5. GOT MARRIED TO AMERICAN CITIZEN - BUT FORGOT TO DIVORCE YOUR FIRST SPOUSE
People have all kinds of reasons to forget their previous marriage (or even marriages). Such forgetfulness may happen to either the alien who needs a Green Card or the American citizen who files the petition for the alien spouse. This error could be discovered by the government at different stages in the immigration process of the alien who needs the Green Card. It can be discovered:
• At the interview for Adjustment of Status;
• At a later interview when the alien spouse - now a holder of a Green Card - applies for U.S. citizenship;
• Anytime that the alien spouse - now a Permanent Resident or even an American citizen - files a petition for a relative (child, parent, spouse);
• When somebody sends a "poison pen" letter to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) with information about the forgotten marriage.
This often happens in cases of Philippine nationals since the Philippines does not recognize divorces.
A previous marriage that is not legally terminated may cause the CIS to issue you a Notice To Appear (NTA) in Immigration Court. (To read more about Immigration Court - click here). If you already obtained your citizenship, the government can sue you in Federal Court attempting to denaturalize you.
Such results sound very harsh, but you may still have defences and solutions:
• Maybe the forgotten marriage was defective in some way, and a divorce or an annulment was not really required;
• Maybe a "late" divorce and a remarriage can cure the problem;
• Maybe you are eligible for a waiver (a "pardon") for the sin of forgetfulness;
• Maybe you and your Immigration lawyer can find a different application (not marriage based) that could be filed for you.
This is a situation where you need an experienced Immigration lawyer, to analyze the facts of your case and the applicable laws, and devise a strategy how to handle this matter.