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There are countless blossoming romances happening right now all around the world.  Many of those relationships involve couples who have large age differences, religious differences, cultural differences, and more.  Often, U.S. citizens fall in love with and marry people from other countries.  The process of obtaining a greencard (officially known as a Lawful Permanent Resident card) for that spouse should be easy.  But it’s not.  Even if the marriage is clearly real, the non-citizen spouse can be denied a greencard if you do not submit sufficient evidence that the marriage is real.


What do I have to prove in order to get my non-citizen spouse a greencard?


The process is different depending on your circumstances (i.e. is your spouse in the country or out of country), but one thing is always required.  If you are filing a petition with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) to establish your relationship to your spouse, you will have to prove that the marriage is “bona fide.”  In other words, you have to prove that your marriage is real.  It was not entered into for the sole purpose of evading the immigration laws.  This doesn’t mean that a couple can’t decide to get married earlier than they normally would so they aren’t separated when the non-citizen has to leave the country.  It simply means that two people can’t get married solely so the non-citizen can stay in the U.S. when they do not intend to live as husband and wife.

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Immigrants throughout the United States have been victimized by “notarios” who present themselves as attorneys or attorney-like figures who take a much smaller fee than any attorney and who agree to file immigration paperwork on behalf of the unsuspecting immigrant.  These individuals often create major immigration problems for the vulnerable victims who often don’t speak English and are unfamiliar with our immigration laws.  The notarios will often commit immigration fraud or make material misrepresentations that can subject the immigrant victim to criminal prosecution and/or deportation.  Many victims put their trust in people to do the right thing and to file the correct paperwork with the correct information.  So they sign their names to the applications.  Often, without reading what they are signing. The Board of Immigration Appeals recently came out with a decision which discusses this very issue.  The BIA held that there will be a strong presumption that if you sign your name to an immigration application or petition, then you are aware of the contents of the application or petition.


What if I signed my name to an immigration application, but I didn’t read what was in the application?


In Matter of Valdez, 27 I&N Dec. 496 (BIA 2018), the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) decided the case of A.J. and Z. Valdez, a husband and wife who were citizens of Venezuela.  The Valdez’s hired a person who was not an attorney to help them get greencards.  The Valdez’s believed that the person was an attorney and pastor and could get them greencards through the church.  They paid this person $15,000 to represent them and he drafted the applications, presented the applications to the Valdez’s for them to sign, and then filed the applications with USCIS.  The applications were in English and the Valdez’s only spoke Spanish.  The Valdez’s signed the applications, relying on the person they paid and who they thought was an attorney.  USCIS granted the applications and the Valdez’s received their greencards.  Upon reentry after a trip abroad, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) placed the Valdez’s in secondary inspection and ultimately they were placed in removal (deportation) proceedings.  The Valdez’s were charged with being inadmissible under INA 212(a)(6)(C)(i) for fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under the Act.”

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I have a conditional greencard and am separated or am getting divorced from my U.S. Citizen husband. What do I do?


I married a United States citizen and got a conditional greencard.  Now, it has been 2 years and I have to file to remove the conditions on the greencard to get my 10 year greencard.  My husband/wife and I are separated, divorced, or talking about separating or divorcing.  How will this affect my greencard?


I-751 PETITION TO REMOVE CONDITIONS

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A nightmare scenario for the non-citizen fiance(e) of a United States citizen happens when the couple gets divorced before the non-citizen adjusts his or her status to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR).  The United States Citizen has a tremendous amount of control in this situation.  A new Board of Immigration Appeals decision further establishes that the United States citizen has the power to give or take away a greencard in this situation.


What happens if my United States Citizen spouse and I divorce before I get my greencard?


For the thousands of people who enter the United States each year to get married to a United States Citizen after obtaining a K-1 visa (Fiance(e) Visa, they are embarking on an exhilarating new chapter in their lives.  In love and ready to begin their lives in a new country with a new spouse, they enter the United States with the intention of getting married within 90 days and then to obtain a greencard, which will allow them to live and work permanently in the United States.

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Although a relatively recent United States Supreme Court decision held that a conviction for simple battery in the State of Florida could not serve as a crime of violence, an Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeal decision distinguished that a felony battery conviction is a “crime of violence,” at least for purposes of the Federal Sentencing Guidelines.  This means that a conviction for a Florida Felony Battery is probably a deportable offense as a crime involving moral turpitude and as an aggravated felony, if the sentence is 1 year or more incarceration.


What is Felony Battery in Florida? 


