Immigration: Common Questions and Answers

Immigration has always been a very interesting topic. Immigration is an essential component for families and businesses but it is also controversial.  Immigration law is very broad and due to its controversial nature it is sometimes fraught with fraud.  Families and businesses are desperate to obtain legal status for their family members and workers and they are opportunistic individuals lying in wait to exploit these needs. My firm’s goal is to provide individuals with the truth about their case and the law so that they can make an informed and lawful decision regarding their immigration case.  In this month’s article I will be briefly discuss three common questions that prospective clients ask me about their immigration case.


Question 1:  I am from Nigeria and I obtained my divorce in Nigeria. I am now married to my present husband who is a United States citizen and we are ready to submit my permanent resident petition to Immigration. Is my Nigerian divorce a valid divorce or I will have to obtain a divorce in the United States.


Answer:  This is a common question that I receive from individuals who are from Ghana., Nigeria, The Gambia etc.  Immigration reviews each case on its own merits. However, Immigration does have guidelines as to which foreign divorces they will accept as a valid divorce. In the United States the divorcing parties are usually requires to appear in court before a divorce can be granted. The exceptions to this rule are divorce by publication when the defendant cannot be located or if  the defendant has been served with the divorce complaint but voluntarily chooses not to appear in court.  The U.S Government usually accepts a foreign divorce decree when the divorce is conducted in a court of law and both parties are present or at least the plaintiff was present.  However, in some countries a divorce can be granted in the absence of both parties. These divorces are usually called tribal divorces. In these divorce actions the head of the household, i.e.,the father of the wife, (plaintiff) and the father of the husband, (defendant), appear before the court or the official and obtain the divorce on behalf of the divorcing parties. While this may be a legitimate and  valid divorce overseas Immigration has strict documentary evidence that must be provided before they will accept the foreign divorce decree. In some cases if the applicant is not able to produce the required documentation in addition tot the divorce decree Immigration will deny the applicant’s permanent residence petition.  As such, it is imperative that an applicant consult with an immigration attorney regarding any foreign divorce decree to ensure that the divorce will be honored by the U.S., Government.


Question 2: My permanent residence application was denied but I still have my work authorization card. Can I still work since my work authorization has not expired.


Answer: Most individuals mistakenly believe that an unexpired work authorization card signifies that they can still work despite the fact that their permanent residence petition has been filed. It is important to remember that an employment authorization card is not a stand-alone benefit. Immigration issues an applicant an employment authorization card because he or she has a pending application. In the case of a denied permanent residence petition the employment authorization card is no longer valid because the underlying “green card” petition is no longer pending.  The only way to receive a valid employment authorization card is to have a pending application that allows Immigration to issue this employment authorization.


Question 3:  I am not a U.S. citizen but I have a social security. Am I able to work with my social security card.


Answer:  The short answer is no. Non U.S. citizens who have social security card must show a secondary document to show that he or she is authorized to work in the United States.  An employment authorization card, a permanent resident card “green card”, or  an employment visa, etc.

Disclaimer: This article is a broad overview and is provided as a public service. This article is not intended to establish an attorney-client relationship. Any reliance on the information contained herein is taken at your own risk. The information provided in this article should never replace informed counsel when specific immigration-related guidance is needed. 


About the Writer:
Safiya Byars ([email protected]) is the senior partner and owner in the Law Office of Safiya Byars ( She is an active member of the Caribbean and International communities in Georgia. She graduated Summa Cum Laude from the University of Montevallo and received her law degree from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Her office is located at 160 Clairemont Avenue, Ste. 200, Decatur, Georgia 30030.  Attorney Byars handles all immigration matters, deportation defense, family law issues, and business formation/litigation. To discuss you case, contact Attorney Byars at 404-992-6506 or 678-954-5809.