumptive marriage fraud does not apply to naturalized United States citizens or to permanent residence by marriage that has held permanent resident status for over 5 years. It also does not apply to a permanent resident whose marriage end by death of the US citizen or permanent resident through which permanent resident status was received.

If you have any questions please speak to a qualified immigration attorney. Feel free to email me at info@immigrationlasvegas.com. I also urge you to subscribe to this blog or the RSS feed so you can see when new articles are posted.

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Can you afford not to hire an immigration attorney for your case?

Some persons dealing with an immigration matter such as applying for a spouse to come to the United States, may ask, ‘Do I really need a lawyer?’, or ‘Can’t I just handle the paperwork myself?’ Unfortunately, the denial rate for applications or petitions filed without an attorney is higher than many realize. The cost in time and money to fix immigration problems that could be avoided is astronomical.

Do I need an immigration lawyer?

Some persons dealing with an immigration matter such as applying for a spouse to come to the United States, may ask, ‘Do I really need a lawyer?’, or ‘Can’t I just handle the paperwork myself?’ Unfortunately, the denial rate for applications or petitions filed without an attorney is higher than many realize. The cost in time and money to fix immigration problems that could be avoided is astronomical.

Let me give you an example. Paul is a US citizen from the Philippines. On a trip to the Philippines he met a beautiful woman and they got married. Paul consults a lawyer who offers free consultations only to find out that the lawyer charged $2500 for the case. After recovering from the shock Paul goes to an immigration consultant to fill out papers for only $500. Paul expected to see his wife in less than a year. But unknown to him the divorce from his former wife was not final. His I-130 petition was rejected. Paul  spent thousands of dollars to return to the Philippines to complete his divorce. He also has to spend some more money to remarry the woman he thought was his wife. If Paul had consulted an immigration attorney from the beginning he would be thousands of dollars richer and reunited with his wife a lot sooner. He would have avoided strain on his relationship from a very long separation. The time they could have spent together is gone forever and money cannot bring it back.

The odds are not in favor of a person filing on his own or using a notario because immigration laws are complex and constantly changing and there are many factors that are not widely known that can affect eligibility and lead to a denial. Minor errors that seem trivial to most people can cause the denial of a visa. Other denial factors include a case without legally sufficient evidence, misrepresentations, a failure to register a change of address, in absentia orders of removal which the applicant does not know about and security grounds. And that is just the start!

Immigration laws are nearly as complex as the tax code

Immigration laws are so complex that one United States District Judge in describing the complexity of immigration laws said, “The statutory scheme defining and delimiting the rights of aliens is exceedingly complex. Courts and commentators have stated that the Immigration and Nationality Act (the “INA”) resembles “King Mino’s labyrinth in ancient Crete,” [and] and is “second only to the Internal Revenue Code in complexity.” Chan v. Reno, 1997 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 3016 *[5] (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 14, 1997).

How an immigration attorney can make your life easier?

For you to get your immigration case approved a thorough understanding of the immigration laws behind the forms is critical. Your case must also be supported by legally required and persuasive evidence to prove eligibility to adjudicators. Additionally it must address any grounds for removal. In fact some foreign national who make applications  (e.g. for asylum, deferred action or adjustment of status) without competent legal advice may be at risk of deportation without knowing it.

A competent immigration lawyer understands that getting your application approved requires an in-depth understanding of your specific facts to find the right legal course of action for you under the immigration rules. The immigration attorney will help you determining the potential risks, and legal issues that arise from your actions. The best ones will also help you prepare for critical immigration interviews at US consulates, ports of entry and at the USCIS.

Though no ethical immigration attorney can guarantee results, a licensed immigration attorney who is a member of the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association will use his or her best efforts to help you avoid denial and delays and get your US visa, green card or US citizenship case approved.

If you run into problems with an immigration or visa application, a form filling service cannot represent you before the USCIS, the National Visa Center or the US consulate. In short, a form-filler cannot contact any government agency on your behalf; only a licensed attorney can do this.

Conclusion

When your future and your family’s future in the United States is on the line, this is not a time for pinching pennies. A cheap attorney may not spend much time on your case because attorneys bill based upon an estimate of the time it will take to complete the case. An adjustment of status case for $750.00, may mean that the attorney will spend only three hours on your case and will not  give it the attention it deserves.

