If you are married to a U.S. citizen and plan to obtain permanent residency through marriage, but are facing a possible separation or divorce, it is important to know the legal implications and possible consequences.
If you are plagued by questions such as “What happens if I divorce before permanent residency?” or “What about the immigration proof of marriage I need?”, we are here to help.
In this article, written by the legal experts at Urbina Immigration Law, we will explain what happens if you get divorced before permanent residency and how you can legally protect yourself.
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What happens if I divorce before permanent residency?
The impact of a divorce between an immigrant and a U.S. citizen will depend on the stage of the immigration process the marriage is in. If you divorce before obtaining permanent residency, this could have a major impact on your immigration status and your future in the United States.
Don’t let a divorce ruin your future in the United States! If you are going through an immigration process and are facing a divorce, it is important that you make the right decisions. At Urbina Immigration Law we are here to help you navigate this difficult time and protect your immigration rights.
Cases and exceptions
Divorce may occur:
- Once the application for permanent residence has been filed, but before receiving the Green Card.
- After receiving the Conditional Green Card.
- After removal of Green Card conditions.
If an immigrant divorces before obtaining conditional residency by marriage, his or her immigration process stops. This implies the loss of eligibility to apply for a green card, which could lead to deportation.
If the immigrant divorces after obtaining permanent residency, the risk of deportation is lower. However, there may still be legal consequences that affect your immigration status.
There are certain exceptions that allow the immigrant spouse to appeal the deportation and obtain permanent residence, even after the divorce. If the immigrant spouse demonstrates any of these exceptions, he or she has the option to remain in the country and maintain his or her process to obtain permanent residency:
- The marriage was entered into in good faith and was terminated due to a cause beyond the control of the immigrant spouse. A court will confirm this information with proof of marriage for immigration purposes and data that recognizes whether the couple lived together in the same residence, had children, or acquired property together.
- The immigrant spouse could face extreme hardship if he or she is deported to his or her home country.
- The immigrant spouse was the victim of extreme cruelty, physical or psychological abuse by the U.S. citizen spouse.
If you want to avoid costly mistakes and speed up your immigration process to obtain your permanent residency, contact our offices. We are here to help you.
I have not yet obtained permanent residency, what happens if I get divorced?
If an immigrant divorces before obtaining permanent residency, he or she may face several legal consequences, including:
- Loss of immigrant visa: If the immigrant divorces before obtaining permanent residency, he/she loses his/her legal status in the country and his/her immigrant visa is annulled.
- Return to country of origin: In some cases, cancellation of the immigrant visa could lead to the deportation of the immigrant to his or her country of origin.
- Difficulties in applying for a new visa: If the immigrant is deported, he or she may face difficulties in applying for a new visa or re-entering the United States in the future.
Divorce can also affect the process of obtaining permanent residency in several ways, such as:
- Changes in the petition process: If the immigrant divorces before his or her petition for permanent residence is approved, the petition process may change. For example, a new request may be required, or a different sponsor may be needed.
- Immigration marriage test requirements: If the immigrant divorces before obtaining permanent residence, he or she may be required to prove that the marriage was bona fide, i.e., that he or she did not marry just to obtain immigration benefits. In some cases, an investigation may be required to determine the authenticity of the marriage.
Can I go to the consular interview without my spouse?
For those wondering “What happens if I divorce before permanent residency?”, one of the consequences is the absence of the spouse from the interview process.
However, if you opted for the consular processing option for the immigration process, it is important to know that under immigration law it is not necessary for the U.S. spouse to be present at the interview. This is because it is common for the U.S. spouse to be unable to travel to the consulate in the foreign spouse’s country to attend the consular interview.
What happens if my spouse does not show up for the Green Card interview?
Conversely, while the presence of the spouse at the consular interview is not required, the Green Card interview is highly dependent on the presence of the U.S. spouse.
In the face of a conspicuous absence, even if the foreign spouse can explain the spouse’s absence, immigration officials may interpret that the citizen or permanent resident is not cooperating with the process. This may result in the cancellation of the immigration process in the absence of sufficient proof of marriage for immigration purposes.
How does divorce affect my conditional residency by marriage?
If you have obtained your Green Card through marriage and have been married for less than two years, your permanent residence status will be conditional. This means that your green card will be valid for two years instead of the usual ten years.
After that time you must submit your proof of marriage for immigration to USCIS and you will be granted removal of conditions and a Green Card for 10 years. However, if you get divorced during your conditional residency by marriage, it is very possible that your immigration process will be affected.
