By: Attys. R. Reeves and R. Dupont
In recent months Reeves & Associates has learned that USCIS has challenged the validity of Nevada divorces obtained by immigrants and petitioners by asking for proof of residency in Nevada. Failure to provide such proof has resulted in denials of applications and visa revocation proceedings. Based on CIS’ gross interpretation of State Family Laws, Reeves & Associates is preparing to file a lawsuit against the Immigration Service in Federal District Court seeking an order invalidating this improper application of the law. Through this declaratory relief action persons who have been denied adjustment of status or had their immigrant visa revoked because they failed to provide sufficient evidence supporting their Nevada divorce, may be able to recover their lost status based on their valid marriage to a qualified spouse.
It is no secret that many individuals in Southern California have been married in Las Vegas, and that a great number of persons have sought divorce in Nevada as well. For many people the chief benefit of getting divorced in Nevada is that the residence requirement is only six weeks as opposed to six months in California. Also is that there is only a no statutory waiting period to issue a judgment of divorce from the date of filing in Nevada as compared to California which requires six months. The USCIS now challenges persons with Nevada divorces, requesting applicants to provide evidence they had resided in Nevada at the time of their divorce. USCIS will challenge this residency even where the applicant has provided affidavits submitted to the Nevada family law court.
Although viewed as quick and convenient, a Nevada divorce may not now be advisable from an immigration standpoint. When USCIS challenges the validity of the divorce they create a situation for the immigrant for which there is no solution. The Nevada Supreme Court has held that a divorce where proof of residency is submitted may not be challenged or appealed. Immigrants in California, Arizona or other states will not be able to seek a “second” divorce from their state of residence because they must show themselves to be married before the marriage can be dissolved.
The Immigration Service’s challenge to these divorces is contrary to Nevada and California state laws and the U.S. Constitution. USCIS considers any marriage subsequent to a Nevada divorce to be invalid for immigration purposes. This leaves the immigrant stranded because with the Nevada divorce judgment they cannot engage in any other divorce proceeding which would satisfy the Immigration Service. They are left with no way out where in the eyes of every state in the U.S. they have a valid divorce and are free to marry again, yet the Immigration Service asserts that they are still married and unable to marry any other person.
In cases where the immigrant seeks to obtain legal status through an immigrant spouse, United States citizen or legal permanent resident they will be prevented from adjusting status and obtaining their green card. The specter of a Nevada divorce may also be applied to a petitioner, who has had a Nevada divorce in the past and now seeks to marry an immigrant for whom they will file a petition. According to the Immigration Service this person is not free to marry the immigrant.
There appears to be no public policy benefit or enhancement of immigration enforcement goals in contesting Nevada divorces. These divorces are clearly obtained with the participation of both spouses, and in most cases the divorced spouse has re-married relying on the fact that their marital status changed from married to single. Reeves & Associates has concluded that challenging the validity of Nevada divorces is contrary to the law and on that basis R&A will seek to stop this practice through its lawsuit which will be filed in the United States District Court shortly.
If you or someone you know has been effected by this policy of the Service it is important that you seek competent representation as soon as possible.