If you have any questions please speak to a qualified immigration attorney. Feel free to email me at info@visalawdc.com. I also urge you to subscribe to this blog or the RSS feed so you can see when new articles are posted.

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The unlawful presence bar to re-admission into the US

Unlawful presence is often a problem for certain persons (e.g. those who entered without inspection or entered on a C1, C1/D or D visa) who are prevented by law from adjusting or changing status in the US but who the law requires to leave the US to apply for a visa at a US consulate.

Unlawful presence is a bar to re-admission after the person leaves the United States and seeks a visa or permission to renter the United States. It is especially a problem to the immediate relatives of US citizens who cannot adjust status but must leave the United States and seek an unlawful presence waiver abroad before they can be issued an immigrant visa. The wait times to get an unlawful presence waiver approved can take many months or more than 1 year during which time the foreign nationals must stay outside the United States and be separated from their immediate US family. Unlawful presence is not a problem for a B visa holder who marries a US citizen, does not leave the United States and seeks adjustment.

Unlawful presence

Unlawful presence is often a problem for certain persons (e.g. those who entered without inspection or entered on a C1, C1/D or D visa) who are prevented by law from adjusting or changing status in the US and who the law requires to leave the US to apply for a visa at a US consulate. It is also a problem for some persons who overstayed in the United States and later seek a visa to return to the United States.

Unlawful presence is a bar to re-admission after the person leaves the United States and seeks a visa or permission to renter the United States. It is especially a problem to the immediate relatives of US citizens who cannot adjust status but must leave the United States and seek an unlawful presence waiver abroad before they can be issued an immigrant visa. The wait times to get an unlawful presence waiver approved can take many months or more than 1 year during which time the foreign nationals must stay outside the United States and be separated from their immediate family in the United States. Unlawful presence is not a problem for a B visa holder who marries a US citizen, does not leave the United States and seeks adjustment.

What is unlawful presence?

Under the law a foreign national is unlawfully present if the person over-stays an authorized period of stay, or is present without being admitted or paroled. INA 212 (a) (9) (B) (ii).  Basically the person has no permission from the immigration authorities to be in the US or stay in the US whether it is that the end date on an I-94 has passed or the person has violated the terms of a visa such as a F-1 student who is no longer enrolled in school or a J-1 who is no longer taking part in an exchange program. In the case of a person in F-1 or J-1 status however he or she does not begin to accumulate unlawful presence until an immigration judge or immigration officer finds lawful presence.

The time for which a person is unlawfully present is legally important.

3-year and 10-year bars to readmission

Aliens who accumulate unlawful presence may be subject to a 3-year or 10 –year bar depending on the period of their unlawful presence.

180 days but less than 1 year

If an alien is unlawfully present for more than 180 days but less than one year and voluntarily departs before the start of removal proceedings such a person is barred from readmission into the United States for 3 years. Note that the bar is triggered after a voluntary departure even if the alien is granted advance parole.

More than 1 year

If the alien is unlawfully present for a year or more, then departs or is removed (deported), he or she is barred from re-admission for 10 years.

For the purpose of the 3-year or 10 year bar unlawful presence is not counted in total meaning, a person who over-stays for 3 months, leaves, re-enter and over-stays again for 4 months for a total time of more than 180 days is not subject to the 3-year bar. But if the same person over-stayed by 7 months on the second occasion, he or she would be subject to the 3-year bar.

Statutory exemptions

The law exempts certain period from counting towards unlawful presence.  The time during which a person is a child under the age of 18, or a bona fide application asylum is pending (unless the applicant works without authorization), under INA Section 301 family unity protection or a battered spouse or child who can prove a real connection between unlawful presence and abuse is exempt and no unlawful presence accumulates while these conditions apply.

Tolling (or suspension of) unlawful presence for good cause

The law tolls or suspends unlawful presence for no more than 120 days under certain conditions. Unlawful presence is tolled or suspended for a person who is lawfully admitted or parole into the United States, and who files a proper application for an extension of stay or change of status, and who was not employed before the application or while the application is pending.

Persons who file a proper application for adjustment of status are not subject to the 120 limitation on tolling but have the unlawful presence suspended while their application is pending.