This is because the conditional residency by marriage clause in your Green Card states that the couple must file a joint petition. Therefore, if you are facing a separation or annulment of the marriage, you will not be able to continue with this process.
However, there are some steps that can be taken to avoid the possible consequences:
- File theForm I-751 with USCIS to apply for removal of conditional residency by marriage.
- Submit a waiver of the joint filing requirement.
- Demonstrate that the marriage was bona fide. This last step of filing proof of marriage for immigration may be difficult if the divorce occurs before the U.S. government removes the conditional status.
Can divorce affect the immigration rights of other family members?
Divorce can affect the immigration status of other family members who depend on the same immigration process.
For example, if a U.S. citizen applies for his or her foreign spouse and unmarried children under the age of 21, the foreign spouse’s divorce may affect the children’s application for permanent residence. This is because the children are dependent on the immigration status of the immigrant spouse and if that status is lost, the children may also lose the opportunity to obtain permanent residency.
In addition, it may impact visa applications for other relatives sponsored by the immigrant spouse who holds conditional residency by marriage. Immigration officials may question the authenticity of the immigration marriage evidence provided and it may be difficult to prove that the marriage was bona fide.
Don’t let divorce affect your family’s immigration future! If you are going through a divorce and have family members dependent on your immigration process, it is important to seek the help of a trusted immigration attorney.
Can I divorce after the removal of conditional residency by marriage?
In general, permanent resident status is not affected by divorce if the 10-year Green Card has already been obtained. After the conditionality is removed, your residency will be permanent and will not depend on your marriage. However, it is important to keep in mind that a divorce can have implications in other areas.
After obtaining permanent residency, a divorce will not affect the alien’s immigration status. However, if the foreign spouse divorces shortly after obtaining permanent residence, USCIS may suspect that the marriage was not bona fide and may initiate an investigation to determine whether there was fraud in the immigration process.
What happens to my citizenship if I divorce?
Although divorce will not affect your permanent residency if you have already obtained removal of conditions, depending on the circumstances it may affect your eligibility to become a U.S. citizen.
At the time the alien applies for U.S. citizenship, USCIS will review his or her immigration history and may consider his or her divorce to be suspicious. In such a case, USCIS may require the following proof of marriage for immigration and documentation to prove the authenticity of your marriage:
- Documentation that you lived with your U.S. spouse
- Proof of parenting (if applicable)
- Joint financial account vouchers
- Affidavits from friends and relatives
- Photos of shared trips or events
- Proof of co-ownership of properties
- Documentation of mortgages, loans or leases
If you are considering applying for U.S. citizenship after a divorce, make sure you have the advice of an immigration attorney to guide you through this process. Contact Urbina Immigration Law today for help.
How can I prove the authenticity of my marriage in case of divorce when applying for citizenship?
By submitting proof of marriage for immigration, such as documents evidencing joint ownership, photographs showing the couple’s relationship, and testimonials from friends and family who can support the authenticity of the marriage, it can be demonstrated to immigration authorities that the relationship is real and not a fraudulent marriage.
How long do I have to be married to obtain permanent residency?
To file an application for permanent residence by marriage, the marriage must have lasted at least two years. If you have been married for less than two years, you can obtain a conditional residency by marriage that lasts for two years, then you must file an application to remove the conditionality and obtain permanent residency.
What happens if the marriage takes place in another country?
If the marriage was legally celebrated in another country, you may be required to submit additional immigration documentation to prove the authenticity of the marriage. This may include official translations of marriage certificates, affidavits and any other documentary evidence necessary to prove that the marriage was legitimate and not contracted for immigration purposes.
What happens if my spouse dies before I obtain permanent residency?
In the event that your spouse dies before you obtain permanent residence, there is a special exemption called the “spousal death exemption”. To apply, you must show that the marriage was bona fide and that you did not marry solely for the purpose of obtaining residency. You must also provide documentary evidence of the relationship and of the death of the spouse. If approved, you can still obtain permanent residency.
Do you need an Immigration Lawyer for your Conditional Residency by Marriage?
An immigration attorney can help you through the entire process of obtaining your permanent residency, from the filing of the application to the immigration interview. It can also help you evaluate your immigration options and determine whether you are eligible for a visa or adjustment of status.
In addition, an immigration attorney can help you gather and present the necessary documentation to support your application, advise you on potential barriers and challenges you may face, and represent you in any immigration court hearings.
If you need assistance with the removal of conditions on your conditional residence by marriage, please do not hesitate to contact us. At Urbina Immigration Law we are ready to help you achieve your immigration goals and provide you with the peace of mind you need in this process.