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Family law and immigration rules sometimes intersect

In Pennsylvania, the federal immigration laws impact many married couples. For example, it is a common event for a United States citizen to meet and marry a person from a foreign country. In most instances, family law principles and immigration law provisions will validate and recognize the marriage.

The process does require voluminous paperwork that must be submitted to federal immigration authorities. The marriage will be looked at initially for signs of collusion to evade the immigration laws. In most cases, even if the marriage took place in the United States, the foreign citizen will have to return to his or her country and be re-admitted with the proper visa. There may be a few exceptions to that procedure if the foreign resident was already approved for a long-term residency or special visa status in this country.

For the majority, the U.S. Consular Office in the foreign country will investigate and approve or deny the attempt of the foreign spouse to re-enter the country on the marital papers and the citizen’s petition on behalf of his or her foreign spouse. After what is almost always a long waiting period, the foreign spouse will most of the time be admitted to reside in the marital union with his or her citizen spouse.

That approval opens the way for the foreign spouse to apply for and obtain permanent residency here. However, all marriages are vulnerable to changing ways and growing apart. When that happens during the early years after the visa approval, immigration authorities will make another investigation to determine if the marriage was a scam.

The Pennsylvania family law provisions for divorce will be followed by the parties and enforced by the state. At the same time, the parties will be interviewed by immigration officials to look again at whether the marriage was real or fraudulent. Where the parties lived together for a lengthy period, owned assets jointly, had children and engaged in social activities together, immigration authorities will usually accept that the marriage was valid. The foreign spouse will be approved for permanent residence or the already-issued permanent residence will be confirmed.

Source:, “Divorce won’t lead to spouse being deported if the marriage was real“, Allan Wernick, Aug. 3, 2017

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Louis Emmi

Louis Emmi