Conclusion

The unlawful presence bar is just one more reason why foreign nationals should periodically consult an immigration attorney for advice. The cost of not knowing is very expensive. A person who is subject to the unlawful presence bar may seek a discretionary waiver. Waivers and the notice of intent to change the waiver regulations for aliens with qualifying United States citizen relatives will be the subject of another post.

If you have any questions please speak to a qualified immigration attorney. Feel free to email me at info@goodinlaw.net. I also urge you to subscribe to this blog or the RSS feed so you can see when new articles are posted.

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Bona Fide Marriage Documents

There are several ways to prove a bona fide marriage for US immigration purposes. In addition to a marriage certificate, the following documents are examples of what an immigrant spouse can offer as proof of a bona fide marriage. As each couple is unique the following is not a substitute for legal advice based on a couple’s individual circumstances.

A legal marriage or a marriage on paper alone is not sufficient basis to obtain a green card through marriage. There are several ways to prove a bona fide marriage for US immigration purposes. In addition to a marriage certificate, the following documents are examples of what a petitioner or an immigrant spouse can offer as proof of a bona fide marriage. As each couple is unique the following is not a substitute for legal advice based on a couple’s individual circumstances (prior petitions, pregnancy, age difference, prior removal orders, date of wedding, manner and date of entry into the United States etc).

Documentary proof of a bona fide marriage may include but is not limited to the following:

  1.  Wedding pictures – showing the couple together and with family and friends. Wedding invitations may also be used.
  2.  Invitation and pictures for the wedding shower, if any.
  3.  Pictures of the couple together and with family and friends (holidays, vacation, in hospital etc.). Chose picture that show proper body language between the couple and from family and friends.
  4.  Birth certificate of each child born to the marriage. A child is strong, irrefutable evidence of a shared live. Pictures of the couple with their children (births, birthdays, baptism, or other traditional celebrations )
  5.  Personal statement or self statement of bona fide marriage, in which the petitioner describe, in great detail, how they met, why they got married, who proposed marriage, and the feelings that they had or still have towards each other and why.
  6.  Bona fide marriage affidavits (statements signed before a notary public) from at least two people with personal knowledge of the marriage and who can give details of the relationship between the immigrant spouse and the U.S. citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident petitioner.
  7.  Letters received from spouse while dating, apart, or during any other stage of the relationship.
  8.  Letters, cards and invitations to the couple from family and friends
  9.  A rental agreement for house or apartment with the names of the couple on it, or a letter from the building manager or owner proving that the couple occupies the premises.
  10.  Tax returns that show taxes filed jointly.
  11.  Papers with the names of both immigrant and spouse that show joint ownership of a car, a house, furniture, or something else together.
  12.  Insurance papers (health, auto, life and property) – that are either joint insurance papers or that show coverage of each other by insurance plan.
  13.  Joint Utility Bills for a marital home, such as cable TV, internet, electricity, water, gas, cell phone, or others that show both names on it.
  14.  For women, a government issued identification card that shows the use of your spouse’s last name could be persuasive but is not required.
  15.  Joint bank statements – as with having a child, having shared bank accounts is strong, evidence of a bona fide marriage because it indicates trust between the couple.
  16.  Any other documents that show trust, a shared life and shared burden of living.

If you have any questions please consult with a local immigration attorney. You may also email me at via the contact form on this website. Please subscribe to this blog or the RSS feed so you can see when new articles are posted.

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Removing conditions on permanent residence when the U.S. petitioner dies

For those who receive a green card through a marriage that is less than two years old on the date the green card is received, Section 216 (d) (2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that a conditional permanent resident must file a joint petition to remove conditions on residence I-751 within 90-day period before the second anniversary of receipt of conditional resident status – count back 90 days from the second anniversary of the Permanent Resident Card. Waiting until the last few days to send the I-751 petition with supporting evidence is a bad idea. It should get to the USCIS before the conditional green card expires. It is always a good idea to have proof of delivery.

