I-360 VAWA and I-130 Green Card Clients Can Divorce Within One Year

Does the parable of the tortoise and the hare, the persistent overwhelming the impetuous, still apply?  A president was elected in 2016 without a month of experience as a government worker. Videos of risk takers are the most popular. Gen Z and millennials would rather take a dream trip than buy a house. Wherever one looks, it seems that fortune favors the bold, the quick, and the impetuous. At one time, 50-year marriages seemed a long-range marker of a successful life, but does that still apply when parts of the planet may not last 50 years? This author has successful green card clients (several) who divorced within a year of marriage.

Long Term Intent and Living Together

Immigration law says that a marriage must be valid (not a sham marriage) for a noncitizen to get an I-485 green card based on that marriage. Likewise, an abuse survivor must be in a valid marriage to get an I-360 (Petition for Amerasian, Widow(er), or Special Immigrant) VAWA green card or I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) Green Card. The law lets the US Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) decide what is a valid marriage.  As if letting federal government workers answer romantic questions were not bad enough, each USCIS officer has the power (known as discretion) to make different decisions for different people. In one case, proof of living together for 5 months may be insufficient, resulting in an I-485 residency application denial. In another case, an I-485 residency approval may be granted for couples that lived together – as a married couple – for one night. Yes, one night. Success depends on the quality of the immigration attorney more than the quantity of married nights.

Not Everyone is Meant for a Long Marriage

Marriage is a contractual obligation to join two persons’ finances. It is not the happy ending of a rom com. Because over half of Americans divorce, Immigration is accepting a different definition of a valid marriage: a couple who join their futures. Without plans for a joint home or a joint ranch of chinchillas, a couple is dating.

Some, like me, may not even be meant for a long marriage. That is what the Vatican said, anyway, when they confirmed the annulment of my 14-year marriage. I only want to remain in a relationship so long as both persons are good for each other.  When one walks on eggshells around the other, it is time to “pull chalk” (as Marines say). But I represent clients despite short marriages because I know that even after divorce and separation, love continues. That’s valid.

Disclaimer – These entries are based on real life events. Family member names, when used, are real. Client names are changed for privacy.

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