We met Sam (not his real name) in October 2015. He came with a Request for Evidence on a green card case that he and his wife had filed about a year earlier and wanted to know if we could help respond – he had apparently filed for a green card with this same wife two other times, but they kept getting denied for technical reasons and he was getting frustrated.

The request for evidence asked why he had lied in his first green card application when he said he had never been married before, but it turned out he had been married in his home country. I asked him about this and he told me that in the interview, the officer asked if it was his first marriage in the United States. It was and he said yes. But in a second interview, another officer asked if he had been married before anywhere in the world. He said yes and the second officer was upset that he didn’t disclose the first marriage in the earlier interview. Sam tried to explain that they were two different questions and he answered truthfully each time, but with broken English and no translator, he didn’t think he had made the situation clear.

I asked him where his wife was and if she’d be willing to help us with the response. Sam then went into a story about how she was being difficult. I asked him to explain. He told me about how she had started threatening him with deportation, how she called him hurtful names, how she tricked him into violating his religious beliefs and how she was just generally hateful most of the time.

I immediately thought of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and we talked about showing USCIS how his wife was being extremely cruel to him. He agreed that it was very unhealthy relationship and so we started a new case. We worked hard and filed an application for him. Unfortunately, after about two years, his case was denied because he simply didn’t have enough proof that he and his now-ex-wife had ever lived together. We knew this would be a weakness of the case because all of their household bills had been in her name since she had status. He hadn’t thought to change his address to their shared home and when he left, he didn’t think to take joint documents with him. USCIS recognized the abuse and the marriage, but since one of the VAWA requirements is a shared residence and USCIS said we had failed to establish that, the case was denied (of course, we disagree and feel like this was a bogus denial).

We were heartbroken for Sam, knowing what he had gone through. We wanted to appeal, but he was tired of fighting, so we respected his decision and closed his case.

In late 2018, Sam called us. We almost didn’t recognize his voice – he was happy and energetic, so different than he had been the last time we spoke. He told us he had fallen in love, had gotten remarried and wanted to try to adjust his status again. This was his fourth attempt, but he was ready. We met with Sam and his wife and it was clear that this relationship was everything his last relationship was not. He was happy, he smiled, and he and his new wife shared a religion and core beliefs.

We filed a new adjustment of status case and in February 2020 we went to an interview. It went well, but we didn’t get a decision. About three weeks ago, we received another interview notice. Normally, in second interviews, the interviewing officer will separate the couple and ask them detailed questions about their shared lives and then compare answers to make sure they match. We prepared for that, but were surprised when the officer instead focused on the past relationships and what had happened at those interviews years ago. Sam was much better prepared to answer questions. His English is stronger and he is more confident.  He was able to clearly explain the situation and the officer understood that the root problem was all a misunderstanding.

We left the interview without a decision, but within a few hours, we received an email saying Sam’s green card had been approved. We called him and told him the excellent news. It sounded like Sam was in shock – and I don’t blame him! After five years of working together, we had finally put all the pieces together for USCIS.

We are so grateful that Sam came back to work with us. We love seeing how he’s thriving. He didn’t give up – on himself, on us, or the system.