An attorney by day and Desi wife and mother by night, Bano Itayim shares insights on how marriage and immigration law is intertwined in today’s society.

I am not speaking about the institution of marriage. Marriage is a wonderful institution, bringing a couple, their respective families and the greater community to celebrate the bond of love between two people over several days. No, the above-title speaks to, of all things, immigration law, and the Trump administration’s U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, view on marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national. Now that the storm is over and you’re wondering how you’re going to bring your spouse to the United States, or how to go about adjusting their status – another storm starts to brew.

Allow me to explain. I am a proud Desi, and an immigration attorney and I have recently seen a change in how our immigration services (including U.S. consulates and embassies abroad) look upon requests for immigration benefits on behalf of foreign national spouses, and I can tell you things have changed over the past few years where we have seen the application process become more complicated, additional security checks creating processing delays and hardships, and required immigration and Department of State visa forms doubling, or tripling in length over the past year or so.

I’m not here to scare you, or even discourage you from engaging in this process. In all honesty, these changes aren’t the ones that worry me. The changes that concern me are the changes in attitude at the highest levels of our government and immigration system and those changes in attitude have started to trickle down are being adopted by supervisors and adjudicating officers, and consular officers. Kind of like an evil mother-in-law. The problem is that we now have a President who is simply hostile to immigrants – legal and illegal – and he has surrounded himself with anti-immigrant policymakers and decision-makers. Making America great again, right?!? For example, on April 11, 2017, Attorney General Sessions issued a memorandum to all federal prosecutors titled “Renewed Commitment to Criminal Immigration Enforcement,” in which he directs federal prosecutors to enforce the criminal laws. That sounds reasonable, right? He ordered Federal Prosecutors to consider for felony prosecution any case where there is a finding of fraudulent marriage, made for the purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit. Take that information coupled with the erroneous belief that 20% to 30% of all marriage-based immigration filings are fraudulent (the real number is probably closer to 2% to 3%) and you have a recipe for an immigration bureaucracy to run amok.

I am seeing clients with bona fide marriages being rudely questioned, belittled, humiliated, and frustrated in this process where immigration officers are placing hurdles in the form of unreasonable (and unlawful) evidentiary burdens on couples to prove the existence of a real marriage to their unreasonable satisfaction – including recent trends to review social media accounts by USCIS and DOS in examining the relationship of the couple. These officers are rewarded by their supervisors not for approvals, but for denials. There is a “culture of no” that has developed and the U.S. citizen and foreign spouse is disbelieved before they ever open their lips to answer questions. Where we used to start on a level playing field, now it is as if we start at the bottom of a steep hill that must be traversed before the government officer believes that the husband and wife are petitioning with noble intentions.

Why is this a larger desi problem than one might first believe? Not because there is more fraud in our community. No, it is because of long-held cultural norms and mores that support arranged marriages. Or, marriages that are entered into where there has been little to no engagement period because someone’s faith may discourage pre-marital dating. Also, when marrying someone that lives half a country, or world away, our government is going to naturally have questions; especially when there is a lack of evidence to prove the couple’s relationship. However, in this environment of open hostility towards immigrants, and overinflated perceptions of fraud, there is literally no room to make a mistake or misstep in the immigration process. Unfortunately for you, hiring an expert attorney to guide you through the process is no longer a luxury. President Trump has made having an attorney to represent you and your foreign national spouse a necessity.

Unfortunately, not all attorneys are equal. We come in all shapes and forms. Some are likely to overcharge you or take advantage of you. Some attorneys will do a terrible job representing you and perhaps not take the care required to prepare and file a well-prepared and strongly documented immigration case.

So, I wanted to provide you a few tips to hire the best possible attorney for you. If you follow these 5 steps, then hopefully you will be in a good position to hire an attorney that will allow you to enjoy this time in your life and focus on how you are going to answer the next auntie that asks you when you’re having a baby, rather than have to worry about immigration law and the application process.

First, Reputation is everything! Don’t hire an attorney that is known to take fraudulent cases.

Second, Don’t go with the cheapest fee quote. Remember, you get what you pay for.

Third, Do your research! Read reviews, look at their website. Find an immigration specialist – if they advertise several other areas of law they may not be focused on your case. Make sure the attorney is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association. Check here to find out

Fourth, Ask questions during the consultation. This is your time to ask the attorney their strategy and how they intend to win your case.

Fifth, Be wary of the attorney who makes guarantees!

For questions and inquires:

Bano Itayim

Associate Attorney

Slowik & Robinson, LLC

Phone: 614-884-4800 or toll free at 800-296-8479




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