Divorce can be one of the most devastating and emotionally taxing experiences in any person’s life. However, if you are an immigrant or foreign national in the United States, divorce could significantly impact your ability to obtain permanent residency.

While you might not necessarily run into these issues, ending your marriage has many potential problems with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Understanding how your divorce could affect your green card status is crucial so you can protect yourself and your rights.

Can Divorce or Separation Affect Your Immigration Status?

The end of your marriage does not necessarily mean you will automatically be denied citizenship, be forced to attend deportation proceedings, or be removed from the country. This is particularly true if you earned your citizenship status before your divorce.

Most immigrant spouses who become lawful permanent residents through marriage are not at risk of deportation if they divorce. However, if you have a conditional resident visa, it is more likely your immigration status will be affected.

Green Card Types

There are multiple types of green cards, and your green card status will determine whether a divorce will impact your residency or existing green card application.

Permanent vs. Conditional Green Card

Having a permanent green card means you will not need to worry about deportation or losing your immigration status if you and your marriage. However, if you have a conditional green card, it is important to work with an immigration attorney to avoid these risks.

When you have a conditional green card, you may be required to prove you didn’t marry your soon-to-be ex-spouse to avoid United States immigration laws. Once you remove these conditions, you can protect your immigration status and move forward with your life.

Divorcing with a Permanent Green Card

If you already have a permanent green card, divorcing your spouse will not affect your immigration status. Once you decide to end your marriage and need to renew your permanent green card, you must file form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card.

These renewals do not ask questions related to your marital status. This is especially true if you have had your permanent green card for at least 10 years. Upon your divorce, you may need to change the name on your green card by replacing it or renewing it.

This should be a simple matter after divorce, as you will have a divorce decree that proves your name change is legally binding and appropriate. When filing your application to replace your permanent resident card, include your requested name change, a copy of your divorce decree, and your legal name change document.

Divorcing with a Conditional Green Card

With a conditional green card, annulment or divorce could prove problematic. In most cases, conditional green cards are issued on a two-year basis by USCIS. During this time, officials will work to determine whether your marriage is bona fide. Divorce during these two years could complicate your immigration status.

As long as your marriage was entered in good faith, you should have no problem. However, you should be prepared to prove the marriage was real.

You cannot obtain your permanent resident green card until the conditions have been removed. This is usually done by filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. You might be able to obtain a waiver to this joint petition, but you can expect USCIS officials to closely scrutinize your case.

Divorce and Naturalization

Becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen could be more challenging if you get divorced after your permanent resident green card has been issued but before naturalization.

To apply for naturalization using Form N-400, you are generally filing for naturalization on the basis of marriage for a minimum of three years to a United States citizen. At the time of naturalization, you must be married to your spouse and have been living with your spouse for at least three years before filing your naturalization application.

If you have been a permanent resident for a minimum of five years, you may be able to file your naturalization forms despite your divorce. This is because eligibility at this point will not depend on your current marriage.

For example, let’s say a U.S. citizen married a foreign national, and after two years, they decided to end their marriage. The foreign national would need to retain their permanent resident green card for a minimum of five years before being eligible to file a naturalization application as opposed to a citizenship application based on their marriage.

Get Help from an Experienced Immigration Attorney Today

You should never feel compelled to stay in an unhappy marriage to obtain permanent residency or your United States green card. In fact, doing so could be considered fraud. When going through a divorce, work with an experienced immigration attorney. Their help can be crucial for you to continue moving forward with your green card application and avoid potential scrutiny from USCIS.

Reach out to our team at American Immigration Law Group for an initial consultation today to learn more about how we can help you secure your green card despite your divorce. You can reach us through our online contact form or by phone at 314-416-8000 to start working on your immigration case as soon as today.