True Story: I Had A Green Card Marriage

True Story: I had a green card marriage // yesandyes.org

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting/challenging/amazing things. This is the story of ‘Gina” and her green card marriage. This is not a commentary on new Americans (as I used to work with new Americans, for Pete’s sake) this is simply one woman’s story.

Tell us a bit about yourself
I am 32 years old, a graduate of UCLA, and now a single mother. A few years ago I discovered that my husband and the father of my son had married me for a green card.

How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband at work. I began working for a university shortly after I graduated from college and he worked there as well. He began working there part time as a student while studying English and quickly earned a place as a full time staff member.

He had begun managing the department copy center only a few weeks before I was hired. He was asked to train me regarding the department’s volunteer program (he had been running the program while they were looking for someone to fill my spot), which allowed us to meet officially and we seemed to hit it off immediately and began spending time together both in- and outside of work.

He was a relaxed, charming person, with a wonderful ability to poke fun at himself and I found myself wanting to spend more and more time with him.

How long did you date before you got married?
We became friends immediately after meeting and began dating less than two months after that. We often argued because I was ready for more of a commitment than he wanted at the time. After about eight months we became exclusive and a few months after that we became engaged, however, I broke off this engagement because he still seemed to be holding back.

We didn’t speak for about six months after that but then he called and asked if he could take me out for my birthday. At dinner he talked about how much he missed me, how he felt he was ready to settle down and pictured that with me, and asked if I would be willing to try again.

I agreed with a few conditions, all of which he met. He seemed whole-heartedly committed this time and I fell even deeper in love with him.After several months he proposed to me again and I accepted. Total we dated and were in a relationship for approximately three years (minus the break). We discussed having a family.

He had been told that it would be unlikely that he could have children, though surgery might improve his chances, so we planned to be married for six months to a year, then try to conceive for a year, if that failed we would try surgery/fertility treatments for one year, and if that failed, we would adopt. Eight days before our wedding we discovered that I was pregnant without trying and in spite of using birth control.

Did you (or anyone in your life) ever have any inkling that your husband was marrying you for any reason other than love?
I never had any inkling that he was marrying me for anything other than love. No one ever said anything to me beyond: “are you sure?” and since I had absolutely no doubts this never even gave me pause. I discovered much later (after I discovered everything else) that seemingly everyone knew – in fact they knew things that, had they told me, would have brought a stop to even a typical relationship.

When did you begin to suspect that he wasn’t in the marriage for the right reasons?
It took me more than a year to suspect he wasn’t in the marriage for the right reasons, though it should have occurred to me immediately. Within three days of being married (we were still on our honeymoon!) he began to act like a completely different person.He became volatile, yelling at me multiple times a day.

While still on our honeymoon he began requesting rooms with two beds, telling me that I snored and it was too much, he need a little space so he could sleep.I was terrified and convinced that there was something wrong with him. I thought that he had developed some sort of mental disorder (or had had one all along and never told me) and that he desperately needed help.

Soon I realized that this was not a mental illness but a part of his personality that I had never seen before. He began to become more and more mentally and emotionally abusive towards me and he would disappear for days at a time.After our son was born he would take week long vacations every month, and was never home between 6:30am and 9pm.

When our son was six months old it had been more than a month since he had seen him and more than two since he had held him. At that point there was no reason for me to stay, and I didn’t want my son to grow up in that household or with a man like that as his role model. I packed the bare necessities, picked up my son and left.

What did you do once you discovered his real motivation for the marriage?
I began to really worry about what was going on when I discovered legal documents belonging to my husband. He had a second social security number, second driver’s license, a (presumably fake) green card saying that he was a citizen of Mexico when he was actually a citizen of Brazil.

He had inheritance documents from when his father had died (a year after we were married) saying that he was single and had no children, his Brazilian id and voter card which he had somehow managed to keep current. All of this was neatly bundled together in an envelope along with extra passport size photos each taken with different looks (different clothes, different hair, he looked almost like a different person in each one).

