If you are interested in filing for divorce and you obtained a
green card through marriage, you may be wondering what would happen to your permanent
resident status once your divorce is finalized. You may be concerned that
the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) could take a second
look at your marriage to verify its legitimacy.
Fortunately, immigration authorities understand that a valid marriage could
end between couples who were once in love with one another. However, what
happens to your green card depends on what part of the application process
you are currently in.
Once Your I-130 Visa Petition is Approved
If you just submitted your visa petition, or if it was recently approved,
you still have no rights to remain in the United States. The visa petition
is only the beginning of the immigration process, so a divorce would mean
the end of your permanent residency efforts.
Once Permanent Residence is Approved
If you have successfully obtained your green card, you do not need to worry
about the USCIS taking a second look at your application right away. Permanent
residence immediately happens only if you were already married for two
years or more at the time your green card was approved. Only if you later
apply to become an American citizen will the immigration authorities take
a second look at your life.
Once Conditional Residence is Approved
A two-year green card is given to those who haven’t been married
for at least two years, which is known as conditional residence. If you
were only approved for conditional residence, then you may face some legal
Once you are approved for conditional residence, the next USCIS review
will occur two years after the approval date and after submitting Form
I-751. This form requests the USCIS to remove your current residency conditions
and approve you for permanent residence.
However, Form I-751 is typically filled out and signed by both spouses,
proving that the marriage is valid and continuing. If a divorce occurs,
only you must request for the joint filing requirement to be waived when
you submit the petition by yourself. For this request to be approved,
you need to show convincing evidence that the marriage was valid at the
beginning, despite the fact that it came to an abrupt end.
Common types of evidence include:
- Joint bank and credit card statements
- Copies of mortgage or rental contracts
- Birth certificates of shared children
It is imperative to use the most recent documents possible, not duplicate
information you previously sent to immigration authorities. If your Form
I-751 is due when the divorce hasn’t been finalized yet, you may
want to seek help from an experienced immigration attorney.
Once You Apply for U.S. Citizenship
USCIS will once again review your immigration file and marriage information
when you apply for U.S. citizenship. Any suspicion of fraudulence, which
includes a divorce, will cause immigration officials to request you provide
evidence which proves your marriage was valid. Again, more recent documentation
is recommended. If you cannot provide convincing evidence, not only may
the USCIS deny your citizenship, but also refer you to immigration court
for deportation proceedings.
If you are in the middle of a divorce in Santa Barbara or Ventura County
and worried about your immigration status,
schedule a free criminal consultation with our
Santa Barbara immigration attorney at
Appel & Morse today.