What is the deal with Nigerian divorces?
Hi, I'm Jim Hacking, immigration lawyer practicing law throughout the United States at our office here in St. Louis, Missouri.
We are headed towards video number 600, and I think this is one of the first ones that I've ever done related to one specific country.
But we've come across a problem that we've seen over and over and I just wanted to shoot this video to, A, let people know things not to do, and B, just to let you know how things have been handled lately at USCIS.
So what are we talking about?
So here's the scenario that I've seen, I swear to God, in my office in the last 12 months, 30 times, maybe 35 or 40 times. This is the exact scenario.
Usually, it's a man living in Nigeria. He gets married. He then goes to the embassy and says, "Hey, I'm married. I have this wife. I'm going to come back to Nigeria."
So then he gets his temporary visit visa to the United States, and then he, either inside Nigeria before he comes or more likely, after he comes to the United States, he files for divorce and then he comes to America or is already in America.
He gets that divorce finalized. He pays some lawyer. There's no real hearing, but anyway, he gets the divorce decree, then he marries a US citizen sometimes well after he's out of status.
So he had an entry for six months, he stayed for three years, then he married someone that he met at a store or some other place where he's been working without permission.
He meets her, they get married, they file for an immigration benefit and USCIS says, "Hey, tell us about that original marriage that you had back in Nigeria. Did you actually get a divorce?" And they actually dig down and look at the divorce.
And just so you know, there's this great thing called the Visa Reciprocity Table, and the State Department has gone through country by country and they detail what documents are available from that country.
So they're very detailed as to the process of a divorce inside Nigeria and what has to happen is all laid out there. Basically, there's a separation period where there's one kind of a divorce decree and then the final divorce decree comes later and it has to be done by the highest court in Nigeria.
So one thing we've been seeing is that a lot of people have these BS fake divorce decrees from Nigeria and USCIS is really pushing back on those.
So right now in our office, we're handling probably three or four cases like this, where the divorce decree turns out doesn't comply with the Visa Reciprocity Table. And it seems like there's either some unscrupulous lawyers in Nigeria or just that there are forgers there in Nigeria who are charging people to get these divorces, and then they're here and they're trying to get a marriage case approved and they can't because they were still married.
So if your divorce isn't legal, then your I-130s has to be denied because the marriage, the second marriage, wasn't valid.
So if you have a case like this, whether from Nigeria or another country, because we've seen it with other countries like Kenya, but primarily with Nigeria, they're very detail-oriented and they're very much looking at the divorce decrees.
In fact, it appears that there's people at the embassy in Nigeria whose job it is to actually go out and check on these divorces. And if they push back, I guess they work for USCIS within the embassies, but if they push back and say, "This isn't a real divorce," you're screwed and you're starting over.
So if you have questions about this or if this sounds familiar, or if any of these facts fit your facts and you need help, give us a call at (314) 961-8200. You can email us at [email protected].
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