What happens to my green card if I get a divorce?
- By Nisha Karnani
- March 10, 2014
- Family and General Immigration
Sometimes a divorce will have immigration consequences. If you are an immigrant considering divorce, it's important to understand any impact to your pending green card application, your current green card or eligibility to file for US citizenship.
Here are some common situations where divorce can impact your green card (also called lawful permanent residence)
- You have a pending green card application based upon marriage to your spouse
- You have a pending green card application based upon your spouse's employment
- You have conditional permanent resident status (sometimes called a 2-year green card or temporary green card) based upon marriage
- Your family member is sponsoring your green card in a visa category where marital status is relevant to your visa eligibility and/or backlog
How divorce can impact filing for US citizenship
Divorce can mean you are bumped back to the standard five year wait to file for US citizenship. The wait to file for citizenship is only three years if your spouse is a US citizen and you have lived together in marital union for at least three years after getting your green card and before filing for citizenship. Thus, a divorce or separation typically means you will need to wait five years instead of three to file for US citizenship.
Also, a divorce or separation can come up at your citizenship interview no matter when you file. USCIS may ask you about the timing and reasons behind your separation or divorce to assess whether it was a bona fide marriage that didn't work out or a marriage for immigration purposes. This questioning is common when the separation or divorce proceedings occur immediately after green card approval.
How can you avoid negative immigration consequences if you are getting divorced?
USCIS understands that sometimes bona fide marriages do not work out. Thus, there are protections built into the immigration law. Examples include the following:
(A) Conditional Permanent Residents are typically required to file a joint petition (Form I-751) with their spouse in the 90 day window before their two year conditional green card expires. However, they can request a waiver of this requirement based upon divorce, abuse or extreme hardship.
(B) Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) immigration provisions allow both women and men to self-petition for their green cards if they are in abusive marriages to US citizens or green card holders. This requires demonstrating a good faith marriage, joint residence, good moral character and abuse or extreme cruelty. This I-360 VAWA petition must be filed either during the marriage or within two years of the divorce. If the divorce occurred more than two years ago, there may be other options, including VAWA cancellation or a U-Visa for certain crime victims.
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