Green Card and Divorce |You got your marriage-based green card but are now getting Divorced.
Divorce can be a devastating life event. It’s emotionally exhausting, comes with a financial cost, and can even affect your immigration status. A divorce after a green card may introduce new challenges to a permanent resident. But in other cases, it’s not an issue. It all depends on where exactly you are in the immigration process. Before you file another application or petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), take the time to understand how your divorce or annulment may affect your situation.
What if I need to renew my Green Card?
If you have already successfully applied for and received permanent residency (green card), USCIS has no reason to take a second look at your application just now, so you don’t need to worry. The vast majority of green card holders are unaffected by divorce. If you are already a lawful permanent resident with a 10-year green card, renewing a green card after divorce is uneventful. Once you have a 10-year green card, marriage status doesn’t directly affect your immigration status. But we’re talking only about the permanent residency here, not conditional residency.
If you decide to change your last name after getting divorced, you can update it on your Green Card as well. You can change your name on the green card if you have a legal document showing your name has changed. Just indicate the name change on Form I-90 and submit a copy of the legal name change document.
What if I have a conditional residency?
Suppose you have conditional residency, meaning you received a two-year green card. In that case, you’ll face some challenges when USCIS looks at your case again. The two-year period provides USCIS time to evaluate the bona fides of the marriage. Immigration law requires USCIS to take additional steps in green card marriage to ensure that the marriage was in good faith.
Towards the end of this probationary period, the couple must file a joint petition on Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence, along with evidence to prove the bona fides of the marriage. However, after a divorce or annulment, you will have to submit the petition on your own, asking for a waiver of the joint filing requirement.
The underlying issue here is that this may cast doubt on whether the marriage was legitimate and not just to get a green card. USCIS recognizes that couples who were once in love and committed to each other can have their relationship fall apart. Still, you need to prove you were married because you did love each other.
You should still be able to file your I-751 petition after a divorce. However, we always recommend that you speak to an immigration attorney before filing I-751 with a waiver. You may end up at risk of deportation for failure to file Form I-751 or with an unsuccessful petition. Make sure you get the right advice for your specific situation. Remember that your future is at stake, don’t leave it to chance.
Divorce before approval of your Green Card
When divorce occurs before the approval of your green card, you are no longer eligible. The divorce dissolves the relationship that made the spouse eligible. Even if USCIS already approved the immigrant petition.
Will it affect my Application for Naturalization?
If you file Form N-400 based on marriage to a U.S. citizen for three years after a divorce, it will affect your eligibility. Even if you were married for over three years, you must continue to be married at the time of naturalization. You have to stay married until you get your U.S. citizenship, and you have to live with your spouse for three years before applying.
If USCIS finds any indications of green card fraud, they may require you to produce additional evidence. When you get a divorce after you have received your green card, it increases the possibility of a review during the naturalization process. For most people, USCIS will ask a few questions about your marriage in the naturalization interview; in other cases, they may request additional evidence.
If you’re unable to provide documentation that proofs the marriage, USCIS may deny your application for naturalization. Worse yet, USCIS could refer you to immigration court proceedings for removal from the United States (deportation). What naturalization applicants need to understand is that USCIS will review their entire immigration history and all prior applications.
We can help you!
If you’re going through a divorce while your Immigration case is in process, do not take this lightly. With the right help, you can avoid adverse outcomes and delays due to mistakes. We are working with immigrants whose future embody peacefulness and accomplishment. If this is how you see your future and want us to help you get there, give us a call.