Divorce after green card proceedings are difficult for the parties involved, but it is worse for immigrant and lawful permanent resident spouses. It is especially worse if you obtained the green card on the basis of marriage.
One of the most pressing concerns on your mind is your future and whether or not you can keep living in the U.S. You also want to consider how this divorce will affect your path to United States citizenship.
How the immigration process gets for you depends on the type of green card you have. If you’re on a conditional green card, for instance, you need an experienced immigration attorney’s help working your case.
Your immigration status, the immigration law, the immigration benefits you received, and how you received them will also determine the effect of divorce on green card application. This article contains several questions related to divorce after green card, the accompanying changes, and how to deal with them.
Can Divorce Affect Your Immigration Legal Status?
Divorce or separation can affect your legal status if it depends on your spouse’s immigration status. If your green card after divorce is based on your spouse’s pending application or current visa, your status may be affected. However, how much it affects your status depends on the immigration benefits you received and how and when you got them. For example, if you got marriage-based conditional resident status, the status has a two-year expiration date.
Thus, to become a permanent resident, you would have to file Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence ninety days before the two years. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services normally requires that you and your spouse file together with supporting documents to prove you’re still married.
However, if your marriage has already ended, you can file the form on your own, but you’ll file a waiver. Divorce can make the permanent resident application process hard, but if you can prove that you married in good faith, the process may be easier. One easy way to prove this is to hire the services of an experienced immigration attorney from a reputable law firm.
Can Divorcing After Obtaining a Green Card Affect Your Status?
If you already have your green card before you got divorced, the divorce shouldn’t change your permanent residence status. The only thing that’ll be affected is the naturalization process; you’ll need to wait for five years to start, instead of three to have your permanent green card status reviewed.
During the naturalization process, you’ll still need to provide evidence that your previous marriage was in good faith. You’d be required to submit documents like a joint lease, credit cards, or bank account.
The USCIS requires these supporting immigration documents to show that a non-citizen spouse shares a normal married life with a former spouse who is a citizen or lawful permanent resident. It must be a marriage in good faith capable of being proved in an immigration court proceedings.
Failure to prove a valid marriage will automatically translate to the conclusion or assumption that your previous marriage was fake and it will affect your green card process and divorce proceedings. This decision will attract several consequences, including but not limited to being put into deportation proceedings.
Can Divorce Affect Your Ability to Renew Your Green Card?
Divorce rarely affects lawful permanent residents who have obtained a ten-year green card; they can renew it without a hassle. You only have to file Form I-90 (Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card) to replace a lost or renewed green card.
You wouldn’t normally need to go through the interview questions you went through when you obtained the first card. If at all you answer any interview questions, they don’t directly relate to your marriage status.
If you’ve been issued a ten-year green card before your divorce, your immigration status won’t be directly affected. Meanwhile, if you want to change your name on the card, you can do that during green card renewal or replacement. However, you need to have a legal document like a divorce decree to prove you changed your name.
How Can Divorce Affect Conditional Green Card Status?
If you obtained your green card by marrying a U.S. citizen or one with a permanent resident status, a conditional green card divorce can disturb your case. Marriage-based green cards often come with a two-year expiration date, which is why they are called conditional green cards and can only be renewed or altered by a joint petition.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services put these two-year conditions to give them time to ascertain that the marriage is bona fide. According to immigration law, the USCIS and other immigration authorities are allowed to ensure the couple entered the marriage in good faith through additional steps.
The issue with this divorce circumstance is that a spouse must continue to prove their previous marriage was real. Furthermore, they need to file a joint filing waiver with Form I-751 for the joint filing requirement. Until all the required processes are completed, such applicants can only enjoy a conditional residence pending when a valid marriage-based visa will be issued.
How Can You Overcome Wrongful Allegations in Your Divorce Petition?
If a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse alleged bad faith during the time divorce occurs in your petition, you don’t have to panic. No matter how convincing they may sound, the Immigration Service doesn’t legally consider them as facts.
That means you still have a chance to present evidence showing that you had a previous good faith marriage. However, having these allegations means the alleging spouse won’t provide any support for your permanent residence application.
They can’t support you because that would mean contradicting themselves in what they swore was true in the divorce petition. Rather than settle, you should let the case proceed to trial; the court will issue a divorce decree. If everything goes well, your U.S. citizen or lawful resident spouse won’t be able to prove bad faith, which means your future immigration processes will go smoothly.
Can Divorce Affect Your U.S. Citizenship Application?
