Wed | Sep 28, 2022

Immigration Corner | Can I work in a different state from where my wife lives?

Published:Tuesday | November 30, 2021 | 12:06 AM
Dahlia Walker Huntington
Dahlia Walker Huntington

Dear Mrs Walker-Huntington,

My wife lives in Florida and she is currently filing for me.

My cousin lives in New York and is offering me a job in his company as a manager, which would really help us. I have mentioned this to a friend of mine, who has advised me that I cannot live (work) in a different state from my wife, and also, that I cannot visit Jamaica for more than two weeks at a time once I enter the states.

Is this true? Can you please provide some clarity on these matters? Thank you.


Dear MK,

All marriages are different, and while the overwhelming majority of spouses share the same house, there are a few where one spouse works out of town. When immigration is involved in a marriage, there is always a heightened state of scrutiny, and what may be normal for a couple who is not involved in the immigration process, raises a red flag.

If you are married for less than two years when you receive your green card, your period of residency would be two years and you would receive a ‘conditional green card’. However, if you are married for more than two years at the time of your green card approval, you would receive a permanent green card, valid for 10 years. A two-year green card requires the immigrant to file to remove the ‘condition’ on the card – proving that you continue to be married and living with your spouse – 90 days before the two-year card expires. If you cannot, you could lose your residency and face removal from the US.

Taking a job out of town is a decision that you make knowing that if you are on a two-year card, you will have a heightened level of scrutiny on the validity of your marriage if you spend the majority of your time away from your wife. You would have to document every move to prove the validity of your relationship and file jointly with your wife. You should also take into consideration the strength of your marriage if you were to work out of town for an extended period, and whether it would survive. If you are on a two-year, conditional card, and the marriage breaks down before you secure the 10-year card, you will have to get divorced and file to remove the condition by yourself and request a waiver of the joint filing with your wife.

As a green card holder, you are required to live and work in the United States. If you are out of the US for more than six months, you will disrupt your continuous residency. If you stay out of America for a year or more, you are deemed to have abandoned your residency. Certainly, if you are domiciled in America, you are free to visit Jamaica or any foreign country for more than two weeks – there is no requirement than you cannot leave the United States for more than two weeks.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington, Esq, is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and international law in Florida. She is a diversity and inclusion consultant, mediator, and former special magistrate and hearing officer in Broward County, Florida.