Marital / Familial Relationships and Immigration Benefits (Part 2 of 2)

Part 1 of this article provides MurthyDotCom readers with information and helpful suggestions regarding the importance of properly listing marital status on immigration and other filings. Here, in Part 2 of Marital / Familial Relationships and Immigration Benefits, common causes of status violations for dependants are discussed, as well as tips regarding related matters.

Remember to Extend Spouse’s H-4, L-2, or other Nonimmigrant Status

Failure to maintain nonimmigrant status is perhaps the single most devastating oversight with respect to spouses. MurthyDotCom readers have often been reminded that it is critical for the derivative spouse’s H-4, L-2, or other nonimmigrant status to be extended when s/he and any other dependants are in the United States. This extension is filed separately from the primary applicant’s H1B, L-1, or other petition. Simply extending the primary spouse’s H1B or other status does NOT automatically extend the derivative spouse’s H-4 or other status. If the H-4, L-2, or other status is not properly extended, this can result in the derivative spouse falling out of status, becoming subject to removal, ineligible to file for adjustment of status, and being subject to a 3- or 10-year bar on reentering the United States. These results can be devastating to the family’s future hopes and dreams. If one has concerns about a spouse’s status, s/he is advised to consult with an experienced, qualified immigration attorney without delay.

For Certain Dependents: No Work Means NO Work

Certain nonimmigrant statuses granted to spouses, such as the H-4, do not permit employment. While it sounds simple, the restriction against work needs to be emphasized. If one is not authorized to work, this means that s/he cannot work at all, except in a context that is purely volunteer (usually charitable or educational in nature). This means no in-home daycare, no self-employment through multi-level marketing, no running one’s own business, no cottage industry, or any other such endeavor. With respect to daycare, it is acceptable to watch a friend’s child/ren on occasion, as a favor with no compensation whatsoever. Parents often do this to help each other. It is not acceptable to have children dropped off on a regular schedule and to care for them in a context that would normally involve compensation. We previously addressed the topic of home-based businesses and the possibility of inadvertent unauthorized work in our July 25, 2005 MurthyBulletin article, Home-Based Businesses: Inadvertent Unauthorized Employment, available on MurthyDotCom.

Divorce and Remarriage

In the case of divorce, it is necessary to make sure that all the paperwork and details of the divorce are resolved before there is any remarriage. If one was married abroad, s/he is considered married in the United States, unless and until the marriage is terminated. The foreign marriage cannot be ignored and must be dealt with before any remarriage.

Avoid Any Physical Attack or Doing Harm

Every married couple has disagreements. When these occur, neither person should ever physically assault or harm the other, even if the parties cannot be kind and supportive of one another during those times. Domestic violence is taken very seriously in the United States both by U.S. immigration laws, as well as criminal laws. Criminal laws often provide for substantial penalties, including imprisonment. Immigration laws provide that persons with convictions for domestic violence can become both removable from the United States and barred from entering in the future. Arguments often get loud and neighbors may call the police, even if the abused spouse does not.

This same warning applies to members of the extended family who may be living in the household or visiting. It is a crime to intentionally cause physical harm to another person, whether a stranger or a relative. If one marries, and her/his relatives begin abusing the new spouse, the abusive family members need to be informed that such conduct is not only unacceptable, it is illegal in the United States, and can result in criminal charges and serious immigration problems.


Problems with immigration status, criminal matters, and other issues are more likely to have favorable options if legal advice is sought early. Attorneys at the Murthy Law Firm are available for consultation on any U.S. immigration matter. Contact our firm by using the Contact Us feature in the upper right of every page of MurthyDotCom.


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Disclaimer: The information provided here is of a general nature and may not apply to any specific or particular circumstance. It is not to be construed as legal advice nor presumed indefinitely up to date.