If Your Wife Left You After She Got her Green Card, What Can You Do?

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Wife Left You After She Got her Green Card

It is not uncommon for a wife to leave her husband after getting her green card. Similarly, a husband may do the same. Your spouse may take legal steps, immediately, to end the marriage by filing for a divorce or may move at a slower pace by moving her belongings out of the marital home. A United States (U.S.) citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse that genuinely believed that the marriage was real may start feeling used and ambushed by the foreign-national spouse. U.S. immigration law does not require the marriage to last until death, but the marriage should be bona fide at inception. This means that both parties must have intended to establish a life when they were bonded in matrimony. So the question is: what if your wife leaves you after she got her Green Card? What actions can you take?

You, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse usually want to see the foreign-national spouse lose the green card and or be deported to her home country. It is not so simple. Once the green card is approved, be it a 2-year conditional green card or a 10-year permanent resident card, only an immigration judge can revoke it. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may refer the case to the Department of Homeland Security to begin removal proceedings, if it believes that the green card was obtained fraudulently.

You can trigger this process by writing what is known as a “tip letter” to USCIS with supporting evidence stating that you believe that the marriage was not real, at the outset. You must be careful not to implicate yourself because if the evidence shows that you knowingly engaged in marriage fraud, you could be imprisoned for a maximum of 5 years or fined $250,000, or both, if found guilty.

If the evidence is credible and the government believes it has a valid case, it may initiate removal proceedings against your wife by serving her with a Notice to Appear (NTA). Your wife will have to appear in court to present evidence to fight the allegations. You could be called as a witness to testify in the immigration case and be subject to cross-examination. Removal cases take many years in immigration court and if she had an adverse decision, she could appeal the immigration judge’s ruling, which would also add to the length of time she has to remain in the U.S. If your wife is found guilty of marriage fraud and has exhausted all her appellate options, she could be removed from the country. 

Financial Responsibility if your Wife Leaves you After Getting her Green Card

When you sponsored your wife for the green card, you signed an I-864 affidavit of support document. This is an enforceable contract between you and the government, in which you agreed to financially support your wife, so she does not have to rely on the government for public benefits. Even if your marriage ends in a divorce, after your wife obtained the green card, you are still financially responsible for her. Your wife must make sufficient income each year so that she is 125% above the federal poverty guidelines. This is approximately 13,000 per year.  Your financial obligation ends if your wife becomes a U.S. citizen, works 40 quarters, no longer has permanent resident status and has departed the U.S., is subject to removal but applies for adjustment of status through another sponsor or dies. Unless one of these events happen, you could be responsible for your wife for the remainder of her life. 

There is no obligation to do anything if your wife leaves you after she got her green card. You may choose to report her to the immigration authorities but remember that she is innocent until proven guilty. Some U.S. citizens and lawful permanent resident spouses move on and view it as a life lesson. However, you must honor your legal obligations under the affidavit of support if your spouse falls into poverty.

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