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If Your Divorce Abroad is Not Final Can You Marry in the US?

Welcome back to the Immigration Lawyer Blog, where we discuss all things immigration. In this video, attorney Jacob Sapochnick discusses a frequently asked question: can someone who is in the process of getting divorced overseas re-marry in the United States before that divorce is final?

Overview:

In many foreign countries the process of getting divorced is a very long and tedious process with many divorces taking many years to come to a final conclusion.

Many clients are left wondering whether they can lawfully re-marry in the United States while their divorce process is pending overseas, so that they can move on with their lives and apply for adjustment of status based on their marriage in the United States.

Unfortunately, you may not lawfully re-marry in the United States until all prior marriages have been terminated. A prior marriage is terminated when divorce proceedings come to a conclusion. A prior marriage is terminated by a government order or decree of dissolution of marriage issued by the appropriate authority in the country where your divorce proceedings took place. If you have not received a final order or decree of dissolution from such an authority, your prior marriage has not been terminated.

Filing a petition for adjustment of status while you remain married to someone else, even in a foreign country, carries with it very serious legal consequences.

If, at the time of your adjustment of status interview, the immigration officer discovers your prior marriage to your foreign spouse, your marriage in the United States and your petition for adjustment of status will be considered null and void. Furthermore, you may be subject to removal from the United States and/or charged with serious immigration violations such as fraud or willful misrepresentation that will prevent you from obtaining future immigration benefits.

Even in the situation where immigration grants your green card because they did not discover your prior marriage, your green card may be rescinded in the future, if immigration discovers the truth in future applications for example when applying to remove your conditions on permanent residence or when applying for citizenship.

Thus, prior to re-marrying in the United States and filing for adjustment of status, all prior marriages must be lawfully terminated.

Accordingly, at the time of filing your application for adjustment of status, you must include a copy of all final orders/decrees of dissolution for all prior marriages, as evidence that you are free and clear to re-marry. This is a very important requirement that is very often dismissed by applicants. This requirement applies even if the prior marriage occurred outside the United States and even if the prior marriage was a “religious” marriage. As long as the prior marriage was recorded, you must provide a final order/decree of dissolution for each prior marriage.

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