By Atty. Johnson Lazaro
Filipinos who are familiar with the slang term LQ know that it stands for Lover’s Quarrel. LQ is of course normal in a relationship. They say that lover’s fight to make up – variety makes for a meaningful relationship. However there’s trouble when LQ happens right before the interview for a green card.
To become lawful permanent resident (green card holder) based on marriage, the couple must prove that the marriage is genuine by passing an interview in the immigration office. If the marriage is real, passing the interview should be a cake walk. But we’ve encountered situations when right around the time for the interview, the relationship begins to unravel – bad timing. The marriage does not have to be a strong marriage. We’ve represented couples who were about to choke each other and still passed the interview. The key issue is whether the marriage was valid at its inception. We’ve always argued that no marriage is perfect. All relationships tend to bend and some break permanently.
To determine marriage validity one must look at whether the couple truly intended to establish a life together. To prove this, couples are asked to bring documents of marriage such as jointly titled properties, joint financial accounts, sharing health and auto insurance, having children together etc. But when the relationship is going sour, there is a real danger of failing the interview and a potential for deportation.
One very common situation is when the spouses start living apart right before the interview. Once the immigration officer finds out that they are living separately, a red flag goes up. There is an immediate suspicion that the marriage maybe a sham. We’ve seen officers become hostile upon finding out that the spouses are separate. The questioning becomes intense. However, the couple should not give up. If the relationship or marriage was valid at inception, then there is a legal ground for approval.
To overcome the suspicion of marriage fraud, there must be substantial evidence that the couple took active steps to establish a life together. If there is scant evidence, they must be able to explain why there were not able to produce sufficient documents of marriage. The couple can still pass the interview despite physical separation if they can articulate that they still love each other. If they become separated, they can still succeed if they can present a reasonable explanation for the separation. This is not going to be easy. But don’t give up. If you truly love each at the outset, then you have a case. The officer should not immediately accuse the couple of participating in a sham marriage if there is clear and reasonable explanation for the separation.
Let’s look a real case for example. A client who left his wife and kids because he couldn’t stand his mother in law made a good argument. His mom-in-law was always meddling in their business. He tried everything to save the relationship and just needed space. He moved out. In their interview, he explained that he planned to stay with his wife after they resolve the problem. The officer agreed and approved the case. They are now still married and the mother-in-law is now out of the house.
Different Immigration offices use different procedures for marriage interview. Many offices inform applicants about the requirements through letters. The notice usually describes what will take place at the interview and what the applicant should bring. A safe advice if there is LQ is to make up before the interview. You need to be completely focused. We’ve seen couples in genuine relationships fall apart due to inter personal conflict. Suspend your fight until after the interview. If there is conflict, it will show. It will show through body language and mannerism. It will then be misinterpreted by the Immigration officer. So kiss and make up and pass that interview.