Along with this he had airline miles cards, credit cards and bank cards from several different countries – the U.S., Brazil, Mexico and others.I didn’t really begin to put it all together until I spoke with an attorney and later an immigration coordinator.

Neither was surprised by any of this at all, in fact, they both said things to the effect of “I would be surprised if he didn’t have them.” Apparently green card marriages in which the non-citizen marries an unknowing citizen for immigration purposes is stunningly common and almost always ends with incredible heartbreak and consequences for the citizen.

Can you tell us about the divorce process?
The divorce process is complicated and stressful, especially with children involved. I had assumed that because my husband married me under false pretenses that the marriage would be easily annulled. My lawyer quickly contradicted me.Annulments are granted only on very specific grounds which you must be able to prove, and they can be just as expensive as divorces.

If the annulment is denied you then have to start all over again by filing for divorce and paying court fees, etc. Annulments also don’t deal with child custody, in fact if there is a child from the marriage it is almost guaranteed that the annulment will be denied.The divorce process itself can also be further complicated when international issues are involved.

My husband left the country in the middle of our divorce bringing everything to a halt. I had to petition the court to allow me to proceed by publication and was forced to take out an ad in a local newspaper publicizing our court date in order to proceed.

If he had left before the original court documents had been served it would have complicated things even further. I have heard horror stories of people who remain legally married to someone decades after their marriages have ended because one party disappeared.

In my case, I have been trying to complete my divorce for almost three years and every time I get close a new complication arises.When children are involved it can be even more complicated and the emotional stress multiplies a thousand fold.

Even though the other party is not a citizen they are the child’s parent have parental rights. In most cases they will receive at least partial custody and things like one parent taking the child to another country for a vacation or to visit family must be carefully considered and decided.

What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?
My advice for anyone considering marrying someone who is not a citizen is to think things out very carefully, ask a lot of questions and pay attention to the answers, and have a plan just in case things go wrong –even if it is not for a green card things can go wrong in any marriage.

Speak with a lawyer before you marry (look for one who has experience with both family law and international or immigration law).Look up whether the other person’s native country is a member of, and more importantly, has a history of complying with the Hague Convention (international agreement regarding child custody).

Create a pre-nup or stipulated judgment prior to marrying which outlines child custody, visitation and citizenship of any children.Know that you can marry someone without immediately sponsoring them for a green card (you can even marry them and never sponsor them for a green card), and that if you do sponsor them it is an expensive process which takes at least two years.

In short, be knowledgeable and keep your eyes open. Since beginning to share my story with others I have realized that my situation is actually very, very common, but I have also heard from those who are very happy and in love, and who couldn’t imagine their lives without their spouse.

Any questions for Gina? Has someone ever dated you for the wrong reasons?

P.S. True Story: I married for money and True Story: I’m a Surrogate

31 Comments

Ashe @ Dramatis Personae

What a heartbreaking story! My heart is with you– I know how hard my parents divorce was, and it was mostly normal circumstances. You're so strong to have gone through all of this!

My heart's with you hon!

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Kim

My son wife just did that she’s from Jaacia and they meet thru a dating service. .they have 1 year old twins she took them and we don’t know where…we are devastated

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Anonymous

what a difficult story. Good luck as you proceed with the divorce.

My only question is… why did no one tell you?! I wonder if I would have the courage to tell my friend… and I think I would, if I knew.

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Samantha

First, I'm so sorry that you had to go through all of that, but your story is something I never considered before. I'm curious about when your friends and family knew something was wrong. Did they notice before you told them or did they think something was wrong before?

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Rachael

Ugh. I had a boyfriend from another country who, after 3 years of being broken up, called me up randomly one day and proposed to me so he could stay in the USA. He offered me money. I laughed and hung up on him.
I'm sorry things did not work out, Gina. I hope everything proceeds smoothly from here on out.

