Divorce is a challenging time for anyone. It’s expensive, emotionally draining, and may even impact your immigration status in the U.S.
A divorce after a green card can present new and confusing challenges to someone with permanent residency status.
Before filing a petition or application with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services), it’s important to understand how a divorce or annulment may impact your situation.
Renewing Your Green Card After a Divorce
Most green cardholders won’t be affected by a divorce. For someone who is a lawful permanent resident and who has received their 10-year green card, there should be no issue when it comes to renewing. You simply file a Form I-90, which will let you replace or renew your green card.
There will be no questions regarding your marital status. Once you receive the 10-year green card, your marriage status won’t have a direct impact on your immigration status.
You also have the option to change your name on your green card when you replace or renew it. Some divorced women opt to change their name to their maiden name when this is done. If you have legal documentation of the name change (such as a divorce decree), it’s possible to change your name on your green card. Just indicate the name change on your Form I-90 and provide a copy of your legal name change document.
Conditional Green Card Divorce
Having an annulment or divorce may present an issue if you received your green card via marriage to a permanent resident or U.S. citizen. In these situations, USCIS will provide you with a two-year conditional green card.
The two-year time period gives USCIS time to determine whether the marriage is legitimate. According to immigration law, it’s required that USCIS take several extra steps during a green card marriage to make sure it was entered into in good faith. When the probation period is over, the couple is required to file a joint petition and provide evidence to show that the marriage is legitimate.
Continual Proof that the Marriage Is Legitimate
The possible issue in this situation is if the divorce creates a doubt that the marriage was legitimate. There is a waiver to the joint petition. The conditional resident is allowed to file Form I-751 after their divorce. While this is an option, USCIS is going to scrutinize the situation even further.
The goal is to ensure that both parties enter the marriage with good faith and good intentions. Particularly, USCIS wants to confirm that the marriage wasn’t entered to circumvent the immigration law to fraudulently receive a green card.
The conditional resident must provide evidence that the marriage was real. It’s recognized by USCIS that couples who once loved and were committed to one another can still end in divorce. However, it’s up to the conditional resident to show what happened that led to the divorce.
Filing the Waiver for a Joint Filing Requirement
Getting a divorce after you receive your conditional green card should not keep you from filing your I-751 petition. While you can file this on your own, it is a good idea to talk to an immigration attorney before submitting this form. Remember, the stakes in this situation are high. If you don’t file Form I-751 or if the petition is unsuccessful, it will likely result in deportation (removal proceedings). You need to seek advice from an attorney to know your options for your specific situation.
Divorce After a Green Card Application Is Submitted
There are a few ways that your marriage will make you eligible to receive a green card. As a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident, you can petition your spouse to receive permanent residency (a green card). However, you can also be the spouse of another person who was sponsored. In this case, it is called a derivative applicant.
Before Application Approval
If you divorce before the approval of your green card, then the immigration process will stop completely. The divorce will dissolve the relationship that made the individual eligible to begin with. This is the case even in situations where USCIS has already approved the immigrant petition.
After Application Approval
If a divorce is filed after green card approval, there’s typically no reason for USCIS to review your case for the purpose of permanent resident status.
While this is true, divorce puts additional burdens on conditional residents who have a two-year green card. Having a divorce after your green card has been issued is significant. In these types of situations, the conditional resident is required to file Form I-751 and a waiver to the joint filing requirement to provide proof to USCIS that the marriage was ended in good faith.
Any permanent resident that is going through a divorce needs to understand its impact on the naturalization process, as well. Even when you are eligible to file the naturalization application based on having five years as a permanent resident, you will give USCIS a reason to inspect your situation again.
Divorce before Naturalization
Filing for divorce after getting a green card but before you are naturalized may or may not impact your ability to become a U.S. citizen. It all depends on your unique situation and circumstances. This is another situation where speaking to an immigration attorney is highly recommended.
Understanding Your Rights and Green Card Divorce
As you can see, there are more than a few factors to consider when it comes to getting your green card and divorcing. Being informed and knowing your rights is a must. Keep the information here in mind, which is going to help ensure that you take the right steps and that the process doesn’t result in negative outcomes for your situation.
Speaking with an immigration attorney is highly recommended. This legal professional can evaluate your situation and provide you with actionable advice regarding what you should do to protect yourself and avoid deportation.
Attorney Kirby J. Fullerton
Mr. Fullerton’s practice is focused on immigration law. He speaks Spanish, and represents clients in cases before the immigration courts and the Board of Immigration Appeals. He began his career practicing criminal defense, and understands how matters in criminal courts can affect a client’s immigration status. [Attorney Bio]