I-751 Extreme Hardship or Cruelty Waiver After Divorce
Domestic violence is prevalent in many communities in America and affects all people regardless or sex, age and nationality. Physical violence is often accompanied by emotional abuse and controlling behavior. This can be intensified when the abuse victim is an immigrant. This may not be the case for all immigrants, but many feel they have less rights in this country. An example of this is during the I-751 removal of conditions process where you need the cooperation of the US spouse to get approved filing jointly. Thankfully, you can bypass this requirement by using an extreme cruelty or hardship waiver.
First, you shouldn’t feel trapped in your marriage because you think you can’t get a 10 year green card after a divorce. Second, if you entered the marriage in good faith and it just didn’t work out – it’s okay! I’ll show you how to submit the right documents to prove a bona fide marriage.
Maria met and married Alex (a U.S. citizen) in the Philippines 3 years ago. Her CR1 visa was approved and she quickly moved to America so they could begin their new life together. Soon after moving to Florida, she noticed that their relationship had changed. Alex was no longer sweet and caring but instead, was controlling and angry all of the time. She tried to work on their relationship but he became more angry and started to physically hit her. One night it got so bad that she fled to a neighbors house fearing he would kill her. A police report was filed and a restraining order put in place to protect her. Maria allowed the abuse to continue for many months because she worried that if he didn’t help her file form I-751 she would be deported back to the Philippines.
In the case example above, Maria can file form I-751 to remove the 2 year conditions on her green card with a hardship waiver. The important thing is that she prove she entered the marriage in good faith and not just for the immigration benefit.
How To Prove You Entered Marriage In Good Faith
The term “good faith marriage” just means that your intentions for getting married were honest. There are people out there that marry U.S. citizens and LPRs so they can immigrate to the U.S. and that’s what USCIS is trying to determine. The vast majority of international marriages are entered into for love and not just for a green card.
The most important piece of evidence you can use is the marriage certificate. It shows that you are legally married to the US spouse. Other types of evidence will help to prove that after you got married, you intended to live as husband and wife long term. Most fraudsters will not want to stay in a marriage of convenience too long or tie themselves financially to their spouse. This is why USCIS wants to see financial co-mingling as the strongest evidence of a bona fide marriage.
- Joint tax returns
- Joint bank statements
- Joint credit card statements
- Life insurance policies
- Auto insurance policies
- Joint apartment lease
- Joint mortgage/deed to home
- Wedding photos
- Birth certificate of children together
The above documents should have both your names on them to help your case. USCIS will accept any other types of joint documents such as joint Costco cards, vet bills, medical bills, utility bills. These types of documents don’t have to have both names on them but it will show that each of you gets bills coming to the same location.
If you don’t have this type of evidence it will be difficult to show that you had a genuine marriage but not impossible. In many abuse cases, the US spouse controls the household finances and refuses to put the immigrants name on anything. If this is the case, include an explanation of this behavior as a reason you don’t have access to this type of evidence. USCIS understands that abusers tend to be controlling and rarely allow the victim access to sensitive financial documents.
Red Flags USCIS Looks For In Marriage Fraud
There are a number of things the USCIS looks for during an investigation. Marriage fraud is one of them. Because they have done so many interviews and reviewed many cases, they are familiar with the most common situations where fraud is likely.
- Big age difference
- Couple isn’t able to speak the same language
- Extreme difference in cultural and ethnic backgrounds
- Your family and friends don’t know about your marriage
- The marriage was arranged by someone other than family
- Marriage soon after a deportation order
- Different answers to questions asked to each of you at an interview
- Not living together since getting married (even if you have a good reason)
- The foreign spouse is a good friend of the family before the couple met
- The US spouse has filed previous petitions for past fiance or wife
If you fall into one or two of the above circumstances, don’t worry. USCIS will not immediately deny someone a green card because of one or two red flags without letting you explain further.
Omar immigrated to the US on a K1 visa and married his now wife, Cassidy in a small town in Wisconsin. After Omar adjusted his status, he had trouble finding a job locally so they decided he would move to New York where he can use his finance degree to gain employment. They lived apart for a year before Cassidy joined him but their interview to remove the conditions on Omar’s green card happened before she moved. The immigration officer asked them many questions that they couldn’t answer. They haven’t lived with each other for over a year so when they were asked what color their partner’s toothbrush was, they couldn’t provide the right answer. This caused the IO to be suspicious of their marriage and ultimately denied their I-751 joint application.
In the example above, the immigration officer asked questions to determine whether they were in fact living together. Omar and Cassidy should have lived under the same roof as long as possible before the I-751 interview. You may be thinking that forgoing opportunities so that you can make USCIS happy is ridiculous but it’s the truth. That’s why I also tell people to open as many joint accounts as possible to produce evidence. It’s not “making up” evidence but you do need a paper trail.
How To File I-751 With Hardship Waiver
To file for the I-751 with a hardship (sometimes called extreme cruelty) waiver, you’ll need to fill out forms and the evidence above. Extreme hardship is looked at on a case-by-case basis by USCIS so the more evidence you can provide the more likely they are to rule in your favor.
- Form I-751 [download]
- Filing Fee: $680 (as of 7/2017)
- Evidence of good faith marriage
Where to file form I-751 with hardship divorce waiver?
If you live in any of the below states:
Alaska, American Samoa, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Guam, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Washington, Wisconsin, Wyoming.
Send your application to:
USCIS California Service Center
P.O. Box 10751
Laguna Niguel, CA 92607-1075
If you live in any of the below states:
Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Washington, D.C., Georgia, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, U.S. Virgin Islands, West Virginia.
Send your application to:
USCIS Vermont Service Center
75 Lower Welden Street
St. Albans, VT 05479
Final Thoughts On Divorce and Hardship Waiver
I hope that after reading this post you feel better about self-petition for the 10 year green card. You do have rights! But knowledge is power in this case. If you don’t know that you have options you will continue to be a victim. This post was meant to empower you to move on with your life here in America and find lasting happiness.
These past few years I’ve talked to readers of this blog who have gone through terrible abuse who have managed to not only survive, but thrive! Whether they have filed for I-751 with a divorce/hardship waiver or VAWA, they are now stronger for it. Immigration shouldn’t be used as a way to control someone but it often is. This is why I continue to write about these important topics because it can make a difference in the life of one reader, is worth it. That’s all I need to continue doing this.
Have you been a victim of abuse? Were you worried about loosing your green card? Let me know in the comments below. It can definitely help others out there.
Ayan is the founder of the Migrant Academy community, the My Path To Citizenship Blog and Podcast.
After successfully navigating the hurdles of US immigration. She now dedicates her time to helping other couples achieve their goals of starting their new life together in the US.