Can Divorce Affect My U.S. Immigration Status?
For many immigrants, the path to obtaining lawful U.S. residence is long and complex. When additional complications arise, such as a divorce or other major life change, it can heighten the stakes even more, often resulting in more stress.
It’s normal for people to experience a range of emotions when their marriage comes to an end, from grief to anger to fear. For immigrants involved in any stage of the U.S. immigration process, divorce can be especially nerve-racking.
Keep reading to learn more about the impact of divorce on U.S. immigration status.
When Can Divorce Threaten U.S. Immigration Status?
If you have concerns regarding how a recent divorce will impact your immigration status, you’re not alone.
The answer is dependent on each individual’s personal circumstances, such as whether they are a permanent or conditional resident and where they are in the immigration process. For example, divorce will likely have a much greater impact on a marriage-based green card petitioner than it would on a green card holder applying for naturalization.
Consider the following ways that divorce can impact varying levels of the U.S. immigration process and how immigrants can navigate potential challenges.
Divorce During the Green Card Application Process
If divorce occurs while an individual is still in the process of petitioning for a marriage-based green card, the application cannot continue, as the immigrant no longer meets USCIS eligibility requirements to apply for lawful permanent residence through their spouse.
This is the case regardless of whether the divorcee is applying for a marriage-based green card or the divorcee was married to someone applying for a green card.
What Happens if a Green Card Holder Gets Divorced?
If the person is already a green card holder at the time of the divorce, additional factors will dictate how the divorce impacts their immigration status. Essentially, this is dependent on whether the divorcee is a conditional resident or a permanent resident.
When obtaining a marriage-based green card, petitioners receive one of the following:
- A permanent renewable green card that is valid for 10 years; or
- A conditional green card that is valid for 2 years.
The type of green card received is contingent on the length of the marriage at the time of application. Green card holders are classified as either:
- Permanent residents. These applicants were married for at least 2 years at the time of admission into the United States.
- Conditional residents. These applicants were married for less than 2 years at the time of admission into the United States.
Conditional residents are applicants who were married for less than 2 years at the time of admission to the United States. Unlike those with permanent residence, conditional green card holders are only permitted to live and work in the U.S. for a 2-year period, after which they may remove the conditions by applying for permanent residence.
To successfully apply for permanent residence, conditional residents must:
- Apply for permanent residence within 90 days of the conditional green card expiration date; and
- File a Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence (Form I-751).
Unfortunately, getting divorced as a conditional resident is one of the most challenging positions to be in while seeking lawful permanent residence in the U.S. However, this is by no means an impossible task, as it’s entirely possible to obtain permanent residence even after your marriage ends.
Regardless of whether a conditional resident is married or divorced when their conditional green card expires, they must prove that their marriage is, or was, “bona fide” (a Latin term that means “in good faith”). Sufficient evidence is required to show that the marriage is legitimate and authentic, as opposed to a fraudulent effort to obtain permanent residence through a sham marriage.
No matter their marital status, conditional residents must show that their marriage—intact or otherwise—was real.
As you can imagine, this can be especially challenging for divorcees. Divorced immigrants with conditional residence are often hindered by hurdles that still-married green card holders are unlikely to encounter, such as lacking help from a partner and/or sufficient evidence to build their case.
To apply for permanent residence as a divorcee, petitioners must do the following:
- File Form I-751 and corresponding waiver.
- Include a detailed written statement explaining why the marriage ended.
- Include evidence that the marriage was authentic (such as joint bank statements, mortgage deeds, or leases with both spouses’ names).
While it isn’t impossible to obtain permanent residence as a divorcee, rest assured that USCIS takes the process extremely seriously, as even the most minute error can result in a rejected petition or even deportation.
Immigrants will be forced to leave the country if they fail to remove the conditions of their green card and cannot find another way to stay in good standing. State-specific variances and other complications in U.S. immigration law can make the process especially grueling, especially for petitioners recently disadvantaged by divorce.
If you’re preparing to apply for an adjustment of status after your marriage came to an end, it’s in your best interest to consult with an experienced immigration attorney who can strengthen your case and advocate on your behalf to avoid removal.
Permanent residents are applicants who were married for at least 2 years at the time of admission to the United States. This type of green card, also known as a lawful permanent resident card, is valid for 10 years, meaning that divorce has little to no effect on immigration status.
Divorcees with permanent green cards should be able to renew their status with ease by filing Form I-90 ("Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card"). If they wish, they may also change their name at the time of renewal.
Turn to a Miami Immigration Attorney You Can Trust
The road to lawful U.S. residence can be treacherous for immigrants and their loved ones. Our compassionate team at Hubbs Law, P.A. understands how challenging it can be to navigate the difficult and often dehumanizing twists and turns of U.S. immigration.
No matter where you are in the immigration process, our experienced immigration attorneys are here to help. Our Miami lawyers have an in-depth knowledge of U.S. immigration law and a proven track record of success.
Seeking sound counsel from a trusted legal advocate can mean the difference between being removed from U.S. soil and achieving the result you desire in court. When you partner with us, you can expect strong representation from start to finish.
The U.S. immigration system can be daunting to navigate by yourself. Our firm has extensive experience with a wide range of immigration issues. Call (305) 570-4802 to schedule a free consultation.