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E. Charlotte

This is heartbreaking on so many levels! I would be so angry, I can't even imagine. I am glad she's sharing her story though, and educating others. It is appreciated! I wish her well. 🙂

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JJ

Wow. I had heard of marriages happening for green cards, but naively I thought that both people consented. It breaks my heart to hear your story and think of you and your son. Thank you for sharing your story.

(I've also never posted here before, but this series is lovely. I've learned so much from people's experiences.)

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Anonymous

This is such a sad and powerful story. I am so sorry you had to experience this, but I am sure you are grateful to have your son in your life. My thoughts and prayers for you both.

My best friend recently had a baby with a guy who is not American and had never been in the US before (they met in another country). He came out to the US right before the baby was born, and then just when the baby was a month old (about a month ago), she called to say that they got married. I'm so concerned for her! It's a different situation than yours, but reading this reminded me of her. He's a really nice guy, but they don't have a history together as they barely knew each other when she got pregnant.

I also am wondering why no one mentioned anything to you when it seems like they knew, but I also sort of understand. My friend waited until after she got secretly married before telling us probably because she knew we would encourage her not to go through with it. But I also don't know if I would have been strong enough to discourage her either. After all, it's her life.

It was really interesting to read about your situation. I hope that my friend's situation doesn't end like this, but thank you for sharing what it was like for you. I am sure you are still struggling with this, so thanks for opening up to share. xo

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Gina

I would like to thank everyone for all of the support and good thoughts that they have been sending my way. I wasn't sure what the reaction to my story would be and was afraid that people might judge me and think that I was naive or blind for not realizing what was happening.

I have seen some comments regarding why no one told me when they knew that he was not in the relationship for the right reasons. I have asked several people this and have discussed it at length with a few of them. Here is the heartbreaking result as one of my friends stated it: "you loved him so much and you were so happy. This sounds kind of weird but it was a beautiful thing. YOUR happiness and love were so pure that even though I meant to tell you, everytime I tried I just couldn't be the one to ruin that." Other people have also said that they didn't want to be the one saying "bad" things about my fiance and one person even said they thought that maybe I did know.

I am incredibly happy to have my little boy and to have learned just how strong I am and how capable I am of not only standing on my own two feet but also standing up to someone and fighting for what is right while doing it.

I go back to court next month with the hope of gaining full custody of my son.

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Anonymous

Im getting married in 8months to a non citizen. Who is here already. He is wonderful, hard worker and taking care of everything, weve been together for almost three years and even though hes great i cant help but wonder too. At the beginning my friends had subspitions about him but they have subsided this thought.. But if course i still have this concern running around my head.. Im already broke and cant afford what he would need to remain here. Any thoughts?

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Little redhead

I hope you get custody of your son, the man doesn't deserve to even see him. What an awful thing he did to you, I can't imagine what you must be feeling. It's scary how people can pretend to care and be loving and kind to you, and then completely switch it off. Just comes to show that you can never be sure. I heard a lot of stories like this too here in Europe, often ending with the man running off with the children, which is, if possible, even worse. I hope all turns out good for you.

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Anastasia

How terrible. Divorce is hard enough, divorce with children even worse. But this sounds awful. Thanks for sharing your story. At the very least you got your beautiful child and got out of there when you knew it was right.

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Vixie

I'm so sorry to hear your story, I'm glad you have managed to stay strong through it, and I hope everything gets resolved very quickly and without more complications.

I have a bit of a complicated situation, where I am suspicious something like this is happening to a friend of mine, though I don't feel it is my place to tell them – I might have got it all wrong and if I mention my suspicions to them they will probably cut me out of their life completely, which I would be really sad about. Even though I have no proof, just a bit of a suspicion, do you think I should mention something??? It's a tough one, but I don't want my friend to have to go through the heartbreak you suffered (even though you have come out strong!)…

Lots of love to you both xxxx

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Gina

Hi Vixie,
I think that you are really between a rock and a hard place and I really feel for you. What I can tell you is that I definitely wish that someone had said something to me.

