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Can Divorce Impact the Immigration Status of a Green Card Holder?

Green Card and Marriage

The immigration status of a lawful permanent US resident, acquired through the marriage to a US citizen, might be at risk in case of a divorce. The conditions of the Green Card, granted to a foreigner who gets married to a US citizen, are valid for 2 years. So, it is possible to remove these conditions ahead of the second wedding anniversary, by filling in a special petition.

1. General Remarks

The Green Card Conditions ensure that the marriage is bona fide and that the couple stay together at the end of the 2-year period. The conditions can be removed and the 10-year valid Green Card can be obtained when the foreign resident files a required application together with his or her spouse. In case the couple is going to divorce prior to the 2-year period expires, this procedure can be difficult. Still, in particular circumstances, the foreign resident spouse will not have to leave the United States at the end of the mentioned period.

According to what the US Immigration Service states, in case the divorce happens due to genuine reasons, there can be certain exceptions regarding the joint filling. The US immigration laws state that the conditional resident spouse has a right to request a waiver if he or she can provide valid reasons. So, the resident spouse is required to verify the fact that his or her marriage is genuine, and that the divorce happens without any fault either on his or on her part. The waiver can be obtained after he or she provides the documentation required, therefore proving that their marriage relationships were genuine.

2. Genuine Marriage Evidence

Submitting persuasive evidence is mandatory. In case the couple wants to divorce prior to the ending of the conditional period, the USCIS reserves the right to consider that the marriage was not bona fide. In order to verify that the marriage was entered in all conscience on both parts and that it was not a mere business transaction, the following evidence may be provided:

  • photographs of the couple along with relatives and friends;
  • bank statements;
  • rental agreements;
  • letters and other correspondence, etc.

In case the provided evidence is considered insufficient to verify  the marriage relationship, the resident spouse may be removed from the US, as a result of divorce. In case the request for a waiver is considered by the USCIS, the conditions on the resident spouse’s Green Card may be removed and he or she will be allowed to remain in the US, exercising the rights of a lawful permanent resident.

There can be certain cases when divorce may impact the status of a foreign resident. However, if the foreign resident spouse becomes a lawful permanent US resident before his or her divorce, then his or her immigration status may escape any probability of risk, even after the divorce. After 2 years and 9 months from the date when the foreign national spouse applied for removal of the Green Card Conditions, he or she may obtain the right to become a US citizen. The divorce may still affect this process.

3. Cases of Revocation

If the foreign resident spouse divorces before he or she becomes a lawful US citizen, he or she may not have a possibility to apply for naturalization. Such residents must wait for 2 years to obtain US citizenship through naturalization, and meet all the other requirements for eligibility for this status.

In case the immigration officers find that the marriage was a business transaction, and not genuine, the naturalization application will be denied and the Green Card granted to the foreign national spouse may be revoked as well. A foreign resident who is found to involve into marriage fraud and hence is considered as the one who has broken the US laws on immigration, might be deported from the country. On the contrary, if a foreign national married in all conscience and if valid evidence is provided to verify that the marriage was bona fide, his or her immigration status may not be at risk, even after divorce.

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