U.S. immigration law allows and supports foreign nationals to visit or move to the U.S. and start building their life here.

Since falling in love and marrying a foreign national is a common thing, a big part of the immigration laws is dedicated to marriage visas.

But on the other side, marriage fraud is commonly used for immigration purposes. That’s why the U.S. citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security have mechanisms for uncovering fraudulent marriages.

Making false statements, providing forged immigration documents, such as divorce decrees, or breach U.S. immigration law in any other way, can put you in deportation proceedings, removal proceedings, or you can face sentencing up to five years in federal prison.

That’s why you should carefully read this article and contact your immigration lawyer.

Eligibility Based on Marriage

If you are married to a U.S. citizen or a green card holder, as a foreign-born spouse, you can have a direct path to U.S. immigration. Still, you will not obtain permanent resident status immediately since specific requirements must be met.

Let’s see how your Nigerien partner can enter the U.S. depending on whether you two are married abroad or intend to get married in the U.S.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

A new spouse of a U.S. citizen becomes an “immediate relative” and may file the form I-130, Petition for Immediate relative to get the green card within six months to a year or, sometimes this process can take longer.

Also, you can get married in Nigeria and apply for an immigrant visa (lawful permanent resident status) to enter the U.S. The physical card will arrive few weeks after your fiancé(e) enter the U.S.

Spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents

If you are a green card holder, your foreign spouse is a “preference relative.” To obtain permanent residence in the U.S. and get permanent resident status in category F2A, your foreign spouse will need to wait for a visa number to become available based on the “priority date.” Each year, there is an annual limit on the number of foreigners who can obtain permanent residency in each category and country.

Unlike U.S. citizens, permanent residents cannot petition for fiancé(e)s.

How to Get a Marriage Green Card?

This short overview applies to all immigrants, but it’s important to know the essentials of the green card process.

The green card application process involves multiple steps and requires submitting different forms and immigration documents with USCIS and attending a green card interview with U.S. immigration authorities. During the process, your task is to prove:

  • Your status as the U.S. petitioner
  • The validity of your marriage or bona fide relationship
  • That your spouse is not inadmissible to the U.S. for medical, financial, criminal, or other reasons.

How Your Spouse From Nigeria Can Get an Immigrant Visa?

As mentioned above, if a foreign spouse is currently in Nigeria, you must start the green-card process by filing Form I-130.

After you get the approval, spouses of U.S. citizens can continue with visa processing, but spouses of U.S. permanent residents will wait approximately two years for a visa to become available.

Then, USCIS forwards approved applications to the NVC, telling you when it’s time to apply.

An immigrant visa process that the foreign spouse needs to undergo is called consular processing and includes submitting paperwork and attending an interview with the U.S. government officials at a U.S. consulate in Lagos.

Upon approval, your spouse enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa and gets a lawful permanent resident status. You need to pay the green card fee, as well, and your physical green card will arrive several weeks later.

You can visit travel.state. gov to see Visa reciprocity table showing required fee, also known as the visa issuance fee that you must pay.

When Nigerian Citizen Is Already in the U.S.?

If your Nigerian wife or husband entered the U.S. legally, they might adjust status in the United States. To do so, you need to use the USCIS Form I-485 and attend an interview at one USCIS field office.

The right locations of the USCIS office and more important links you can find on www.uscis. gov.

You must ensure that your spouse hasn’t committed visa fraud by misusing the nonimmigrant visa.

If your spouse entered the U.S. using a fake visa or the U.S. government issued a deportation notice, the best option is to contact your immigration attorney.

Don’t wait: contact the immigration lawyer Richard Herman, or book your consultation online.

Entering Into a Legally Valid Marriage

No matter where you marry, you must obtain a marriage certificate proving that it was legally recognized in the country where it took place. The same applies if your spouse from Nigeria was previously married, to now get married in the U.S. Nigerian citizen needs to obtain a divorce decree to prove the previous marriage is legally terminated.

Why a Nigerian Citizen Can Have a Problem To Get Married in The United States?

There are certain problems with immigration documents of people coming from Nigeria who want to have second marriage in the U.S. that we have been seing in the immigration practice.

If you are marrying a Nigerian citizen and want to sponsor your Nigerian wife or husband for a lawful permanent residence, you should learn some important information before starting the green card process.

