Spouses of United States citizens and permanent residents will no longer be given the permanent resident “green” card when their case is first approved by the Immigration Service because of new laws recently enacted by the United States Congress in the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986.

In all of the publicity about employer sanctions and legalization of undocumented aliens which are provided for in the Immigration Reform and Control Act, many people are unaware of another, very important Act which changes many of the rules for people immigrating to the United States because they are married to citizens or residents. The Act includes four major provisions:

TWO YEAR VIABILITY RULE: Spouses will no longer become permanent residents when their immigration papers are first approved. Instead, they will become “conditional” permanent residents, with permission to reside and work in the United States. Only two years after conditional residency can permanent resident status be granted. Conditional status shall be terminated if within two years of becoming a conditional resident the Immigration Service determines that the marriage was only for immigration purposes, was in exchange for financial consideration, was legally terminated, or the couple failed to file the permanent resident papers within the permitted time. The new rule affects any marriage case not yet approved.

FRAUD: An alien who commits fraud or misrepresents a material fact in order to enter the United States may be denied permission to enter the U.S. and to immigrate. The immigration laws have long had strict punishments for people who lie to get a visa, but the new law punishes people who commit fraud in crossing the border just as severely. This rule affects only misrepresentations made after November, 1986.

TWO YEAR FOREIGN RESIDENCE RULE: If a United States citizen or permanent resident marry someone who the Immigration Service has already started court proceedings against to have them removed from the United States, then the spouse will have to leave the U.S. and remain outside the country for at least two years before being able to immigrate because of the marriage. This rule affects only cases where the marriage began after. The court action and after the new law’s enactment. The purpose of the rule was to prevent fraudulent marriages entered into solely for immigration purposes, which is a serious problem. But the new law does not allow the Immigration Service any discretion to consider the facts of any particular case, so that those who lie are punished and those who marry to start their own families may remain together. This rule may change in the future when Congress realizes the serious mistake which has been made. Until then, if someone is before the Immigration Court, they may be best advised not to marry until the court case is over.

 FIANCEE VISAS: Visas will be available to fiancées of United States citizens only where the couple has personally met within the last two years before filing the visa petition. Under the old rules, citizens could file papers for fiancées to visit the United States if the couple intended to marry within 90 days after arrival. The new rule requires that the couple must have met. This change in the law can be expected to affect most seriously people coming from cultures which have long and respected tradition of marriages arranged by the family. In such cases the families will now have the added expense of paying the travel expenses of the citizen to go abroad or to hold the marriage ceremony abroad and not using the fiancé visa at all. Fortunately, the Immigration Service does have the discretionary power to waive the personal meeting requirement, but the exact details of this waiver will not be known until the new regulations are issued.

Article extracted from this publication >>  January 23, 1987