The usual rule is that an immigrant spouse married to a U.S. citizen has to wait three years to get naturalized. Immigrants who don’t have citizen spouses have to wait five years after obtaining a green card to become naturalized citizens.
However, divorce changes this rule for you; it means you’re no longer covered by the clause for married immigrants. By implication, you will need to wait for five years like other unmarried immigrants to become a United States citizen.
What If You Divorce While You’re Still a Conditional Green Card Holder?
If your divorce is finalized while you’re still a conditional resident but you still want the green card, you need to file Form I-751. You also need to request for waiver of the usual requirement to the USCIS.
This form lets you request the USCIS to transform your conditional residence to permanent residence without your citizen spouse. However, you need to accompany this request with the divorce decree, a statement on why you got divorced, and proof of a good faith marriage.
You need to provide sufficient evidence to prove to the USCIS that you didn’t enter the marriage to obtain a green card fraudulently. This step is crucial to getting green card approval from the USCIS because they approve the I-751 joint-filing waivers based on their discretion. You must show that you married legitimately and the divorce wasn’t your fault.
What Happens If Your Marriage Ends After You Apply for a Green Card?
If you and your spouse go your separate ways before the U.S. government has approved your green card application. The entire immigration process stops because the divorce has dissolved the marriage relationship that made you eligible to apply for a green card.
Since you and your spouse are now separated, you are now ineligible to continue the green card process. Also, if the USCIS has approved your petition before you got divorced but the card isn’t issued yet, you lose the card.
Nevertheless, you have other options for obtaining a green card in the U.S., including through other family relationships. You can also apply through VAWA self-petitioners, employment, through asylee or refugee status, or as a special immigrant.
What Further Evidence Does the USCIS Require to Prove Good Faith Marriage?
If the USCIS decides that the evidence you submitted isn’t enough to process your green card, you’ll have to submit more evidence. You can hire an immigration lawyer to help you determine what evidence applies to your immigration case.
The USCIS generally requires the following proof of a bona fide marriage:
- Documents like joint bank statements, jointly-owned property deeds, and life insurance policies listing you both as beneficiaries;
- Proof that you lived together with your spouse with lease or mortgage documents and documents with your names and addresses. Letters from friends, relatives, or employers that can vouch for your valid marriage go a long way;
- Birth certificates, adoption certificates, or school records with both your names on them to show that you have children together;
Can You File a Waiver Request without Your Spouse’s Cooperation?
Being a divorcee makes you automatically eligible to apply for a waiver request – provided you’re a conditional resident. You can’t apply for the waiver if you don’t have a marriage-based temporary green card. Nevertheless, there’s a set of people the USCIS allows to file Form I-751 without their spouse’s cooperation, including:
- People who were battered or abused by their U.S. citizen spouse,
- People who would be subject to extreme hardship should they return to their home country, and
- People who are single again whether because they got divorced or their spouse died.
How Can Divorce Affect the Naturalization Process
A lawful permanent resident seeking to apply for the naturalization of their conditional green card can face problems if they’re divorced. Divorce can negatively impact your eligibility to obtain this immigration benefit; the law is that you remain married during the naturalization process.
The minimum time required to stay married before filing the Form N-400, Application for Naturalization, is three years. However, divorce doesn’t affect the naturalization process if you’ve been a permanent resident for up to five years.
Generally, a divorce will open up a new string of investigations on your immigration case if you apply for naturalization. USCIS authorities will open your immigration file to look for indications that you didn’t obtain your green card lawfully.
Under What Scenarios Can Divorce Affect Your Citizenship Status?
If you’re getting or have gotten a divorce, you need to consider four main scenarios. These circumstances can influence the effect of the divorce on your citizenship status. They include:
- Getting divorced after starting your immigration process but before receiving your green card,
- Getting a divorce while you’re still a conditional green card holder,
- Getting a divorce after you’ve removed the conditions attached to the green card you obtained through marriage, and
- Getting a divorce while the naturalization process is going on.
These scenarios can ultimately determine the outcome of your immigration and citizenship application process.
What Is Form I-751, and When Should You File It?
Form I-751 is the application or joint petition you file with the USCIS to remove the conditions attached to your green card. The form is essential to request that the US Citizenship and Immigration Services grant you a lawful permanent resident status. You’ll need to file the I-751 form at least ninety days before your conditional green card’s expiration date.
Meanwhile, you can only fill and submit this form after the USCIS has issued you a conditional permanent green card. Temporary green card holders cannot file the Form I-751 waiver request. You and your spouse will typically file together, but you can file a waiver if you’re divorced already.
