- He's handled lots of cases like this, and did not show any concerns about the case itself. It is clear that Ben and I had a genuine relationship and have a huge amount of admissible evidence to support that fact.
- Timing-wise, I need to file my petition to remove conditions on my residency as late as possible (towards the end of my green card's validity) with a cover letter explaining that Ben and I are separated. Later filing should allow me time to file for divorce (see below)..
- I will then receive an RFE (Request For Evidence) asking me to provide the USCIS with a decree absolute, proving my divorce, and request a waiver for the joint filing requirement (due to NC law, I cannot file for divorce until Ben and I have been separated for a minimum of one year).
- That is where the timing issue comes in: I will have a limited time (87 days) to provide the USCIS with the documents requested from the date of the RFE. The date of the RFE is not guaranteed. It could be issued as quickly as six weeks after my petition is received. It could be months longer than that.
- If I receive the RFE before I will be able to get the decree absolute, then I'll be in a bit of a sticky spot. It is considered unlikely this will happen, but it is possible.
- If it does happen that I can't get the decree absolute to the USCIS within the time frame, I will have to write to them and explain why I cannot give them the documentation they need. I'm not sure how this works exactly, but I am given to understand that they will be aware of state-specific marital laws, and that they will simply issue another RFE for the decree absolute when it is available. I have to check on this, however. ***Update 2/25/14*** Two attorneys and the USCIS helpline have confirmed that no extensions are granted for RFE requests for I-751 petitions. If you can't get the documents they ask for in time, the deny your petition and send a Notice to Appear.
- Either way, when they receive the decree absolute, they will waive the joint filing of my petition and consider me as a divorced individual who came to the USA on a K-1 visa.
- This will mean that I will likely be called for an interview, during which they will assess whether the marriage was entered into in good faith and not for the purpose of circumventing US immigration laws (if Ben and I were still together, it is unlikely we would have been called for interview but had we been, we would have to prove that it was entered into in good faith and that we had a genuine, ongoing relationship - but clearly they will not be assessing this in my case). If the interviewer accepts that we entered into the marriage in good faith, the conditions will be removed from my residency and I will receive a 10-year, unconditional green card. Should I want to, I can apply for citizenship five years after receiving this, I believe.
So this year is going to be a little stressful. I keep reminding myself that these kind of things happen all the time (marital breakdown is hardly an unusual occurrence) so it won't be out of the ordinary for the USCIS to deal with a case like mine; that the timing while a little uncomfortable is likely to work out; that the USCIS are familiar with varying state laws; that there is no need to worry about things I have no control over; that there is no need to worry because there isn't actually anything wrong in terms of how our marriage happened (other than the resultant pain of having to go through how wonderful our relationship was when we were together - it's like breaking up all over again, and I've had an actual, physical chest pain since the beginning of the week which I am sure is associated with having had to do this).
There it is, then. Not impossible. Not unusual. And yet entirely horrible in my head.