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‘Happily Ever After’ is Sometimes More Than Just A Visa Away

People all over the world want to come to the U.S. for work, family, to evade persecution, or just an overall better quality of life. Popular media has the potential to both humanize and glamorize the difficult process of gaining permanent residence within the U.S., but some lessons are worth learning from others. If you intend to sponsor a future or current spouse for a permanent residency visa, there are several factors to consider before signing the documents.

Marriage, Divorce, and Immigration

One of the benefits of marriage is that you can potentially share the rest of your life with someone you love and who loves you back. In order to protect the legal obligations of a marriage, it’s designed to be a permanent union unless you have a prenuptial agreement that enables a seamless divorce. Most people understand the severity of a marriage agreement, but when there is love and the excitement of a lifetime of happiness, it’s not easy to see the situation clearly. Add immigration law to the mix and no matter how happy the couple is, the situation becomes even more complicated.

Florida has one of the highest divorce rates in the U.S. but has declined slightly over the years. There are many possible reasons for this, but one of them could be attributed to the fact that Florida has a rising immigrant population, and statistically, immigrants are more likely to stay married. Many U.S. citizens and permanent residents understandably seek to unlock the secret to a lasting marriage by finding their soulmate overseas. The divorce rate for green card marriages is about the same as the divorce rate for marriages between two citizens, but the main difference are the added risks involved.

Risks of Marrying For a Green Card

Whether you’re bringing your fiance from another country on a K-1 visa, or you’re a foreign national betrothed to an American citizen, there are some risks that you may already be aware of. One potential risk is simply the same risk that you take no matter whom you marry in the U.S. Depending on the state, without a prenuptial agreement, a divorce will require that the assets are split as evenly as possible, no matter how short or long the marriage lasts. Some of the most common fears individuals have are being “used” by someone just for a green card, and of course the still very real fear of human trafficking. In an ideal world, none of these things would happen, however some individuals abuse immigration policies designed to protect people who need it most over petty disputes.

Some policies have been put into effect to protect both citizens and immigrants from crime and exploitation, but those policies can also be abused through false accusations. For example, an American citizen can potentially accuse their fiance of fraud, which would result in deportation and temporarily prevent their non-citizen fiance from re-entering the U.S. Conversely, a non-citizen spouse could accuse their significant other of being abusive to fraudulently utilize the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and gain a visa. VAWA enables victims of extreme abuse and battery by U.S. citizens to help them gain permanent residency without the interference of their abusive spouse. For someone who seeks to abuse the system, they could potentially reap the benefits of marrying and divorcing an American citizen, then maintain their legal status without fear of green card fraud.

Although the likelihood of extreme fraudulent behavior is rather low, the consequences could be equally extreme. Love and money have a way of getting in the way of judgment for even the most level-headed individuals. If you are considering marriage abroad or bringing your non-citizen fiance to the U.S., make it part of your plan to discuss options with an experienced immigration and family law attorney. For a consultation, call the office of Petkovich Law Firm at (305) 358-8003.


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