From backlogged bureaucratic processes to expensive application fees, becoming a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. can be exhausting for many immigrants. The intricacies of U.S. immigration law can be stressful for noncitizens and their loved ones to navigate, as USCIS processes can stretch anywhere from several months to several years for some immigrants.
After investing enormous amounts of time, energy, and money to comply with tiring requirements and procedures, it's understandable to worry about your American future after divorce. However, like most elements of U.S. immigration, the answer to this question can be complex and depends on your unique circumstances.
Keep reading to learn more about the potential impacts of divorce on U.S. immigration status.
Can Divorce Impact U.S. Immigration Status?
A common point of concern for many immigrants is how divorce may affect their immigration status. Knowing that your safety and financial security may be at risk in the U.S. due to divorce can seem unfair, especially given the high rate of U.S. divorces in 2023. While the thought of being penalized for ending a marriage can be frustrating, there are ways to prepare and plan to navigate whatever obstacles that may arise in your path.
For some, divorce may not impact their immigration statuses at all, making it all the more crucial to consult with a qualified immigration lawyer who can advise your steps and help you make informed decisions. To best understand how divorce can impact your future in the U.S., it’s also essential to understand what type of marriage green card you have.
Consider the following scenarios to gain a better understanding of your legal situation and retain your American freedom.
Divorcing with a Permanent Green Card
A permanent green card, also known as a 10-year green card, is obtainable for immigrants married to U.S. citizens. This type of green card can be obtained by filing Form I-130 (“Petition for Alien Relative”) with USCIS.
To meet the USCIS eligibility requirements for permanent marriage green cards, couples must have been married for a minimum of 2 years. Once they become permanent green card holders, foreign-born spouses are permitted to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely.
Permanent marriage green cards can be renewed without the need to verify marital status, meaning that you don’t have to prove that the marriage is still legitimate at the time of renewal. Put simply, divorce will not impact your immigration status as a permanent green card holder, as you can simply renew your green card by filing Form I-90 (“Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card”) with USCIS. You can even update your name on your green card if you changed it after the divorce.
Divorcing with a Conditional Green Card
A conditional marriage green card is a temporary card issued to a foreign national who has been married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident for less than 2 years. This type of green card signifies conditional permanent residency and expires after this 2-year period.
During that time, the couple must prove to USCIS that their marriage is legitimate and based on love, as opposed to a fraudulent attempt to secure a green card. This is known as a “bona fide” marriage—Latin for “in good faith.” After the 2-year conditional residency period is completed, qualifying couples can apply to have the conditions lifted by providing evidence of their ongoing marriage and joint life together.
As you can imagine, getting divorced with a conditional green card is more challenging than ending a marriage as a permanent green card holder. However, this is no reason to lose hope. While conditional residents will inevitably face more suspicion from USCIS officials, as there may be some doubt that the marriage was bona fide, there are steps that immigrants can take to prove that their actions weren't fraudulent.
First, it’s crucial to file Form I-751 (“Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) to remove the conditions on your conditional green card. While this is a joint form that all couples must file to obtain a permanent green card after 2 years of marriage, spouses can still file this petition after divorce so long as they request the appropriate waiver. It’s imperative to seek trusted representation from an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through this tricky process and ensure that you’re treated fairly.
We’re Determined to Make Your American Dream a Reality
It can be exhausting and confusing to navigate the U.S. immigration system on your own. From applying for naturalization to deportation defense, our trusted immigration lawyer is here to help. At The Law Office of Mana Yegani, we have extensive experience representing Texas immigrants in a variety of immigration cases. When you partner with us, you can expect to work with a full legal team of compassionate advocates who will have your back from start to finish.U.S. immigration can be complex and emotionally taxing to navigate alone. Our immigration lawyer can help. Call (832) 981-2170 to schedule a consultation.