One of the most common questions asked by those who get a green card by a marriage that is less than two years old is, “how and when do I remove the conditions on my green card?” Sometimes the U.S. spouse may be unwilling to file a joint petition and there may be issues of domestic abuse. In a few cases however the U.S. spouse may have died after the beneficiary spouse obtained conditional permanent residence but before the two year anniversary of obtaining conditional permanent residence[1]

For those who receive a green card through a marriage that is less than two years old on the date the green card is received, Section 216 (d) (2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides that a conditional permanent resident must file a joint petition to remove conditions on residence I-751 within 90-day period before the second anniversary of receipt of conditional resident status – count back 90 days from the second anniversary of the Permanent Resident Card. Waiting until the last few days to send the I-751 petition with supporting evidence is a bad idea. It should get to the USCIS before the conditional green card expires. It is always a good idea to have proof of delivery.

A son or daughter of the foreign spouse who achieves conditional residence within 90 days of the principal beneficiary (the foreign spouse) may be included on the same I-751 form even though such a combined petition attracts a separate biometric fee for each son or daughter regardless of age. Otherwise the son or daughter must file a separate petition.

The permanent resident status of a conditional permanent resident who fails to file the I-751 on time, will end, unless the person can show good cause that excuses a late filing. Such a person will also begin to accumulate unlawful presence which can lead to 3 or 10 year bars from the United States, if they leave.

Section 216 (c)(1) further has two requirements for removal of the condition – a jointly filed petition and an in person I-751 interview. The service can waive an I-751 interview if it is satisfied of the bona fides of the marriage based on the petition and supporting evidence. But the USCIS sometimes conducts random interviews of joint petitioners or waiver requesters.The service is more likely to waive a joint interview if the case is well-documented but may still need an interview if verification of the information through its fraud unit turns up derogatory information.

For a person who cannot file jointly because of reasons other than death of the petitioning spouse (e.g. I-751 divorce), Section 216 (c) (4) of the immigration and Nationality Act provide for hardship waivers of the joint filing and interview requirements under certain conditions. For such hardship waivers the CPR must submit a letter with the I-751 petition.

But when the petitioning spouse dies during the 2-year conditional period the law does not require a joint petition and interview and no separate I-751 waiver is required other than that requested on form I-751. Therefore the conditional resident petitioner should select (c) in Part 2 of the I-751 form and provide documentary evidence of the death as supporting evidence. The death of the petitioning spouse does not, however relieve the I-751 petitioner from the burden to prove that the marriage which ended in death was in good faith and was not entered into solely for evading the immigration laws.

A conditional permanent resident under section 216(a) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, who is seeking to remove the conditional basis of that status and who has timely filed the petition and appeared for the interview required under section 216(c)(1), does not need a separate section 216(c)(4) hardship waiver if the petitioning spouse died during the 2-year conditional period.

Approval

If satisfied that the marriage was not for the purpose of evading the immigration laws, USCIS may approve the petition without an interview. If the USCIS approves the petition it will remove the condition on permanent residence as of the second anniversary of receipt of conditional permanent resident status and issue a new Permanent Resident card through the mail.

RFEs, or requests for more evidence

Where the initial filing is deficient the USCIS may issue a request for more information or evidence or RFE. Failure to respond would lead to a denial due to abandonment.

If the RFE is not properly responded to the USCIS may schedule an interview. If the conditional resident alien fails to appear for an interview about the petition the alien’s permanent residence status will be automatically terminated as of the second anniversary of the date on which the alien obtained permanent residence[2].

Denial

If USCIS intends to deny the petition it will provide a Notice of Intent to Deny stating any reasons for so intending. The petitioner may then send rebuttal evidence which USCIS must consider. If the petition is ultimately denied the alien’s permanent resident status will end as of the date of the written denial.

Review of denial

A person whose i-751 petition was denied can

1. request the USCIS to certify the case to the Administrative Appeals Unit[3]

2. file a motion to reopen the case based on new facts, or a motion to reconsider the case citing valid reasons[4], or

3. seek review of the decision in removal proceedings. In such proceedings ICE must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the petition was properly terminated [5]. But the petitioner bears the burden of proving eligibility for the petition or waiver of the joint filing requirement. He or she must be prepared to submit evidence of a good faith marriage and the death of the U.S. spouse.

[1] This situation is different from a case where a foreign national obtained permanent residence based on being the widow(er) of a US citizen. In such a case, the widow(er) spouse should not file I-751.