Why is it that you question this person's motivation? If you do decide to say something to your friend it would be good to have solid examples of why you question them as a good partner for your friend. I think I would also have responded best if the focus had been on all the positive things about me – no one wants to feel taken advantage of, let alone seen as someone who is being taken advantage of because they aren't on the same level as their partner and therefore falling prey to their attentions.

Let me know what you decide and how it goes. Maybe have your friend read this post . . .

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Vixie

Hi Gina,
Thank you so much for your reply. I guess I have a lot to think about, whether or not I should talk to my friend. I am concerned that they don't know each other very well (they have met only 6 times), that the partner doesn't seem to make much of an effort with my friend whereas my friend makes the effort to visit and call and everything else, particularly financially as my friend has ended up paying for everything. There are lots of positives I could say about my friend, but I don't want to shatter their perception of love – perhaps they are really in love and I'm just being cynical, but it's not just me who feels this way about the relationship… hmm, I have a lot to think about.
Thank you again, lots of love x

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Anonymous

I am so sorry you had to go through that marriage!! I too was used for a green card. Nothing can take away the pain or horror of being used. I hope you have healed… In time I hope I do too. Much love sent your way!!

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sara

SO happy for you! I hope you meet a fabulous man who loves you both for ALL the right reasons (if that's what your heart longs for…having a "traditional" family is not necessary by any means!). I'm a firm believer in it never being too late for a "happily ever after" and the many forms it comes in, and it sounds like you were FINALLY granted it!

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Anonymous

I think Us government needs to think about this issue. I am a non US citizen, graduated from one of the top university and am working but every time I have to worry about getting visa approved, able to come back to work after visiting my own country. I am even compelled to do such a thing sometimes but again I feel I do not want to hurt other people's feeling for the sake of my own good.
SO government needs to consider this issue too. There are far more legal immigrants that want to serve this country and make a decent living out of this and all government worries about is illegal immigrants and their amnesty.

We need amnesty too. We are ready to work hard, pay taxes and create jobs. So US Government please consider this. Otherwise with your policy people like "Gina" will get suffered .

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Anonymous

It's like reading the my own biography. I'm 1.5 years into the divorce process. The mental and emotional abuse was unreal. I'm still coming to terms with it and struggle with not blaming myself.

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Anonymous

I have one better how about being married to a man for 7 years from another country thought we were married for love had the wedding in his home country just to find out that he planned the whole thing to get the Green card but really the passport to immigrate his girlfriend of 11 years who called me yesterday to tell me the news cause he was not calling her back they had a fight. On top of that I was pregnant with twins and she informed me what I had suspected that he gave me medicine so that I could abort the babies which I did and could no longer get pregnant. To add insult to injury he said all the girlfriend said was true he hated being married to me and in his country I am seen as fat and that everyone knew that he married me for the passport. I am still in another country can't leave cause I am in debt scared that if I return to the US they will send me to jail for the 100,000 USD I owe and he is still living at the house with me rent free. I am in a mess can't get out of it and I am not some dumb kid. This can happen to anyone. I don't know how to stop him from getting his passport so far he can't get it because he has to live in the States for 3 years and we have never lived there but he can at some time. I just want to get back on US soil and then I think I can figure it out and get help to keep him away from me and the US. By the way not saying all Arabic men are this way but I would stay clear of them or at least get to know them better. We also did not get married in so hideaway we got married in his home country in a large wedding with his entire family and friends. But he knew he had to do it this way to get pass immigration.

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nizhonichica2005

Same thing happed to me. My husband from juchitlan jalisco mexico. I'm currently working with ICE & divorce attorney. He used my son then 4 to help get green card. He said in interview he wanted to be a family man and father to my son. After getting green card he threw me and my son out of home and abandoned us.

