How Will Divorce Affect My Immigration Status?

Dissolution of marriage can be a difficult period of life for spouses. The situation becomes even more tense if one of the partners has the status of a conditional resident. If you are still on the path to permanent residency due to immigration, divorce can significantly affect your plans to become a U.S. citizen.

What happens if you divorce an immigrant will differ from case to case. If you are ready to claim, “My wife left me after she got her green card,” her future will depend on the residency status and whether it can be proven that the marriage was fraudulent.

To explain the difference between the outcome of marriage dissolution for conditional and permanent residents, we will try to give an extensive answer to the question of what happens if you marry a U.S. citizen and then divorce. In addition, we will discuss the timeline for getting U.S. citizenship and how it may vary if you have filed for divorce on your way to obtaining it. Please note that the article serves informational purposes only, and getting assistance from a legal professional may be necessary for your specific situation.

Will My Status Be Affected?

Divorce can have different consequences in terms of residency for a person who is not a U.S. citizen. They will depend on the integrity of your marriage, the types of green cards you have already obtained, the presence of domestic violence, etc. In any case, it is reasonable to contact a professional attorney to know your options and the possible effects of divorce.

You can receive a conditional green card before the second anniversary of your marriage with a U.S. citizen. Its validity is limited to 2 years. To obtain a permanent resident status after a conditional one, you and your spouse must jointly submit a Form I-751 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It can be done provided that your marriage:

  1. Lasts for 2 years after USCIS confirms your conditional residence.
  2. Was not entered into under the fraud purpose for obtaining citizenship.

If you meet these conditions and your application for changing a resident status is approved, you will receive a permanent green card. After you get it, you can apply for naturalization and acquisition of U.S. citizenship following 3 years of marriage.

Divorce due to irreconcilable differences or under other grounds can happen at any stage. Its effects on your immigration status will depend on when you file for marriage dissolution.

If you are a conditional resident, have decided to divorce, and want to know, “Do I need to notify USCIS of divorce?”, the answer is affirmative. You must inform the Immigration Services that your marriage is ending in any case.

If USCIS has not approved any green card yet, but you’ve already filed for divorce, chances are high that you won’t get one. It happens in cases when you were supposed to obtain a green card based on marriage. If the marital relationship has broken, there is no reason to issue a card.

How to cancel the green card of a spouse if you are a U.S. citizen divorcing an immigrant? If your partner has not received it yet, you must prepare and send a notarized letter to USCIS asking to cancel the other party’s green card. If it has already been approved, you should contact the National Visa Center. It will be more difficult to cancel the received card, especially if your partner can prove that your marriage was bona fide and conscientious.

If you have a conditional green card but its validity period has not yet expired while you are already divorcing, the possibility of obtaining permanent residence will depend on many circumstances. The decisive factor is whether you can confirm that you did not get married only to get a permanent green card and the status of a U.S. citizen. We will focus on this matter in more detail in the next section.

As for the status of permanent residence, the divorce will most likely not be reflected in it. If you already have a permanent green card, you can apply for naturalization regardless of whether you are still married. The difference is only in the permissible time frames for submitting documentation.

How Does Divorce Affect My Progress Toward U.S. Citizenship?

Divorce before a green card is confirmed may lead to losing the opportunity to become a U.S. citizen, which does not apply to situations when you have already obtained a permanent residence.

Will divorce affect my green card? It depends on its type.

If you obtained your 10-year green card 5 years ago, you can apply for naturalization. To start the process, you need to submit a Form N-400 to USCIS. If you are still married, this term will be reduced to 3 years, but if you terminate your marital relations after you get your permanent green card, you have to wait 5 years.

If you have already applied for naturalization and filed for divorce, the required timeline will depend on which event occurs first. If the court grants you a divorce before USCIS approves your request, you will have to withdraw your citizenship petition and wait another 2 years to file it again. Otherwise, you do not need to resubmit it; if you have obtained citizenship, the divorce will not affect the time frame.

How Does Divorce Affect a Conditional Green Card?

If you have a conditional green card, divorce before getting permanent residency may result in your inability to change your immigration status. Do you lose your green card if you get divorced? No, if it is still valid but you terminate your marriage, you may stay in the United States.

What happens if you get divorced before a green card is received? As noted earlier, you may not get your conditional residency. However, you still have a chance to become a permanent resident if you get a divorce after a conditional green card is issued.

Mind that marriage termination before conditional status expires will prevent you from filing Form I-751 together with the other party. You will have to submit it yourself, requesting to waive the joint filing requirement. USCIS does not take kindly to these situations, so you will need to justify your request for a waiver. It can be done on one of the following grounds:

  1. You divorced while being a conditional resident, but your marriage was conscientious and in good faith.
  2. You cannot return to your country because you will face extreme difficulties.
  3. You have become a victim of physical or emotional violence that does not allow you to save your marriage.

No matter which of the reasons you name, you will need to provide evidence. In the case of extreme cruelty, it can be witnessing statements or medical reports. Various documents can also be used to confirm the likelihood of difficulties in returning to the homeland. To prove that your marriage was not fraudulent, you can provide USCIS with the following:

  1. Photos and videos taken during your marital life.
  2. Information about joint bank accounts or mortgages.
  3. Certificate of attending marriage counseling.

To improve your chances of obtaining permanent residence, you should also explain what caused the breakup of your marriage. Ultimately, if you can prove that you married your spouse without the intention of obtaining citizenship but because of genuine feelings, your application for a permanent green card may be approved.

If you filed for divorce during conditional green card validity, and this period is expiring, but you have not yet received a divorce decree, you need to contact USCIS. Most likely, your conditional green card will be extended for another year so that you can get a divorce and start the process of getting a permanent one.

Does Divorce Mean Automatic Deportation?

Deportation after divorce is not an obligatory condition and depends on a variety of circumstances. Divorce in the middle of the immigration process can have different consequences. They are most influenced by the type of card you have already got as an immigrant.

Filing for divorce before getting a green card for 10 years does not prohibit you from submitting Form I-751 on your own to become a permanent resident. If you can prove that your marriage is not fraudulent, you have a good chance to obtain a 10-year green card. However, if you are accused of spousal abandonment, immigration status change may take longer. USCIS may decide to deport you if it finds that your marital relationship is in bad faith. To minimize the risk of deportation, you need to provide evidence that the marriage was genuine, that you cannot return to your homeland, or that your spouse’s behavior was abusive.

What If I File for Divorce After Getting My Permanent Green Card?

If you have conditional permanent residence, divorce may significantly affect the process of obtaining a 10-year green card. If you get a divorce after a green card that changed your status to a permanent resident is issued, negative consequences are unlikely.

How long do you have to wait to get a divorce after you get a green card? It does not matter. Since you are a permanent resident, your marital status is not decisive on your way to citizenship.

Can a green card be revoked upon divorce? Yes, but only if your ex-spouse proves that your marriage was fraudulent. Given that you have already confirmed the opposite when you changed your conditional green card to a permanent one, it is unlikely. However, it should be renewed every ten years by sending a Form I-90 to USCIS. You can do the same if you change your last name after divorce.

In conclusion, it is worth noting that divorce can have different impacts on your conditional or permanent residence. Either way, marriage dissolution does not always mean deportation if you have not violated the rules and requirements of the applicable law.