For the most of 2019, we have seen the administration tighten its policies on immigration through a series of policy changes and Attorney General rulings. Interestingly, though, USCIS issued a Policy Alert late last week that may be beneficial to conditional permanent residents who have now married someone else, particularly those whose residence has been "terminated" by USCIS and who are now awaiting court proceedings. Up until recently, the government has maintained that USCIS could not adjust the status of such a person, even if married to someone else and prima facie eligible to adjust, because an Immigration Judge needs to formally terminate that person's status (and hence, officially revoke that person's permanent residence.) This position has always created a tension with the seminal case regarding these circumstances, Matter of Stockwell, but in any case, this has been the reality for a few years now. Fortunately, USCIS appears to be relaxing this strict policy and allowing itself to adjudicate these types of cases under certain circumstances. According to the policy amendments, USCIS may now adjust the status of a conditional permanent resident whose status has been terminated by USCIS if
USCIS recently clarified that lawful permanent residents applying to naturalize on the basis of marriage to a US Citizen must not only demonstrate "living in marital union" with their spouse three years immediately prior to filing, but also that termination of the marriage at any time prior to the Oath of Allegiance renders an applicant ineligible under section INA 319(a). We have seen this second provision being strictly applied to deny naturalizations applications where the applicant divorces after passing the examination but prior to the oath ceremony. Practically speaking, this may not affect residents in states that administer the oath the same day as the interview, such as New Jersey. In general, however, most states regularly schedule the oath ceremony many months after the applicant has passed the examination. This gap can, in some cases, be quite long, especially if background checks are being conducted, an officer needs to look into something, or on occasion, neglects to finish reviewing the file. In the interim, an applicant's marital situation may rapidly deteriorate and the couple may seek a quick dissolution. Unfortunately, if this occurs prior to the oath, the applicant has technically fallen outside the boundaries of INA 319, the section of the law that allows green card holders to apply after only three years marriage to a US Citizen (versus the normal requirement of five years permanent residence prior to becoming eligible). This is one reason why applicants are expected to review and complete a questionnaire on the day of the oath verifying that certain information has not changed, ie., address; arrests; trips outside the US; and in this case, marital status.