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How to determine immigration status of ex-wife after immigration/marriage fraud?
May 1, 2012 7:18 PM   Subscribe

I, a U.S. citizen, married a foreign national some time ago and helped her obtain conditional permanent resident status as a result of the marriage. I subsequently discovered that she had no intent of engaging in a legitimate marital relationship with me and, instead, had married me for the sole purpose of becoming a permanent resident of the United States. Upon this discovery, I filed for an annulment but was instead granted a divorce (details inside). My immigrant ex-wife will soon need to apply (via the I-751 process) to convert her "conditional" permanent resident status to "true" permanent resident status if she wishes to remain in the United States legally (which she does). I do not know whether she will be granted this status, but I would like to find out whether or not she does attain it. Does anyone have any ideas as to how I might find this out?

Some time ago, I [a U.S. citizen] brought my fiancee to the United States on a K-1 visa. We married and she subsequently obtained two-year conditional permanent resident (i.e. green card) status. Shortly after she attained that status, I realized (somewhat belatedly) that she did not intend to engage in a legitimate marriage with me and had in fact married me for the sole purpose of obtaining a favorable immigration status to the United States.

I subsequently filed for an annulment based on fraudulent inducement to the marriage. Of the three elements of fraudulent inducement, the judge found that she had made false statements to me in order to induce me to marry her and that I had suffered damages as a result of relying on her false statements in agreeing to marry her, but that there was "insufficient reasonable reliance" on my part to grant the annulment. As a result, he granted us a divorce instead of the annulment, and included his judgment of the three elements in the divorce order.

("Insufficient reasonable reliance" means that although she lied to me to get me to marry her and I was damaged by believing and acting upon my belief in her lies, a "reasonable, prudent person" in a similar situation would probably not have believed her lies. In other words, I should have seen it coming. If this had been some type of business contract, I would agree with him. But I was in love and thus acted somewhat foolishly in believing that she wanted to marry me because she loved me and wanted to spend her life with me. In my defense, I will add that she was in the United States legally when we met, and we had known each other for like three years prior to marrying. But that's really neither here nor there.)

It has now been almost two years since she obtained her two-year green card, so the time is approaching when she will have to file an I-751 to lift the conditions of her conditional permanent residence status if she wishes to remain in the United States legally (which she does). I am no longer in contact with her, nor do I wish to be in contact with her, but I would like to know whether she is granted unconditional permanent resident status or not. (It seems unlikely that she would, given the wording of the divorce decree, but who knows with these things...)

I have done a little bit of research on the web and have not been able to discover a method for finding this out once the time comes. Perhaps the government considers it to be none of my business now that we are no longer married. Nevertheless, I would like to find out what the outcome is. Do any of you have any idea how I might find out?

For what it's worth, I am not going to take any action one way or the other based upon whether or not she obtains unconditional permanent resident status. That is really not under my influence at this point, nor should it be. I only wish to find the outcome because the relationship, toxic as it was, was a significant event in my life and I like to know how significant things in my life turn out for the others involved.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (11 answers total) 16 users marked this as a favorite
 
the time is approaching when she will have to file an I-751 to lift the conditions of her conditional permanent residence status

I think you need to rethink this assumption. I think it's unlikely that she's done nothing and plans to file as if unaware the divorce could cause problems. The conditional status from the marriage bought her time, and she will have used it. She will have talked to people, figured out a plan A and a plan B, and she may already be on another track that renders this 2-year deadline irrelevant. I think it's likely that she will eventually get what she wants, but not necessarily using the path you're assuming.

(You're not clear as to whether what matters to you is if she obtains permanent residence at all, or if she obtains it entirely from the marriage)

Perhaps the government considers it to be none of my business now that we are no longer married.

Since your name is going to be on the paperwork, you might be entitled to FOIA it after the fact?

However, most immigration lawyers offer a free email evaluation (meaning they take a quick look at your question, and tell you whether you're out of luck on that issue or whether you should hire them to Make It Happen). That should firmly establish whether it's possible to have an attorney find out for you. If they are able to do this, I would think you should be able to hire one for $100 or less to do it. You can find an immigration lawyer here.
posted by -harlequin- at 7:58 PM on May 1, 2012 [1 favorite]


Note: I am not a lawyer. But I am someone that has been through the K1 process and recently received my permanent green card.

