Saturday, October 4, 2014

Verifying other background matters of the person you plan to marry

I thought he was single, but he really was married.
I thought he owned that real estate, but instead his mother owned it.

In a previous blog post, I discussed ways to verify the immigration status of someone you plan to marry. Here, I discuss the verification of other aspects of the person’s background.

I have been working with a woman who received a green card through marriage, but now has become divorced. Because she received her green card based on a marriage that was less than two years old, that green card was a conditional one. Therefore, I am working with her to remove the conditions on her green card. Normally, a person must be married in order to do so, that is, both spouses must file this petition. However, under certain conditions, a divorced person can petition for a waiver of this joint filing requirement, and we are seeking such a waiver.

The two statements above are statements my client made to me. That is, she believed, prior to her marriage, that her ex-husband owned not only the building where he conducted his business, but also a home he said he bought for them. In addition, she believed that he was single prior to their marriage. In fact, however, he did not own either the building or the home. Rather, his mother did. Furthermore, during their time prior to marriage, the man actually was still married to someone else.

Here are some things the woman could have done differently, and things you may wish to consider as well:

-          Verifying ownership of real estate
Generally speaking, ownership of real estate is public information, and is usually available from a county or state government tax office or department. Due to privacy concerns, you might not be able to get information about addresses of property that particular person might own. However, you still should be able to get information about the owner of a particular property at a given address. In the woman’s case, therefore, she might have been able to confirm the owner of the business building and the home, assuming she had both addresses.

-          Verifying income
To verify income, you could ask the other person to show you pay statements or W-2 forms from the person’s employer. Alternatively, although it involves more effort, you could ask the person to ask his or her payroll department to send you a letter with that information.
You can get even more detailed information about the person from a tax return. In particular, a taxpayer can request, from the Internal Revenue Service, a transcript of his or her federal tax return for a given year

-          Verifying credit history
Three agencies—Experian, Equifax and TransUnion—collect credit information about individuals and summarize that information via a number between 300 and 850. This score, known as a FICO score (named after the Fair Isaac Corporation, which developed the score), rates a person’s credit-worthiness. The higher the score, the better the person is viewed risk-wise. Nothing prevents you from asking the other person to request his or own credit report, with score, then giving that report to you.

-          Verifying marital status
Before marrying her now ex-husband, my client had been dating him. At the time, she believed that he was single, but later learned that he actually was still married.
A man who claims to be single, but who actually is married, can exhibit one or more of the following behaviors or traits:
o   Marks or tan lines on the ring finger
Married men generally will wear a wedding ring on the fourth finger of the left hand.  The ring generally will be plain gold or silver. If such a man wanted to conceal his married status, the easiest way would be simply to remove the ring. However, even after doing so, evidence of the ring often remains, in the form of indentations or a lighter shade of skin from lack of tanning. Therefore, seeing such things is a fair indication of a married man who is trying to hide that fact.

o   Requesting that he not be called, rather that he be the one that calls
If the man insists that he be the one to call you, and that you should never call him, beware. Such behavior could mean that he doesn’t want to risk the chance that you will call when his wife is around.

o   Speaking in a low voice when calling
If the man speaks in a low voice during the call, he may be trying to conceal the call from his wife.

o   Having family sounds in the background when calling
When he calls, listen for background sounds such as voices of children or of a woman. Particularly listen for a woman’s voice as she calls for the man. Such sounds and voices could indicate that the man has a wife and family.

I hope that by following the above points, you can avoid the situation my client encountered.

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun,, 215-983-3723

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Verifying the immigration status of the person you plan to marry

Husband to wife: “Um, I actually don’t have legal status here in the U.S.”

These probable words led that wife to hire me for her divorce. They had gotten married a few years earlier, with a joyous and elaborate church ceremony, after a period of courtship. She had been in H-1B status and he had said that he had F-1 status. Later, after a few years of marriage, she began to apply for a green card, and needed evidence of her husband’s status. When, after numerous requests, she failed to get that evidence, she finally confronted her husband and learned the truth.  

This woman erred in failing to confirm the man’s status before marrying him. If you are in the same situation—that is, you are in a non-immigrant status and you are seeking to marry someone, this woman’s situation has lessons for you. In this blog post, I will discuss ways to confirm someone’s status, unromantic though it may be. In future blog posts, I will discuss the issue of verifying a person’s assets and marital status, and the importance of preserving evidence of a good-faith marriage.

The most important aspect of any marriage between people who are not both U.S. citizens is that the marriage be bona fide. That is, purpose of the marriage cannot be to evade U.S. immigration laws. Entering into a fraudulent marriage can carry severe penalties, including removal from the United States and, for a naturalized U.S. citizen, the loss of citizenship.
Assuming, therefore, that your intended or possible marriage is bona fide, you still might want to verify the other person’s status. Below are ways to do so.

U.S. citizen

A person who is a U.S. citizen might be able to show any of the following evidence of such citizenship:
-          A U.S. passport
-          A certificate of citizenship
-          A naturalization certificate
-          A birth certificate that shows a birth within the United States

Someone could have been born outside the U.S. and have a certificate of citizenship, but not have a naturalization certificate. U.S. immigration law provides that such people can become citizens once certain conditions are met, that is, via operation of law. Such persons therefore are not required to be naturalized.

Generally speaking, persons born in the U.S. receive U.S. citizenship at birth. A U.S. citizen is not required to have a passport.

Permanent resident

A permanent resident will have a green card. In addition, that person might have an immigrant visa stamp in his or her passport.

Non-immigrant classifications

Someone admitted in a non-immigrant classification will have a form I-94. If the classification involves admittance for a specific period of time, then the I-94 will show such an “admitted until” date. Other classifications, including F-1 and J-1, involve admittance for “duration of status.” That is, the person is lawfully present in the U.S. so long as that person maintains the conditions of that status. Persons in F-1 or J-1 are supposed to have a current I-20 or DS-2019 form, respectively.

I never met the ex-husband of my divorce client. By the time she came to me, she already had kicked him out of their home and he already had returned to his own country. However, I suspect that that person might actually have been in F-1 status at some point, but then may have stopped his studies while remaining in the U.S. In such a case, his I-94 would not have shown his lack of status. Rather, he would have been unable to show a current I-20 to my client.
I hope you, unlike my client, do not face the same shocking revelation.

[PS I still remember one of my first meetings with this client. After we sat down, I looked at her. She looked at me. We both started laughing.] 

The above information does not constitute legal advice and does not form an attorney-client relationship.

Calvin Sun, 215-983-3723, 610-296-3947,