Obtaining Divorce decrees In Nigeria

In recent times, USICS has issued numbers of Notices of Intent to Deny (NOID), and Requests for Evidence (RFE), challenging the validity of Divorce Decrees obtained in Nigeria.

Regarding Nigerian citizens, NOID is usually issued when a Nigerian woman or man has failed to provide evidence of a valid termination of marriage in Nigeria. U.S. government often leaves you without explaining where and how the divorce decree was checked or authenticated.

Divorce Process In Court In Nigeria

The divorce process in Nigeria starts with a petition filed to the High Court of a State in Nigeria. This petition must be personally filed on the other spouse who will be the Respondent in the case.

If a spouse refuses to accept the petition service personally, Nigerian wife or husband can receive the court order.

The Respondent usually has 28 days to file a response, after which the Court will schedule the hearing if the petition is not set down.

Some courts in Nigeria allow remote hearings, as well, intended for the petitioners who are not currently within the jurisdiction.

After the hearing, the petitioner’s lawyer addresses the Court on the integrity of the case before the matter is adjourned for judgment. If the case ends successfully, the Court issues a decree nisi (temporary divorce decree) which becomes absolute or final after 90 days.

Duration of a Divorce Process

A divorce process in Nigeria can take up to two months in customary Court when there are no contentions. Still, it usually takes at least six months without any contention and over two years, depending on where the divorce petition is filed, related facts, and the attorney’s experience.

Marriage Fraud Cases

When Department of Homeland Security Investigations (DHS) suspects that immigrant intended to commit marriage fraud, they will conduct investigation using different mechanisms.

This usually means that the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, government officials, will go through submitted immigration documents, divorce decrees, and checking whether the Nigerian citizen provided false statements.

Let’s look at one real case example so you can see how immigration judges act in such cases.

It’s a case that arose under the immigration-related document fraud provisions of the immigration laws, more precisely Immigration and Nationality Act (INA or Act). In 2019, the DHS filed a complaint with the Executive Office for Immigration Review against a Nigerian citizen, alleging that he intended to commit marriage fraud and gain immigration benefits by using fake divorce decree obtained in Nigeria and making false statements.

This Nigerian citizen, through his immigration attorney, filed an answer to the United States Court denying the allegations of knowingly using fake divorce decree, arguing that DHS had failed to provide evidence that the original divorce decree provided by him was false and that he committed marriage fraud.

When Nigerian citizen wanted to marry a U.S. citizen, he contacted his nephew in Nigeria to help him obtain the final divorce decree. His nephew seeked legal help from an assistant of his attorney general who claimed that he obtained the divorce decree from the Court.

The judge concluded that the first divorce decree was fraudulent, but also found that the Nigerian citizen didn’t know about it.

After he married his current wife in the U.S., the couple filed Forms I-130, I-485, and G-325A, along with supporting documentation, including two divorce documents: a Certificate of Decree Absolute and a Decree Nisi of Dissolution. These documents were falsified, and a Nigerian citizen used them to provide false statements that he was legally divorced from his former Nigerian wife and granted the immigration benefits of adjustment of status. When he filed Form I-751 to remove the conditions on his status, DHS informed him about these facts and issued RFE for a final divorce certificate.

Later on, he obtained the immigration documents through the attorney, but the DHS claimed he was “willfully blind” regarding the forged documents, so the burden was on proving that he believed the documents are originally issued by the Court.

There are other cases showing that you must be careful when obtaining divorcing documents in Nigeria. See more examples, such as three Nigerians living in Grambling and Texas, who were convicted of being a part of marriage fraud scheme.

They pleaded guilty before a U.S. District Judge to one count of conspiracy for making false testimony, using fake immigration documents, and mail and marriage fraud. A federal grand jury returned a 42-count charge imposing 17 Nigerian and Cameroon nationals with the marriage fraud.

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help You?

Herman Legal Group law firm has over 25 years of experience in providing legal assistance to immigrants from all over the globe.

Knowing the U.S. immigration law and having the trustful lawyer by your side can bring you peace of mind and achieving desired goal. Otherwise, you risk your petition may be denied, or even worse, if convicted for making false statements, you can be put into deportation proceedings.

Avoid troubles and contact our law firm today via +1-216-696-6170. If you prefer to speak with the immigration lawyer Richard Herman, you can also book your consultation online.

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