From what I can remember about my experience, she's highly unlikely to get her permanent green card. The point of the conditional status is to prevent this EXACT situation from happening - to renew her green card without you, she would have to prove that you died or subjected her to domestic violence. There's a whole part of filing the I-751 that you'd normally partake in to prove the relationship was not fraudulent. She'll probably apply anyway, but unless she has police reports saying that you abused her, she'll probably be asked in for an interview at her local immigration office, they'll examine your divorce documents and if they're doing their jobs properly, she'll be denied and asked to leave the country.

Read a bit more about filing the I-751 on VisaJourney if you haven't already. USCIS still has consequences to how she behaved, and being that there's legal documentation on file acknowledging that she entered into the marriage under false pretences, she is pretty much shit out of luck. You're very very very very lucky that the judge also acknowledged that you're an innocent party, because you could be in for some serious consequences yourself. As it is, I highly recommend you contact USCIS as soon as possible to make sure that you're doing the right thing, and that they're aware of the situation. Fraudulent marriage for immigration purposes can come with federal jailtime and a hefty fine - as you no doubt remember from the initial process.

So to actually get to answering your question: if you still live in the marital home and she's not informed USCIS that she's changed her address, you will receive the reminder notice for her to file. While I wouldn't advise you to open that letter (pretty sure that's illegal) because it will be addressed to her, they give you a month's notice in that letter and you can estimate the processing time should she file via their online tools. It's usually about six months before the non-resident either gets an interview or a confirmed automatic green card through the mail.

But honestly: as soon as USCIS confirms you're legally safe, let her go dude. If she manages to get past immigration officials even after this (and I really don't think she will)... who cares. She's a bad person with a bad record, you're better off without her and I'm really sorry you had to go through this. People like that make immigration so much harder for the rest of us. Hopefully things are working out better for you now.
posted by saturnine at 8:02 PM on May 1, 2012 [10 favorites]


Generally, the government does not consider it the business of a divorced couple to know anything about each others' legal business unless there are kids involved or issues related to the divorce proceedings. Short of hiring a private detective, I don't think that you will ever find out (and even then, the detective may not be able to help you).

Having said that:

Does she have a job? Would the company that she works for be willing to say that she is necessary for the job and it could not be filled easily by an American? (aka: are they willing to sponsor her?)

Is she seeing anyone else romantically? (aka: your replacement)

Is she the type of person who would "disappear" and live here illegally?

Once you get into America, there are many many ways to stay here if you are resourceful enough and/or don't have an issue with taking possibly illegal or romantically manipulative measures. If she wants it bad enough, she will find a way.

What I would consider doing is talking to an immigration lawyer to makes sure that she can't use you further in any unforeseen way, then remove her from your life entirely. Act as if she never existed, forgive yourself for being fooled and/or manipulated, and stop trying to figure out what happens to her now that she is gone. Work on healing from this tragic and heartbreaking situation. You need to take care of yourself.

(hint: tracking her actions will just make you feel even worse. If she does find a way to become a citizen, your pain will only increase from finding out).
posted by Shouraku at 8:11 PM on May 1, 2012


*they're (damn auto spell check)
posted by Shouraku at 8:29 PM on May 1, 2012


My immigrant ex-wife will soon need to apply (via the I-751 process) to convert her "conditional" permanent resident status to "true" permanent resident status

She was actually eligible to file the I-751 with a waiver as soon as the divorce was made final; the strict two-year renewal window doesn't apply here. (Whether she'd do so given what's on the order is another matter.) You're also presumably still the signatory to an affidavit of support, so the government considers her status at least partly your business, to the extent that you're on the hook if she becomes a public charge.

I think you have a legitimate interest if you have reason to believe that your ex-wife may attempt to file the I-751 fraudulently -- that's to say, file it jointly and forge your signature -- and there's reason enough. So I'd agree with saturnine that you contact USCIS with a copy of the divorce order to make them aware that if she does file for removal of conditions, it's on her own. You might not find out what happens to her, but it covers your own back.
posted by holgate at 8:30 PM on May 1, 2012


I only wish to find the outcome because the relationship, toxic as it was, was a significant event in my life and I like to know how significant things in my life turn out for the others involved.