[2] 8 C.F.R. 216.4

[3] 8 C.F.R. 103.4 (a) 4,5

[4] 8 C.F.R. 103.5

[5] 8 C.F.R. 216.3, 1216.3

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A discussion of the frightening Notice to Appear

Removal proceedings are one of the most serious consequences that an alien can face. This is especially so for an alien who has lived continuously in the United States for a long time such as more than 10 years. It is also a frightening experience for their United States family who are citizens or permanent residents. United States parents, spouse or children may also suffer extreme and unusual hardship if an alien is deported.

What is a notice to appear?

The issue of a notice to appear (NTA) is notice to a person that removal proceedings has began against him or her. But removal proceedings begin when the notice to appear is filed in an immigration court (8 C.F.R. 1003.14). A notice to appear form I-862 is a charging document containing allegations against a person in removal or deportation proceedings. It alleges that the person is not a United States citizen, states the grounds under which the person is removable, and the specific law that supports removal.

The notice to appear may also state the date, place and time of the immigration court hearing for the person to appear before an immigration judge. However the notice of hearing may be sent in a separate letter.

It is very important that any person who has received a notice to appear tell the immigration court in writing of any change of address within 5 days of any such change so that they may receive notices from the court. Otherwise an immigration court judge may issue what is known as an in absentia order. If a judge makes an in absentia order against a foreign national it can be used by ICE to rapidly remove the foreign national from the United States without the benefit of a hearing.  Avoid an in absentia order by showing up on time for court and notifying the court of any change of address.

The NTA also tells the foreign national of his or her right to an immigration attorney for representation or to answer any legal questions.

Not everyone who receives an NTA is arrested. But a person who is arrested by immigration must be issued an extra Form I-826 Notice of Rights and Request for Disposition. If you wish to stay in the United States to pursue your rights and apply for relief, you must not allow anyone to talk you into agreeing to the allegations and accepting voluntary departure. Preserve your right to a hearing before an Immigration Judge – tick the option to ask to have a hearing before an immigration judge.

Will I be put on a plane and physically removed from the United States when I appear at the immigration court?

No. This is often cited by some persons for their failure to appear at immigration court. The law does not allow a person coming to immigration court to protect his or her rights to be deported. The deportation process must be completed. Furthermore you have a right to an appeal to the BIA or to federal courts. One of the most important things to realize is that deportation is a process and it typically takes many months depending on how crowded an immigration court docket is. With appeals, the process can sometimes take years.

Do I need a lawyer?

Yes you do. Removal proceedings are one of the most serious consequences that an alien can face. This is especially so for an alien who has lived continuously in the United States for a long time such as more than 10 years. It is also a frightening experience for their United States family who are citizens or permanent residents. United States parents, spouse or children may also suffer extreme and unusual hardship from removal of their alien relatives. A person without an attorney may not have his legal rights protected. You can be assured that the government will have its attorneys working to get you deported. So lawyer up and protect your rights!

A lawyer will also help you to find the type of relief for which you are eligible and gather the right evidence (e.g. affidavits, court records etc.) necessary to support your defense and application for discretionary relief that will allow you to remain in the United States.

Conclusion – Pursue your legal rights before an Immigration Judge

The removal process can take years: removal does not happen overnight. Furthermore there are many defenses and relief from removal (e.g. cancellation of removal, withholding of removal, adjustment of status, asylum, registry etc) that may be available depending on the facts of your case. Seek legal counsel to know and protect your rights.

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Passing the Stokes interview and Stokes interview sample questions

If you fail to convince the immigration officer at your first marriage immigration interview that your marriage is in good faith, the USCIS may give you written notice of a marriage fraud interview known as a Stokes interview. A Stokes interview is a taped interview in which the USCIS separates you and your spouse and ask questions. The goal is to decide whether your marriage is in good faith and not solely for gaining an immigration benefit.

If you fail to convince the immigration officer at your first marriage immigration interview that your marriage is in good faith, the USCIS may give you written notice of a marriage fraud interview known as a Stokes interview. A Stokes interview is a taped interview in which the USCIS separates you and your spouse and ask questions. The goal is to decide whether your marriage is in good faith and not solely for gaining an immigration benefit.

At the Stokes interview you and your spouse will be sworn in and questioned separately.  The examiner will compare your answers to the answers of your spouse and look for any discrepancies. If you give the same answers you will pass. If you don’t, you will be given an opportunity to explain any discrepancies.

