Divorce is an emotional process, but it can become even more stressful when your status in the United States is on the line. Many immigrants can get residency through their marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, but what happens if you get divorced? Does divorce jeopardize your immigration status? Keep reading to find out.
If you are married or engaged to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may qualify for a green card. Once you’re married, your spouse can file a petition on your behalf. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process the request and determine whether you qualify for residency through marriage.
Millions of immigrants have received permanent residency through marriage, but USCIS has made the application process more challenging to weed out what they believe to be fraudulent marriages. They require couples to go through interviews, fill out endless documentation, and answer questions to prove that the marriage is legitimate. Because of this, conflict in the marriage and/or a divorce could jeopardize your chances of getting a green card or keeping one you already have.
When Divorce Might Jeopardize Your Green Card
The Beginning of the Application Process
If you get divorced at any point during the application phase, you likely will be ineligible for a marriage-based green card. Even if your spouse has already filed Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, you probably won’t be able to move forward in the application process. There are exceptions but not many.
Lawful Permanent Residents
For immigrants who have successfully received permanent residence, a divorce won’t disrupt your immigration status, but keep in mind that permanent residence is not citizenship. Lawful permanent residents can live, work, and go to school in the U.S., but they don’t have access to all of the benefits of citizenship.
If you’ve been approved for conditional residence, also known as a two-year green card, you might encounter challenges later on if you get a divorce. When an immigrant applies to remove the conditions on their residency, USCIS must carefully review their case to see if any changes have occurred since they last applied. This review process will obviously reveal the divorce.
Typically, the application to remove the conditions includes Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, which both you and your spouse usually sign. This notifies USCIS that the marriage is still in effect and you must also send in additional documents to prove valid relationship.
If you file for divorce at this point, you’ll have to sign Form I-751 on your own and ask for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. USCIS will only waive the condition if you provide sufficient evidence that you entered the marriage genuinely, even if you’re now divorced.
USCIS will need to see evidence of the marriage, including:
- Bank statements from joint bank accounts
- Your children’s birth certificates
- Joint credit card statements
- Mortgage or rental agreements with both of your names
Once you are able to apply for citizenship, USCIS will reevaluate your case file, which includes all of your documents and applications filed by you and/or your spouse. At this point, your marriage has been proven to be real many times, but you may still need to show recent evidence that verifies your relationship. It might feel redundant, but if you can’t provide recent and convincing evidence, the USCIS might not only deny your citizenship application but refer you to an immigration court for deportation.
Divorce is unavoidable for some couples. While your reasons are very personal and private, USCIS requires extensive evidence proving that your marriage was real for as long as it lasted. This is often easier said than done.
If you have divorced at any point in the citizenship application process or after green card approval, you should speak to an attorney. USCIS is extremely strict about marriage-based green cards, so it’s best to have an experienced legal professional on your side to advocate for you.
Schedule a consultation with Nathan Christensen P.C. to discuss your case.