Full Interview with Immigration Attorney & Author Skyler Anderson
Author of "The Right Way: A Novel" (Amazon)
Immigration cases may seem straight forward. Many think that you just fill out an application and mail it in. But that couldn’t be further from the truth. These types of cases require heavy legal work and knowledge of legal nuances. Anyone can file an application but it takes the right attorney to use the necessary knowledge and expertise to help the client in every step. An example of this fact is what happened with a recent client's case:
I had a young woman come to my office for a consultation. She had married a U.S. citizen and obtained a Conditional Green Card. Because their marriage was new, the Green Card was only valid for a 2-Year Conditional period. When the expiration of the Green Card was near, she filed a new application for Removal of Conditions to prove to the immigration department that her marriage was real and that she was living with her husband. Right now, it can easily take 1-2 years after filing for a Removal of Conditions application to be approved.
The issue was that the woman was in an abusive relationship. Her previous immigration attorney told her to just stay in that relationship to avoid problems with the immigration department. Moreover, because the case was taking so long, she could file for citizenship, which that attorney had helped her do. You can file for U.S. Citizenship while the second application for Removal of Conditions is pending. This is one fact many may not be aware of.
While both of these cases were pending, the abuse and violence increased. She wanted to call the police but the American spouse said if she does, he would accuse her of Marriage Fraud to the Immigration Department (USCIS) that she only married him for a Green Card. So she just stayed in that relationship. Unfortunately, this scenario is widespread in America. Her Attorney told her not to rock the boat and to wait it out.
At the request of her friend (one of my former clients), she came to talk with me about her case. Her situation had become dire and her attorney wasn’t responding to her requests.
The first thing I said was that she needs to protect herself. There is no point in having a Green Card if she wasn’t alive. She would need to leave him and find shelter. The Immigration issues could be worked out.
Secondly, the Green Card Removal of Conditions has a Waiver exception that permits abused spouses to be approved for a Permanent Green Card if they can prove the abuse. This waiver is available even if she left or divorced her husband. Unfortunately, we did not have police reports and good direct evidence, but we were able to gather the testimonies of friends and her personal affidavit.
The last issue was her citizenship. Normally one must be a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder) for at least 4 years and 9 months before filing for citizenship. However, if married AND living with a U.S. citizen, the Citizenship application can be filed after 2 years and 9 months of obtaining the Green Card. Here the client had filed for Citizenship after 2 years 9 months but now would be leaving her husband. Many Attorneys and Immigration Officers are not aware of this exception: the Regulation only requires that the spouses be living together at the time of filing the Citizenship application, but not afterward. The only caveat is that they do not divorce before the Citizenship Oath Ceremony. In this case, the client could leave her abusive spouse but should hold off on divorcing until after becoming a U.S. citizen.
We found a solution to the client’s problems. It was just a matter of knowing the rules and preparing the client, educating the adjudicating Officer (in case they were not familiar with these rules), and preparing a strong case with proper evidentiary material.
We were ready to proceed with the case. Because Removal of Conditions takes so long, the Citizenship interview was scheduled while that case was still pending. The client and I went to the local Field Office for her Citizenship interview. There, the Officer told us that he could not approve the citizenship until after the Removal of Conditions was approved and that he did not have the training to do the Removal of Conditions interview. This meant that we had to wait for a future appointment. This would have been a complete waste for my client who had taken a day off of work and had lost her wages for that day. It also meant that she would have to stay married for many more months. This was unacceptable.
As her attorney, I was able to request a supervisor and demand that the Removal of Conditions interview happen right then and there. They scrambled and eventually found another Officer to do that interview. The Officer was stern but fair. She heard my client’s testimony and reviewed the documents and believed the client’s true story of abuse. The Removal of Conditions Waiver was approved on the spot. We then walked over to the previous Officer’s room to complete the Naturalization interview. He questioned whether she was still living with her husband. Again, I had to step in and remind the Officer that it was sufficient that my client was living with her husband at the time of filing and they were still married. After that, my client passed the interview with no issues. One month later she was a U.S. Citizen and free from the shadow of her abusive husband.
Cases involving abuse take a lot of personal energy and emotions out of me so I don’t normally accept them. But when I had this consultation with a battered woman who needed help and was not getting the right advice from her attorney, I knew that I had to help.
Today, my client lives a full and happy life in America.
- John Khosravi, Esq.
Disclaimer: not legal advice. consult with an attorney to review your individual case. Attorney Advertisement.