I am writing to you in regards to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (Public Law 104-208) which came into force December 1997. Although I can understand the necessity of making sure that immigrants are not a burden to the American welfare system into which they have not paid, this bill has had a rather unfortunate side effect in my case.
I am an American citizen who came to England to attend university in 1992. In 1995 I married a British citizen and now have indefinite leave to stay in the UK. My husband and I were looking into the possibility of moving to the United States when I discovered these new immigration policies regarding sponsors for family-based immigrant visas. According to section 531 of the IIRIRA, all aliens immigrating through one of the family-based categories are required to obtain a legally binding affidavit of support as a condition of admission. Sponsors signing the affidavit must be at least 18 years old, domiciled in the United States, and able to support both the sponsor and the immigrant.
Furthermore, a Department of State cable (State 235619) says that if the petitioner is able to meet the income requirement but does not qualify as a sponsor because he or she is not domiciled in the United States, a joint sponsor cannot be used to overcome this problem. If the petitioner cannot qualify as a sponsor, the beneficiary will not be permitted to immigrate.
I am a science student, not a lawyer, but it seems clear to me that since I am not domiciled in the United States, I cannot sponsor my husband for a visa. In effect, I am now an exile for as long as I am married to my British husband (which I hope will be a very long time!). I find it incredible that I should be treated as second-class citizen simply because I live abroad. Surely it was not the intent of this bill to punish citizens living abroad who wish to return someday with their alien spouses/families.
It is impossible for me to return to the United States alone to take up residency and then sponsor my husband at a later date. For one thing, we have not the financial resources to run two independent households. For another, I am undergoing treatment for cancer at this time and I depend heavily on my husband for his support.
Your position on the [House/Senate] Immigration Subcommittee has prompted me to contact you. Until the act is either amended to eliminate the residency requirement or is overturned in court, I cannot return to the United States. I would appreciate any help or advice you can offer on this matter. Thank you for your time.
Lynne Marie Stockman