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Child spouse immigration petitions face closer scrutiny

According to reports published in January by the Associated Press, more than 5,000 adults around the country have submitted immigration petitions to bring underage spouses into the United States. The reports also reveal that 3,000 minors have submitted petitions to bring in older fiancées or spouses. The Trump administration responded to these reports on Feb. 15 by announcing new rules and vowing to scrutinize these and similar applications closely, and this could have an impact on Florida residents.

According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, adjudicators will be given revised guidelines that call for marriages involving minors to be given special attention. They are to be tasked with discovering whether or not the marriage was legal in the country where it took place, would be legal in the state where the petitioner plans to live and that it is a bona fide marriage entered into freely.

The more stringent scrutiny is not designed to stop child marriages, which are legal in most states, but to detect situations where children have entered marriages against their will. A USCIS representative said that steps to curb child marriage must be taken by state legislatures or Congress. In March 2018, Florida lawmakers banned marriages involving minors by passing one of the nation's strictest child marriage laws. Prior to the bill's passage, children as young as 16 were permitted to marry in Florida after obtaining the consent of their parents or legal guardians.

Attorneys with experience in U.S. immigration law could help those hoping to bring their spouses into the country to avoid problems caused by additional scrutiny by checking that their petitions are compliant with state and federal law. Attorneys may also explain other avenues to legal residence in the United States such as family or work-based visa programs and petitions for asylum.

Source: Reuters, "Florida approves limit, but not ban, on child marriage", Ellen Wulfhorst, March 10, 2018

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