if you're looking to protect yourself, go right on ahead. that makes perfect sense - however, if the statement quoted above is really your goal, then i think you should let this go. relationships end and when they do it should be up to the other party if they want to let you in on what's going on with them. if you want to know how her life has turned out, you should ask her. if you don't want to, or can't, do that, then it's sort of shady to go digging around for that info just because you know there's a paper trail.
posted by nadawi at 9:22 PM on May 1, 2012 [3 favorites]


[Folks, going forward: this isn't a request for general advice, but a specific question about how to find a specific piece of information. You don't have to answer, but if you do answer, please address the question.]
posted by taz at 11:21 PM on May 1, 2012


I'm pretty sure that USCIS should consider her immigration status your business, because when she got her conditional permanent residency, as holgate mentions, you would have signed an affidavit of support.A summary of what this means:

When you sign the affidavit of support, you accept legal responsibility for financially supporting the sponsored immigrant(s) generally until they become U.S. citizens or can be credited with 40 quarters of work. Your obligation also ends if you or the individual sponsored dies or if the individual sponsored ceases to be a permanent resident and departs the United States.

Note: Divorce does NOT end the sponsorship obligation.

If the individual you sponsored receives any "means-tested public benefits," you are responsible for repaying the cost of those benefits to the agency that provided them. If you do not repay the debt, the agency can sue you in court to get the money owed.


Given these obligations, it may be possible for you to find out if she is still under your sponsorship, which would at least tell you that she's still legally in the country - I would ask an immigration attorney how to find this out (I assume that you know one from when you filed all the original paperwork?).
posted by jacalata at 12:00 AM on May 2, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm on my second immigrant... no, really, it's weird that I can't marry my fellow Americans. My ex-husband and I divorced when he was still in the two year conditional period on his green card. Our marriage was legitimately in good faith, but I certainly wasn't going to go out of my way to help him stay in the country after he left me. (Among the nastier things said during the divorce process was that he'd rather move home than have to stay with me, so...) Anyhow, the really relevant part here is that I had no way of knowing his status after the divorce was finalized. I was never contacted by immigration to let me know either way what his green card status was.

This became *very tricky* when I then got re-married - coincidentally to another foreign national. We had to declare household income and expenses to USCIS to prove that our family had the resources to live at a certain level above the poverty line (if you've gone through immigration, you've clearly done this and know what I'm referring to). Since I'd sponsored my ex for a green card and had no way of knowing his status in the US, we had to assume that I was still on the hook for him financially as far as the US government was concerned and had to include him as a "dependent" in our household budget. The only way I could have *not* included him would have been if I had some kind of statement from him or his lawyer. Had the math not worked out in our favor, I would have needed to do this, but fortunately our assets were enough that we could claim another dependent without putting my current husband's green card in jeopardy.

Which is to say, you will absolutely need to find out her status when all is said and done and try to get it in writing somehow. Preferably from a lawyer.

Note: *our* lawyer was not able to request or obtain this information. I would have needed to ask my ex-husband directly.

From what I can remember about my experience, she's highly unlikely to get her permanent green card. The point of the conditional status is to prevent this EXACT situation from happening - to renew her green card without you, she would have to prove that you died or subjected her to domestic violence.

This is not necessarily true. If she has a good lawyer, she will be able to find a way to stay. My ex-husband was indeed granted his permanent green card, despite the divorce during the conditional period. Mind you, our marriage was not fraudulent - but since a judge wouldn't give him an annulment there's no legal precedent for fraud in this case either and I'm very sure that her lawyer would be able to argue for her to be able to stay.
posted by sonika at 5:03 AM on May 2, 2012


This comment at BritishExpats suggests that it's possible, though time-consuming, to put in a FOIA request for an ex-spouse's I-751 after processing. Throw in the question of support that sonika raises, and that's probably going to require some professional legal advice.

The reason I mentioned the possibility of a fraudulent I-751 submission in my first comment is that it appears to happen sufficiently often; an attempt to claim a waiver will receive additional scrutiny, while a joint petition with a forged signature may be given routine approval unless there's something placed on file to suggest otherwise.
posted by holgate at 8:34 AM on May 2, 2012


I am an immigration attorney. Mefi me and I'll give you my phone number and will give you general (not legal) advice on the phone (for free). The information you've received so far is largely wrong (but not entirely) and sorting it out in writing would take me forever.
posted by Capri at 2:49 PM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


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