Hi, Carlos Batara here, in another in our ongoing series of simplifying and demystifying immigration law. Today, I want to discuss permanent residence through marriage. As I have noted in other videos, there’s a comment perception that this is probably the easiest way, perhaps the most guaranteed path, to a green card. That may well be. There is no real guarantee, but that may well be true in terms of this being an easier path, somewhat easier path. But there are some major pitfalls. There are some major stumbling blocks. There are some major problems. And in this video, I want to quickly address those. There’s five here that I have laid out that I would really like to discuss with you to make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of making any of these. The first one is that your marriage must be real. By that, I mean it must not be false. Let me give you an example of a real marriage. Now, when I was a rookie attorney . . . I was in my first year of practicing immigration law, I had a couple and I prepared their immigration papers, and they fooled me. They fooled me because it was not a legitimate marriage in my mind after the interview. After the first interview, I could tell something was vastly wrong. That it was not a real marriage. In legal terms, we call that not a bona fide marriage. I was furious. When we went outside the meeting room, I told them that I didn’t think that it was a real marriage and that I thought that they have duped me. I thought they were trying to fool the immigration service and then at the second interview which the immigration officer said that they were going to setup that really, they were in great danger if they were committing fraud. Well, I never heard from them again. And I pledged to myself that day that I would never again be caught in that situation. That I would never again be duped like that. And now, two plus decades later, it’s true. I’ve never been caught in that situation again. It was a rookie mistake. It was that I had not seen through some of the signs that I probably should have caught right at the start. But I was a rookie. No harm, no foul. They disappeared. They dropped their case. I never heard from them again. But that’s what I mean by not a real marriage, it’s a fraud. I don’t know if you heard about a year ago, a year and a half ago. There was a woman on the East Coast, and didn’t get caught until her tenth marriage. She was marrying for money. And somehow, she had gotten through the officers nine times. I do not know if she had given him different names or what, but you would think somewhere in the fingerprint process of the husband or somewhere, she would have been detected. But it wasn’t until the tenth husband that she got caught. And I am sure by now that probably all ten husbands have been deported or they are in jail. And that she is probably serving some kind of prison term. It was unreal. I read the story, and said “Ten times?” How did that happen? Real marriage. Bona fide marriage. Don’t commit fraud. Absolutely don’t commit fraud. The second one is a legal marriage. Now, a legal marriage is a marriage that . . . it’s bona fide. It’s real. But it may not be legal. So how does that happen? Well, I had an individual once who had a divorce from the Dominican Republic. And so he married a woman here, 20 plus years later, and he sought to immigrate her. Then he went to the interview, and the officer said, “This is not a legitimate divorce certificate.” Now the officer, having been trained in looking at divorce certificates from various countries in Central and South America, spotted it right away. This person thought he was legitimately divorced. He thought he was legitimately remarried. He wasn’t. The marriage in a sense was real. But it wasn’t legal. He wasn’t divorced. You can’t remarry if you are not divorced. So, he had to . . . he had to . . . they came to my office. He had to go back to his country, pull the documents, talk to his first wife, file for a default divorce here in California, and make the divorce real before ICE could come and grab his wife and deport her. Fortunately, we were able to do it. In another case, an individual came to my office. And he already had his wife and step son in deportation proceedings. Why? For the same reason. He did not have a legitimate divorce. But they had went so far and they did not even think of fighting it until way after the wife and the child were sent to the immigration court. That’s what can happen when it’s not a legal marriage, so be careful about that. You may think your divorced but make sure. And that happens a lot of people, a lot of immigrants or a lot of spouses, they just want out of the marriage and they cut out. They live in Kansas, and they move to New York. And they think the divorce is over and the other spouse handled it correctly. Well, maybe it wasn’t handled correctly. Maybe the other spouse didn’t finish paying the attorney. Something might have happened. But anyway, make sure your marriage is legal. That’s stumbling block number two. Stumbling block number three are individuals who are living here without permission. It can happen basically two ways. They entered without inspection. Or they entered legally but they overstayed. Now, in many cases, especially those that entered without inspection, unless they can meet one of the exceptions to allow going to an interview here in the United States, they are going to have to go abroad. They are going to go back home. And that raises questions having to do with the consular processing of unlawful presence and perhaps not being able to come back to US for ten years – for three years, ten years or even longer. So that could be a problem. Same thing with an overstay. Overstays – sometimes they overstay but then they go back and somehow they manage to come back in. But they have broken the period [of lawful presence]. Or they come back in, and they don’t tell the consulate everything accurately, and they are able to come back in the second time. Maybe not on a visitor’s visa, maybe on a student visa, or vice versa. And they have issues. Again, without lawful presence, it’s going to cause problems at the interview. Those are the types of issues that if you’re trying to immigrate someone through marriage, make sure you cover those. And because of these issues, I strongly think individuals should not try to do this alone. I have heard so many cases, “My uncle did it alone. My cousin did it alone.” No, no, no, no, no. These issues are too complex, too complicated, too technical that you really should see an attorney and at least discuss the issues before you file papers. And you’ve got to be totally honest. It’s that simple. You’ve have to be totally honest or an attorney cannot help you. Number Four is almost a no-brainer. Convictions. If you have any kind of convictions, you may have to deal with it when the immigrant goes to the interview. If the immigrant has convictions, you may have to deal with it when the immigrant goes to the interview. I’ve seen situations where the immigrants don’t want to reveal the whole truth. Because they don’t reveal the whole truth, they think, “Well, you know my conviction was 30 years ago. It is not going to count.” Well, no. Immigration can count even minor convictions in terms of state law – they can be major convictions in terms of immigration law. Again, this is a technical issue. This is one of those issues that individuals should not be trying to handle on their own. They really need some professional assistance to sort through this issue. And to see if they can work through it so that they can be successful and walk out of that immigration interview knowing that the immigrant spouse is now a green card holder. The fifth issue is financial support. There is an affidavit of support requirement. It’s a hundred and twenty-five percent of the poverty line. Now, this is an issue that I think should never trip anyone up, especially if you’re getting professional assistance. This has got to be spotted right away when you’re turning in income taxes. What I have seen is individuals come to my office and they haven’t – either they haven’t reported their taxes in full or they haven’t paid their taxes or that they have penalties or that they marked boxes wrong. For instance, they said they were married seven years before they were married. And so, they’ve got to amend their tax returns. They’ve got to go back, go to a tax preparer, go to an accountant. Clean it up legally. Then, you come back with amended tax returns and then you submit it terms of the Affidavit of Support. Now, even that does not guarantee that they would meet the 125% of the poverty line. But there are other ways to meet that. I mean you can get an uncle, you can get an aunt, you can get a brother, you can get a sister, you can get someone to co-sponsor you. So, I don’t believe this issue should ever trip anyone up. But I’ve seen it. People come to my office after the fact. And yes, normally we can clean it up. But it shouldn’t trip people up in the beginning. So, here’s five quick issues that you should be aware of when you are trying to immigrate a spouse through marriage. Make sure that the marriage is real. Make sure that the marriage is legal. Make sure that there’s no entry or overstay issues that can undermine the application. Watch out for convictions, and be sure your finances are in proper order before you submit Affidavit of Support documents. With that, I hope I’ve been able to give you some insight into problems that can trip you up and that you avoid them. And I’ll be talking to you again soon in another video.