As you and your spouse are under oath and the interview is taped it is very important that your answers be truthful. Giving false testimony under oath will not just result in denial of your green card but it is also a crime. You should not guess about what your spouse will say. If you do not know the answer or do not remember it is better to say so and not guess or make things us.

What to bring

It is important that the petitioner brings either a U.S. passport or a driver’s license and a social security card. You must bring the original documents  you brought to the first interview to the Stokes interview. Be sure to bring your passport, I-94 and social security card, if you have one. You should also bring any other documents to support the petition as the examiner should consider other evidence besides the interview. Examples are bank statements, lease agreements, rent receipts, mortgage agreements, health insurance policies, utility bills, tax returns and photos. You should also bring your last two pay stubs and statements and employment letters for both of you. The letters should be on company letter head signed by an official of the firms, stating when employment began, salary, dependents claimed and whom to notify in case of emergency.

Types of questions that may be asked

The Stokes interview is similar to the first green card marriage interview except that you and your spouse will be questioned separately. In the weeks before the interview you and your spouse should focus on communicating with each other and spending time together. Pay close attention to the minor details of your marriage.

Stokes interview - what is the color of your spouses toothbrush
Stokes interview - focus on the minor details of your marriage, e.g. the color of your spouse's toothbrush

 

Examples of the type of questions marriage immigration interview questions that may be asked at a Stokes interview are:

  1. How did you meet your spouse?
  2. When did you meet?
  3. How long did you know each other before you got married?
  4. Where did you go on your first date?
  5. Where did you and your spouse live before getting married?
  6. Who was at your wedding?
  7. Did you have a wedding reception?
  8. Describe the lay out of your apartment?
  9. How many TV’s do you have?
  10. What is the last movie you and your spouse saw together?
  11. Where did you go on your honeymoon?
  12. When was the last time you and your spouse were intimate?
  13. Where did you and your spouse first live together after marriage?
  14. What side of the bed do you sleep on?
  15. What brand of cigarette does you spouse smoke?
  16. What is the color of the wall in your bedroom?
  17. Do you have lamps in the bedroom?
  18. What did you have for dinner last night?
  19. What is your spouse’ favorite food and drink?
  20. At which restaurant did you last have a meal together?
  21. What is the color of your spouses tooth-brush?
  22. What is the color of the living room carpet?
  23. How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have?
  24. What are the names of your spouse’s parents?
  25. What did you give your spouse as a birthday gift last year?
  26. What is your spouse’s date of birth?
  27. Is your spouse left-handed or right-handed?
  28. Has your spouse met your mother?
  29. Do you pay the water bill separate from the rent?
  30. Did your spouse sleep at home last night?

You should listen carefully and only answer the questions that the interviewer directs to you personally. Do not answer any questions addressed to your spouse without first asking permission from the immigration officer. Remain calm and answer the questions truthfully. Do not argue with the examiner.

Finally, you have the right to bring an attorney and a translator with you to the interview. In fact you are strongly urged to bring an attorney to make sure that the questions asked are legally relevant to the process. An attorney will also be able to raise objections with the examiner and/or examiner’s supervisor after the interview. Remember it is your responsibility to make sure that you attorney shows up on time as the absence of an attorney by itself is not generally good cause to postpone an interview.

If you have a translator, the immigration officer will also swear in him or her to give exact translations. It is important that the translator translate each question and each answer sentence by sentence. The translator must not explain things or answer questions on your behalf. Before attending a Stokes interview you should consult an immigration attorney as failure to convince the immigration officers that your marriage is in good faith could result in removal proceedings before an immigration court.

If you and your spouse live together and have a bona fide marital relationship you should have no problem passing a properly conducted stokes interview. But consult an attorney. Leave nothing to chance.

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How to Register a Change of Address for Foreign Nationals

With limited exception non-US Citizens including lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must notify the Department of Homeland Security of their change of address within 10 days of moving. This requirement has been more enforced since September 11, 2001. The failure to register a change of address is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or removal from the United States.

USCIS Change of Address

With limited exception non-US Citizens including lawful permanent residents (green card holders) must let the Department of Homeland Security know of their change of address within 10 days of moving. This need has been more enforced since September 11, 2001. The failure to register a change of address is punishable by a fine, imprisonment or removal from the United States.

