What to Know About Divorce and Immigration Status

What to Know About Divorce and Immigration Status

If you obtained your immigration status or green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you might wonder what happens if you get divorced. It is natural to be concerned—the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) pays particular attention to immigrant marriages that occur only for one spouse to obtain U.S. citizenship. There are many fraudulent marriages that quickly end in divorce once the foreign spouse enters the United States.

Of course, there are plenty of couples with immigrants that have real relationship issues that lead to divorce. The way USCIS will treat your divorce primarily depends on where you are in the immigration process and how you prove to the agency that your marriage was legitimate.

Here’s a quick overview of how divorce could affect you at various steps in the immigration process:

  • Approval of petition to USCIS: Submission of Form I-130 is the beginning of the immigration process. You do not have any immigration rights after your petition is filed, so if you divorce after this, you do not have any citizenship rights.
  • Approval of conditional residence: There will be some challenges to overcome if you’ve been approved for conditional residence (a temporary green card on a short marriage, for example). Once you reach the expiration date for that temporary green card, it may be difficult for you to achieve permanent residency if the marriage has dissolved. You’ll need to present sufficient evidence that the marriage was legitimate, and reasons for its failure.
  • Approval of permanent residence: If you were approved for permanent residence, USCIS will not need to go back and look at your application again, but naturalization may become more difficult.
  • Application to become a U.S. citizen: When you apply for citizenship, USCIS reviews your immigration history, and if there are any indications of a fraudulent green card and marriage it will thoroughly examine your case, asking you to prove the legitimacy of your marriage.

For more information about how you can protect yourself legally in these circumstances, contact an experienced divorce attorney at Bryan L. Salamone & Associates.

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