Florida’s Felony Battery statute is defined in Florida Stat. §784.041.  In order to prove a person is guilty of Felony Battery, the State must prove, or the person must admit to (plead no contest of guilty) to the following elements:

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adobe-spark-postInjunctions for protection, also commonly referred to as restraining orders, continue to serve as a potential pitfall for non – United States citizens.  Injunctions are extremely easy to obtain and little evidence is required to obtain one.  Often, a judge will issue an injunction based solely on the word of the person who filed for the injunction.  That person may have ulterior motives to obtain the injunction, for example to gain leverage in a divorce proceeding or child custody proceeding.  But once an injunction is obtained, any violation of that injunction could lead to deportation.  A conviction is not even necessary.  And even if you would otherwise be eligible for a form of relief where the judge could cancel your removal, a conviction would render you ineligible.  A recent Board of Immigration Appeals decision has further solidified this position.


What is an Injunction?


An injunction is a court order commanding you to do things or to not do things.  For example, a judge can order you to stay away from a specific person, to stay away from specific places, to go to batterer’s intervention program classes, and to adhere to many other court ordered conditions.  A person can obtain an injunction by going to the courthouse and filling out a form alleging that they are in fear of future violence because of something the respondent has done or said in the past.  An injunction can be granted based on nothing but that person’s own words.  The court will typically issue a temporary injunction and set it for a hearing.  At a hearing, the judge will listen to you, the petitioner, any witnesses and will look at evidence that the petitioner or respondent submits.  The burden of proof is extremely low and if the judge feels that there is animosity between the two people will often err on the side of issuing the injunction.  However, this can have a significant impact on any person, but particularly for a non-citizen.

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Many immigration cases can take up to a year or more during what is called the normal processing time.  For example, the local Jacksonville USCIS office has a published processing time of 8 months to 15.5 months for a spouse of a United States Citizen to obtain a greencard.  If your case is within the normal processing time, then the only thing you can do is wait for the government to process your case.  You can check the normal processing times for each type of application or petition for each office or center here: https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/: But what if it has been much longer than the normal processing time?  We’re going to discuss some options that may be available to you.


What is the first thing I should do if my case is outside the normal processing time?


You can always enter your Receipt Number into the USCIS online case status system.

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In another recent decision that Attorney General Jeff Sessions has assigned to himself, the Attorney General has foreclosed refuge for countless immigrants attempting to escape domestic violence in their home countries.  In Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018), the Attorney General overruled a Board of Immigration Appeals decision which granted asylum to the victim of domestic violence in El Salvador.  The Attorney General also overruled a binding Board of Immigration Appeals decision, Matter of A-R-C-G-, 26 I&N Dec. 388 (BIA 2014), which held that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” could constitute a “particular social group.”


What is asylum?


Asylum is a discretionary benefit that can be granted to those who:

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There are two potential provisions of law that DHS (Department of Homeland Security) use to deport non – United States citizens for prostitution convictions.  The first is by claiming that it is a “crime involving moral turpitude.”  The second, which is much more severe, is that it is an “aggravated felony.”  The Board of Immigration Appeals recently decided whether a Wisconsin prostitution statute serves as the basis of an aggravated felony.


When is a prostitution conviction a “crime involving moral turpitude?”


Unfortunately, there is no defined list that shows which state statutes are considered crimes involving moral turpitude.  When a person is convicted of a crime, DHS can place that person in deportation proceedings and allege that the conviction is a crime involving moral turpitude.  It would then be up to the immigration judge to decide whether the conviction is a crime involving moral turpitude.  Moral turpitude has been explained to be conduct that is inherently dishonest, base, vile, or depraved and contrary to the accepted rules of morality and the duties owed between persons or to society in general.  If either party doesn’t like the immigration judge’s decision, they can appeal to the Board of Immigration Appeals and then to the Federal Circuit Court.  Those appellate decisions give us specific guidance on a few specific statutes and general guidance on other statutes.

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In a disappointing decision by the Attorney General, a decision has been made on whether immigration judges and the Board of Immigration Appeals have discretion to administratively close deportation proceedings.  Matter of Castro-Tum, 27 I&N Dec. 271 (A.G. 2018) was decided on May 17th, 2018 after the Attorney General referred the issue to himself.


Why is the Attorney General making this decision?


The Attorney General has the authority to refer Board of Immigration Appeals decisions to himself to review. 8 C.F.R. §1003.1(h)(1)(i).  In this case, an Immigration Judge granted several continuances to a juvenile who had been issued a Notice to Appear for deportation proceedings.  The Notice to Appear that was handed to the juvenile did not give a date for a hearing.  Notice of the hearing was sent to the address provided by the juvenile.  When the juvenile didn’t appear for court, the immigration judge continued the case and ultimately administratively closed the case.  The government appealed and the Board of Immigration Appeals remanded the case for the Immigration Judge to proceed with the deportation proceedings and to issue an order of removal in absentia if the juvenile did not appear.  The Attorney General then referred the decision to himself.  The Attorney General’s decision is binding on the Board of Immigration Appeals, which is the appellate court that rules on all appeals from Immigration Judge decisions.