Change of Address

 

 AR-11/AR-11SR

  • The AR-11 form is a general change of address form that changes your address within the master database of USCIS an agency of the Department of Homeland Security. You can change your address manually using a printed Form AR-11 or you can do it online using the electronic AR-11. However completing this legal requirements and submitting the necessary AR-11 forms does not update an address on any applications or petitions pending before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Individuals affected by special registration must complete AR-11SR, Alien’s Change of Address Card. Form AR-11 SR can only be mailed and cannot be filed online.

 Application or petition pending before USCIS

If there is an application or petition pending for you before the USCIS, in addition to filing form AR-11, you must let the USCIS know of your change of address according to the instructions contained on the Notice of Action form. You should give them a copy of your receipt notice, your USCIS A#, your old address and your new address.

Appeal Pending before an Immigration Judge (IJ)

In addition to filling Form AR-11 with USCIS, if you have a case pending with before an Immigration Court, you must let the Immigration Court know within 5 working days of your move by completing Form EOIR 33/IJ for the court in your particular state. Form EOIR-33/IJ is available on the Department of Justice website. Giving notice to the court Form EOIR-33/IJ is not the same as giving notice to the Department of Homeland Security, DHS. The foreign nation with a pending case before an immigration court should also give separate notice to the DHS using form AR-11. 

Appeal Pending before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA)

If you there is an appeal pending for you with the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA), in addition to filing Form AR-11 with USCIS, you must let  the BIA know within 5 working days of your move by completing Form EOIR 33/BIA. You cannot let the BIA know of a change of address electronically. Form EOIR 33/BIA is available on the Department of Justice website. Giving notice to the BIA on Form EOIR-33/BIA is not the same as giving notice to the Department of Homeland Security, DHS. The foreign nation with a pending case before the BIA should also give separate notice to the DHS using form AR-11.

 If you have any questions about change of address or a failure to register change of address (an immigration violation) please consult an immigration attorney of your choice.

 

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Backdating passport stamps

Non-US passport holders (holders of green cards and non-immigrant visas) who illegally “backdate” or “back-stamp” their foreign passports to forge their actual physical presence in the United States are subject to removal and cancellation of their US visas.

The illegal practice of backdating arises because visitors who spend too much time in the States may be thought of as having immigrant intent, and permanent residents who spend too much time outside the U.S. may be deemed to have abandoned their U.S. Permanent Resident status.

I have a 10-year multiple B-1/B-2 visa. I entered the U.S., and was given six months by the Immigration Officer at the airport, but overstayed by only a few years.  

I would like to take a brief trip to Jamaica, in order to visit my family, but I need to return for my job. I was told that if I “back date” or “back stamp” the immigration entry date to Jamaica in my passport, to cover up that I overstayed, that I won’t have any problems.

Non-US passport holders (holders of green cards and non-immigrant visas) who illegally “backdate” or “back-stamp” their foreign passports to forge their actual physical presence in the United States are subject to removal and cancellation of their US visas.

Passport Stamps

 

The illegal practice of backdating arises because visitors who spend too much time in the States may be thought of as having immigrant intent, and permanent residents who spend too much time outside the U.S. may be deemed to have abandoned their U.S. Permanent Resident status.

A non-immigrant who backdated his passport may face the cancellation of his US visa and expedited removal upon seeking admission to the United States. Additionally a non-immigrant who overstayed in the United States for more than 6 months and accumulates unlawful presence and departs the United States may be barred from admission for 3 years or 10 years. Furthermore back-stamping or back-dating your passport constitutes fraud, and could result in a lifetime ban from the United States. A green card holder who is deemed to have abandoned his status may be subject to deportation.

Backdating is no longer effective for proving actual physical presence in the United States because the Department of Homeland Security now uses various databases for obtaining arrival and departure evidence. These include the US VISIT program under which biometrics and I-94/I-94W of non-US passport holders are checked. Though biometrics is not checked upon departure at this time, this may soon be the case. Another database is the Electronic Advance Passenger Information System, or eAPIS which allows airlines and other carriers to furnish lists of arriving and departing passengers to the Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  

The best thing to do is to be truthful to the US immigration authorities and to use your visa or green card for its intended purpose. Persons on a non-immigrant visa who want to live and work in the United States should seek advice from an immigration attorney about their immigration and non-immigrant visa options. Green card holders who wish to stay outside of the United States for extended periods should seek legal advice about avoiding the harsh immigration consequences of doing so including the consequences for becoming a U.S. Citizen.

