Divorce is always a challenging personal event, but it can pose an extreme problem for immigrants waiting for green cards. If you applied for a marriage-based green card or your eligibility for a green card is based on marriage to an employee sponsored for a green card by their employer, then you put your immigration status in extreme jeopardy if you divorce before receiving your green card.
However, pretending that you are still married may have even worse consequences. To protect your rights and future opportunities, you should consult an experienced immigration lawyer for assistance as soon as possible.
Marriage-Based Green Cards and Divorce
To gain a permanent immigration visa to live and work in the U.S., you need some type of status that provides eligibility. Marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is one way of establishing eligibility. When you eliminate the marriage, you eliminate your eligibility.
Once you have a green card, you can get divorced without hurting your status, but only if you have been married for at least two years. If your marriage is less than two years in duration at the time you become a permanent resident, then your “permanent” status is really only conditional. Immigration officials want to discourage sham marriages entered into for immigration purposes. They want proof that a marriage is genuine and that the parties intend to build a life together.
Before the expiration of the conditional green card, the immigrant and their spouse must file a Form I-751, a petition for removing conditions. A divorced immigrant may request a waiver, but immigration officials will want to see evidence proving that the immigrant entered the marriage in good faith.
Evidence of a marriage’s validity may include:
- Joint bank statements
- Joint mortgage documents
- Photos, text messages, and other evidence pointing to a genuine relationship
- Evidence that you attended counseling to try to keep your marriage together
In addition, the immigrant will need to present a detailed statement explaining the factors that led to the divorce. If the divorce is not finalized, USCIS may extend conditional status for another year.
When the Divorce is Based on Abuse
If your marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident ends in divorce while your marriage-based green card application is in process, the USCIS will usually deny your application automatically because you no longer qualify for a permanent visa. However, if you divorced or separated because your spouse subjected you to abuse, your attorney may be able to convince immigration authorities to issue a visa or other forms of immigration relief.
Does Divorce Mean Automatic Deportation?
If you entered your marriage in good faith but ended up divorcing before you had the chance to receive permanent residency, you may be concerned that the change in your marital status could lead to automatic removal proceedings. While this is a possibility, an immigration lawyer should be able to raise defenses and seek waivers or other forms of relief. Prompt legal action can help prevent your deportation and even lead to adjustment of your residence status.
Robert M. Bell, P.A.: Trusted Legal Help With Immigration Services and Adjustment of Status in Hollywood, Florida
If your immigration status is compromised by divorce, it is important to be honest with officials because otherwise you can give the impression that you are trying to commit marriage fraud. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you pursue the best strategy based on your unique circumstances.
At Robert M. Bell, P.A. in Hollywood, Florida, our bilingual immigration law team assists with all aspects of green card applications, deportation defense, U.S. citizenship and other immigration matters. Contact us now for a confidential consultation to learn how we can help.