Do You Need to Notify the USCIS of Your Divorce?
If you plan to conduct any immigration process, the USCIS must be aware of your divorce. You’ll notify them with Form I-751 with supporting documents to show that you were in a bona fide marriage.
Furthermore, if you’ve changed address, it would be in your best interest to notify the USCIS of this change and your new address. Notifying the USCIS of your changed address within ten days of relocating, even if your divorce isn’t finalized, puts you at an advantage.
Letting the USCIS know that you moved as soon as possible shows your transparency and honesty. While it doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’ll get the immigration benefit you’re looking for. It does help the immigration officials to trust you more, which can help to eliminate or at least reduce suspicion.
What Can Cause Your Form I-751 to Be Denied?
A number of reasons can cause a form I-751 to be denied, including lack of evidence or filing too early or too late. The USCIS can also deny the Form I-751 if you fail to attend the scheduled immigration interview or you’re convicted of criminal activities.
If the evidence you submitted with your Form I-751 doesn’t prove your bona fide marriage, you may face immigrant court proceedings. If the USCIS denies your form, you don’t have to panic; let your immigration lawyer talk you through the next steps.
Is It Possible to Lose Your Permanent Resident Green Card After Divorce?
If you’ve applied for and obtained your permanent residence status, a divorce won’t change anything – at least not yet. If you’ve been awarded a green card, it means you’ve fulfilled the condition of staying married for at least two years. In such a case, you’ve applied, and the USCIS has lifted the conditions attached to your marriage green card.
Thus, the USCIS has no reason to open your file or look through your immigration application just yet. The only time you will have problems is if you apply for U.S. citizenship and the USCIS discovers your marriage was fake.
Can You Retain Ownership of Your Green Card after a Divorce?
You can still own a green card after you’ve gotten a divorce, but it depends on your circumstances. The USCIS reserves the right to revoke a green card if a permanent resident citizen is found guilty of:
- Immigration fraud like committing marriage fraud by entering a sham marriage for immigration benefits,
- A serious criminal offense, which can result in immediate deportation,
- Fraud, including intentionally deceiving or omitting important information in an immigrant visa application to get a green card,
- Not establishing an Abandonment of Permanent Residence or Permanent Residence, or
- Not notifying the USCIS of a change of address within the statutory ten days.
How Can You Protect Your Immigration Status as a Conditional Resident?
If you’re a conditional resident in the United States, you need to tread carefully with your immigration status. To ensure the USCIS doesn’t strip you of your status, you need to remain married until the two years are up.
Then, by immigration laws, you’re expected to turn the conditional residency to permanent residency. To do that you must prove that you have a good faith marriage and it lasted at least two years after approval.
Can a Marriage-Based Green Card Holder Apply for U.S. Citizenship?
A foreign citizen living with their U.S. citizen spouse in the United States with a marriage-based green card can apply for citizenship. However, they can only apply after three years of continuous residence in the U.S. If the green card holder and U.S. citizen divorce before they get naturalized, they can apply for citizenship after five years.
Does Divorce Automatically Translate to Deportation?
Divorce doesn’t automatically translate to deportation or removal proceedings; certain circumstances warrant deportation proceedings. If the foreign spouse gained their citizenship status before the divorce, they can live and work in the U.S. freely. Additionally, immigrant spouses who became lawful permanent residents through marriage won’t be deported if they get divorced.
The category of divorcees likely to get deported are those on conditional resident visa (CR1) who get divorced. That’s because divorce will result in a termination of the visa unless they’ve removed the conditions with Form I-751.
Divorce After Green Card Is Easier with Herman Legal Group
It is possible that even after marriage counseling, spouses may not see reasons to go on with their marriage and divorce becomes the best option. While that may seem like the end, it is the beginning of something else, one of which is the issue of green cards and the same immigrant petition it requires.
The entire process, especially the joint filing requirement can be tricky and you need the best attorney advertising to help you out. Herman Legal Group are the most experienced at handling issues like this and that is why you should contact us.
You can schedule an in-office or virtual consultation with us by calling +1-800-808-4013 or +1-216-696-6170 or by booking online.
The best way to tackle green card issues caused by a divorce is by working with a good law firm and a trusted immigration attorney. Developing a good attorney-client relationship with an experienced immigration attorney can help to improve your chances of success.
Divorce casts doubt on a green card application, whether during a naturalization interview or in other scenarios. If a noncitizen spouse with a conditional green card divorces before they become a lawful permanent resident, they are in danger of deportation.