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 challenges.
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.