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B2 visa extension of stay

I came to the US from Jamaica on a visitor visa to spend some time with my daughter and see my grandchildren. Three months ago month my daughter slipped on ice and broke her leg and now she relies on me to move around and accompany her when she goes out. The doctor treating my daughter said her leg will take two more months to heal but only one month remains on my I-94 form.

How do I extend my stay in the United States?

To maintain your non immigrant status you must file an application for extension of stay before your current period of authorized stay, on your I-94, expires. It is important that you file immediately. If you fail to apply for an extension before your current authorized stay expires, in the future you could be denied readmission into the United States or a green card.

The application process to extend your stay depends on the type of non-immigrant status that you have. In your case because you have B2 non-immigrant status you must use USCIS Form I-539 with the required fee and supporting evidence. The application must be made to the USCIS service center with jurisdiction for your area.

Required documentation

Original or Photocopy (front and back) of your I-94 Arrival-Departure document. If your I-94 is lost you must file and submit USCIS Form I-102 with the appropriate fee together with Form I-539.
Photocopy of your passport showing that it is valid for the period of your intended stay.
Written statement/letter

You must also submit a written statement explaining in detail;

The reason for the extension,
Departure arrangements, and
Any effect the extension would have on your permanent residence and employment in Jamaica.

I came to the US from Jamaica on a visitor visa to spend some time with my daughter and see my grandchildren. Three months ago month my daughter slipped on ice and broke her leg and now she relies on me to move around and go with her when she goes out. The doctor treating my daughter said her leg will take two more months to heal but only one month remains on my I-94 form.

How do I extend my stay in the United States?

To keep your non immigrant status you must file an application for extension of stay before your current period of authorized stay, on your I-94, expires. It is important that you file immediately.

The application process to extend your stay depends on the type of non-immigrant status that you have. In your case because you have B2 non-immigrant status you must use USCIS Form I-539 with the required fee and supporting evidence. You should direct the application to the USCIS service center with jurisdiction for your area.

Required documentation

  1. Original or Photocopy (front and back) of your I-94 Arrival-Departure document. If your I-94 is lost you must file and send USCIS Form I-102 with the proper fee together with Form I-539.
  2. Photocopy of your passport showing that it is valid for the period of your intended stay.

Written statement/letter

You must also send a written statement explaining in detail;

  1. The reason for the extension,
  2. Departure arrangements, and
  3. Any effect the extension would have on your permanent residence and employment in Jamaica.

Supporting evidence

A signed affidavit from your daughter explaining why you are seeking to delay your departure would be persuasive. Your daughter should also get a letter written by a recognized, licensed health care practitioner treating her. The practitioner should write the letter on his or her own professional letterhead stationery and it should state the specific (explained) medical condition that has caused you to seek an extension to spend more time with your daughter and grandchildren.The letter should also specify the dates involved in your daughter’s injury and that the practitioner expects the medical condition to end at a specified time.

You should also send a copy of your return ticket to Jamaica showing the date of your intended departure. You should show that you have funds to support yourself for the period of the intended stay in the U.S. If you have a job in Jamaica you should send a letter from your employer temporarily excusing you from work for the extra time you will spend in the United States.

What if authorized stay has expired?

The USCIS may exercise discretion to excuse your failure to apply before the end of your authorized when;

1.the delay was due to extraordinary circumstances beyond your control

2. the delay is right for the circumstances

3. you have not violated your non-immigrant status in other ways (e.g. unauthorized work)

4. you are still a good faith visitor to the United States, and

5. you are not in deportation or removal.

Processing time and effect of prompt application

The processing time for I-539 applications can take up to 3 -4 months. The time in which your application is pending will continue your authorized stay in the United States. The current filing fee for a Form I-539 application is available here. If USCIS approves your extension of stay application it will do so in six month increments.

Online Resources

B Visa Refusal Rates by Country

 

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