I-751 Removal of Conditions in Troubled Marriages09 Mar 2016
If a foreign national applies for permanent residence status based on marriage to a U.S. citizen, and the marriage is less than two years in duration at the time the green card is approved, the foreign national will be issued conditional permanent resident status valid for two years. Prior to the end of that two-year period, the beneficiary must file form I-751 with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to request removal of the conditional status. (i.e. S/he must apply for a permanent green card.) In most situations, this process is relatively straightforward. However, if the couple has divorced or separated, or is experiencing other serious problems in the relationship by the time the foreign national spouse must apply to have the conditions removed, this can make for a difficult case. In these situations, the Murthy Law Firm utilizes a range of strategies to assist our clients in getting their I-751s approved.
Conditional Status Protects Against Fraud, but Law Recognizes Possibility of Legitimate Marital Problems
The legal standard to qualify for a green card based on marriage to a U.S. citizen is that the marriage must have been bona fide at inception. The purpose of granting only conditional permanent resident status in these marriage-based cases is to protect against fraud. The removal of conditions process provides the USCIS with an additional opportunity to ensure the case was truly based on a legitimate marriage.
If a couple splits up within the first two years, this certainly tends to raise red flags with the USCIS. But, the law accommodates the possibility that marriages intended as a lifetime commitment may sometimes fail quickly. So, if the marriage is troubled, it is still possible to get the I-751 approved, provided the marriage was not entered into just to obtain immigration benefits.
Look Below the Surface in Difficult I-751 Removal Cases
Some I-751 cases are fairly straightforward even after a marital termination. If the couple’s history together includes a shared life, joint residence, merged finances, and other indicia of a genuine marriage, the case can go smoothly. Cases in which a marriage fails early on, or where the couple never really unified their lives, are more challenging.
When faced with a marriage history not meeting the typical mold, it is important to look below the surface. In assessing what may seem questionable at first, it is important to consider factors such as culture, family dynamics, and immigration timelines that may account for the lack of standard evidence.
Challenges of Filing I-751 when Couple Does Not Reside Together
Most married couples live together. Proof of a shared residence is an important element in most marriage-based green card and removal-of-conditions cases. However, in some unusual cases, the Murthy Law Firm has been able to obtain I-751 approvals for couples who never actually lived together or only did so briefly. Often, these cases involve people who cannot move easily, such as when one spouse is attending university in one state, while the other spouse is employed in another. In some difficult I-751 cases, the marriage involves a person living overseas. The couple typically plans to eventually share a residence, once circumstances permit, but then problems arise in the marriage before the move occurs.
Not all situations without a shared residence can be justified as being consistent with a genuine marriage. But, by examining the case-specific reasons for the lack of a unified home, along with the evidence to support such arguments, it may be possible to overcome this weakness in an I-751 case.
Impact of Cultural Pressure to Get Married
Many of our clients come from cultures where marriages are largely arranged between the parents of the couple. In some families, significant pressure exists to marry a particular individual who meets the parents’ cultural ideals as a good match. Oftentimes, the couple does not know each other well, but they trust the judgement of their respective parents. Many such marriages thrive. There are times, however, when an arranged marriage is entered into by a couple intending to create a lifelong bond, for whom the relationship just never “meshes” and the marriage fails quickly. In such cases, we turn to the origin of the relationship as being consistent with the culture of the couple. Even when a marriage was clearly ill fated and should have been called off, we have established that the motivation for the marriage was cultural family expectations, rather than immigration benefits.
Legal Status of Parties and Other Ancillary Factors
If a marriage was entered into genuinely, a lack of standard evidence potentially can be overcome with evidence of behavior consistent with a bona fide marriage. We look to sacrifices for the benefit of the marriage. We consider the individual’s immigration status and available immigration options at the time of the marriage. The bottom line, even in the most unusual situations, is illustrating that the marriage was entered into for reasons other than to gain immigration benefits.
The Murthy Law Firm has years of experience with providing successful representation in I-751 removal-of-conditions cases. Those in need advice of about these filings are encouraged to schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys.
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