Getting divorced can have significant implications for immigration purposes, particularly if you obtained your Green Card through marriage. When your citizenship depends on your marital status or a romantic partner, going through a divorce can be an overwhelming experience and threaten your immigration status.
You may lose your legal status if you have a conditional Green Card and get divorced before completing two years of marriage. However, divorce may affect you even if you already have permanent residency or are in the process of naturalizing. That is because it may affect your requirements for continued residency and good moral character.
What Is the Difference Between Divorce and Separation?
Our immigration lawyers answer all types of legal questions in our blog, and they can explain how divorce and separation affect your status:
Divorce is a marriage’s legal termination and the marriage contract’s consequent dissolution. On the other hand, a separation occurs when a married couple decides to live in separate addresses but remain legally married.
However, a divorce can have more serious implications for your immigrant status. For instance, if you have a conditional Green Card and get divorced before two years of marriage, your permanent residence may be at risk. But if you only get separated and not legally divorced, your immigration status probably won’t be affected.
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What Is a Conditional Green Card?
A conditional Green Card is a temporary document that grants permanent residency to immigrants married to US citizens. A conditional Green Card is issued to ensure the marriage was celebrated in good faith and not solely to obtain immigration benefits.
To maintain permanent residence, the applicant must apply to remove the conditions before the end of their two-year mark. To do that, they must submit the form I-751 – Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If their application is approved, they will receive a ten-year Green Card, granting them permanent residence with no conditions.
What Happens If I Get Divorced During the Immigration Process?
The impact of your divorce will depend on your specific situation and the stage of your immigration process. As we saw earlier, getting divorced before two years can make you lose your residency.
However, an immigration lawyer can help you apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement to remove the conditions on your Green Card. This way, you may qualify for an exemption. Still, you must prove that your marriage was entered into in good faith and that you experienced genuine reasons for the divorce, such as domestic violence or extreme hardship.
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What Are the Different Types of Marriage Green Cards?
The United States grants different Green Cards based on marriage to a citizen or permanent resident, such as the conditional Green Card and the ten-year Green Card.
- Conditional Green Card. This card grants permanent residency to spouses married for less than two years. It is valid for two years and is considered a temporary procedure toward permanent residence. Before the two-year term expires, an application must be filed to remove the conditions to obtain a ten-year Green Card.
- Ten-year Green Card. A ten-year Green card is granted to spouses who have been married for more than two years, and it is a form of permanent residency that allows people to live and work in the United States indefinitely.
Both cards grant the right to live and work in the United States as lawful permanent residents. After five years of continuous residence (or three years if married to a citizen), the holder may be eligible to apply for US citizenship.
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How Long do You Have to Be Married to Receive a Ten-Year Card?
Your marriage must last at least two years at the time of application to get a ten-year Green Card. Before that, you can only access a conditional Green Card.
Before completing two years of residence, you must complete the process to eliminate the conditions of your stay and be able to receive a Green Card for ten years. To do this, you must submit form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, before the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Can I Get Citizenship After Getting Divorced?
Divorce can affect naturalization since the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) investigates your marital status. But it is also important to notice laws can change over time. That is why it is advisable to keep up to date on immigration news,
It is necessary to meet several requirements, such as continuous residence, physical presence, good moral character, and being able to speak English to become a Citizen of the United States. A divorce may not prevent you from meeting these requirements, but it may raise questions about your good moral character. An immigration attorney can provide guidance on those requirements.
How to Prove the Marriage Was in Good Faith?
To prove that your marriage was entered into in good faith, you must provide substantial evidence of your marital relationship; since USCIS maintains constant vigilance to avoid marriages of convenience in exchange for immigration benefits, and they examine each application.
To prove your marriage is genuine, you can provide several types of evidence, such as:
- Joint Financial Documents. That includes joint bank account statements, joint tax returns, and joint leases or mortgages.
- Shared Assets. Evidence of shared assets, such as property or vehicles, can support the authenticity of your marriage.
- Joint Activities. Photos, travel itineraries, or other evidence of shared activities can show that you and your spouse genuinely live together and build a life together.
- Affidavits from Family and Friends. Statements from family members and friends who know you as a couple can provide additional evidence of the authenticity of your marriage.
- Communication Records. Printouts of emails, text messages, or call logs can show ongoing communication and involvement in each other’s lives.
- Cohabitation Evidence. Proof that you and your spouse live together, such as utility bills or lease agreements showing the same address.
An experienced immigration lawyer can help you gather and present all the necessary evidence to demonstrate the good faith of your marriage and answer all your questions about family-based immigration.
Talk to an Experienced Immigration Lawyer
Getting through a divorce as an immigrant can be a daunting experience, especially when your immigration status is at stake. But understanding the different ways divorce can affect your citizenship can throw some light on your situation.
It is important to seek the guidance of an immigration attorney who can help you navigate the process. Contact a New Frontier Immigration Law professional, and let us answer all your questions about your marriage and migration status in an initial free-of-charge consultation.