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Jenny

This is a very old post, I wonder if the original poster ever checks it? I’d really like to know how it turned out.

Same thing happened to me. I was courted, dined, and I was IN LOVE! Everything moved at my pace, and it was perfect. We got engaged and filed my sponsorship, married and the day after he got his work permit everything spiraled downhill.

Just like OP he was screaming at me daily and emotionally abusive.

I moved out, and he said he wanted to work things out, we would go to counseling, he would be a better man. So I agreed and we went to the interview. I found out I was pregnant (I wanted a baby, he never wanted one- but hey I wanted a baby!)

And tried to go to counseling with him, still lived in two spots. He got worse and worse. He got his green card, finally, and that was when he became PHYSICALLY abusive. I blamed alcohol, but then he finished getting evberything (drivers license, etc, he needed the rest to do so) and he did it again while I was 8 months pregnant.

I filed a restraining order on him, etc. Filed for divorce. We havent reached the 2 year review, I really hope they review and remove him from the country. I found out so much about him after that that I would have never married if Id known, but no one would tell me.

I hope they get rid of him. I have 100% custody and the guy has a restraining order on him. I show him the kid once a month at the local PD, but I’d like him never to see my baby. He never wanted one, he is only trying to save face before he gets his green card.

Ugh I hope they kick him out. I dont know where to filed evidence. I have evidence of him illegally transporting drugs (before we were married) etc.

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Cyndyc

What do you mean you don’t know where to FILE EVIDENCE? Are you kidding me? MAKE COPIES. For starters: Give a set to immigration. Give ia set to your attorney. GIve a set to the police.

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GBO

Your story is the nightmare I am trying to avoid. I think I am about to break it off with my fiancé whom I have been dating for 2+ years. I saw some mild red flags, and that sent me spinning. I searched the internet for concrete evidence, but there is nothing concrete to be found for my particular situation. The bottom line , I think, is to ask yourself if you are willing to take the risk. Educate yourself on what the risks are before you make your final decision. I am deciding that the risk is too great for me ( having to provide for him financially for 3 years should he dump me once he is in Canada, plus the cost of divorce). Sounds wise, but on the other hand I may have lost the greatest love of my life because I am a cautious fool. So really, you cannot win. Maybe better to not get involved in the first place. You have a beautiful child from your union , a wonderful blessing. The rest is a big learning lesson for you. Thank you for sharing your story .It is so helpful .

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Anon

All of you talking about been used for papers, is it because the immigrants are not coming out to say what t they go through being married to manipulative no conscience evil people like you all, during the whole immigration process you treat us like slaves, insult threaten and abuse us, cos you know our situation, what do you expect when such a person becomes free? I married for love , that’s why mine hurts so bad, genuine intent, i practically slave for him, I’m too quiet to even her a bad word, yet im abused treated lesser than a human being, depressed even considered suicide, im even in tears writing this coz I’m suffering alone. But when i decide to leave him after everything, he would come here to say he was used. It shall never be well with all of you. I want to go back home but don’t even have money to. What’s so painful is the memories of how it all started, cos i thought i had found my prince. Shows me no affection, no financial help, i practically beg him for food, controlling, don’t want me to mix up with anybody . Evil ass people.

I met a lady going through the same thing, she gets raped by her husband and his friends, but she’s too scared to report coz she creates deportation as the husband threathens her with our everyday. You sit there talking about being used.

I have so much hatred in my heart for Americans now. So much.

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Anonymous

If you are being abused by the us citizen you can call uscis to tell them or call the police straight away. They will help you go back to your country if you want. You can even call your consolate to report the problem. There is no excuse for violence & abuse from anyone and you do not have tolerate it!

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Anonymous

I’m so sorry you are going through this. Make sure you keep written records with dates and times. Write what happened and hide it until you report it to the police or uscis. This is your proof and your power.

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