A man came to see me yesterday at the Hacking Immigration Law. He has lived in the United States for nearly ten years. He obtained lawful permanent resident status about seven years ago. After receiving his green card, he married a woman from his home country in Africa.
The man filed for citizenship a few years back and was eventually approved. He naturalized in 2009. He filed an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and paid the filing fee. USCIS approved the petition and forwarded it to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The man paid the visa fee and the affidavit of support fee. The spouse visa was approved and the file was sent to the U.S. embassy in his country's capital.
It turns out that the U.S. citizen's wife had been previously married, yet divorced many years before marrying him. However, they had never documented the divorce and the man had never submitted proof of the divorce to USCIS or the NVC. When the wife went to the interview, the embassy official asked for proof of the divorce. She did not have it. The interview was terminated and a request for evidence was issued for proof of the divorce decree. The RFE, as it often does, had a thirty-day turnaround time.
Sadly, it took the man six months to get a translated copy of the divorce decree. By this time, the case had been denied and the file closed. Almost three years had passed and the case was denied for a mistake that could have been caught by an experienced immigration attorney.
One important mistake that people who file for visas without an attorney often make is not gathering all of the documents at the start of the process. If this man had hired us back then, we would have gathered the divorce documents prior to submission. At that point in time, there is no rush and we would have all the time we needed to obtain the documents and have them translated.
Here is the amazing part. After explaining to the fellow where he went wrong, I told him our fee to help on a case such as this. And the fee was very reasonable. Incredibly, he has decided to try again on his own. Despite three years of wasted delay, not to mention the immigration and visa fees that he paid, he is going to try and do it on his own again. I believe this to be a poor decision, but I wish him the best of luck.