Permanent Resident Status Granted Based Upon Marriage to US Citizen Following Successful Re-Opening of In Absentia Removal Order

Getson & Schatz represented an Uzbeki national who entered the United States on a F-1 Visa. She violated her F-1 status and was placed into removal proceedings. However, she never received a Notice to Appear (NTA) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) since DHS did not send it to her correct address in Philadelphia. Therefore, she did not attend her removal proceedings, something she most definitely would have done had she received the NTA, and was ordered removed in abstentia. The Immigration Court issued this in abstentia order even though an alien may only be subject to such an order if she has in fact received the NTA. Our client never received that NTA, and found out about the order after her Form I-485 application for adjustment of status, which she filed in conjunction with her U.S.-citizen-husband’s Form I-130 petition on her behalf for Permanent Resident status, was terminated on the basis of her in abstentia order.

Following the denial of her I-485 application our client retained our legal services.  To combat this outcome, our immigration lawyers first filed a motion to reopen her removal proceedings on the grounds that the in abstentia order was invalid due to the fact that she never received her NTA from DHS. Our lawyers highlighted that she could prove she did not live at the address in Philadelphia to which DHS sent her NTA by submitting proof of residence at another location in the form of a signed lease agreement, select rent checks, and utility bills for the property. Our lawyers also raised the issue that even though DHS did not have record of having her NTA returned for failure to reach our client, her actual receipt of the NTA was controlling. An Immigration Judge in Philadelphia found these arguments to be persuasive and granted our client’s motion to reopen.

After successfully reopening our client’s removal proceedings, our lawyers guided our client and her husband through the process of adjusting her status to that of a Permanent Resident. A key element of this process was establishing they had entered into a bona fide marriage during her removal proceedings. To do so, our client’s husband submitted clear and convincing evidence that the marriage they had entered into during removal proceedings was entered in good faith, not for immigration purposes, and not connected with the payment of anything but an attorney’s fee. Our client’s affidavit stating that she did not have any knowledge of the outstanding order against her was strong evidence in this regard. We also offered the couple’s jointly filed tax returns for the years preceding this matter as support of their good faith marriage. Further, our lawyers helped our client and her husband compile all of the documentation needed to enable her to become a Permanent Resident, including securing co-sponsors for her petition. In addition to guiding our client in filing her Form I-485 with the Immigration Judge in the reopened removal proceedings, our lawyers also instructed her in filing a Form I-765 for work authorization. In the end, our client successfully adjusted her status to that of a Permanent Resident..

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