Sonoma County divorce attorney blog. Can divorce affect my green card? According to the Center for Immigration Studies, approximately 400,000 foreign nationals marry United States citizens every year. Foreign nationals who marry U.S. citizens can secure permanent legal status on the basis of their marital status. One of the most common ways for a foreign spouse to obtain permanent legal status is to obtain a green card. This requires the spouse who is a U.S. citizen to file a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services requesting a green card on behalf of their foreign national spouse. For a foreign national spouse to receive permanent legal status, U.S. immigration law requires that the couple prove that they have a valid marriage that was not entered into for the purpose of gaining an immigration benefit. Initially, the foreign national spouse will receive a conditional green card which is valid for two years. The foreign national spouse can file a request to remove conditions in order to receive a permanent green card before the conditional green card expires.
Does filing for divorce impact a foreign national’s permanent legal status?
Often, foreign nationals who have either obtained permanent legal status in the United States, or are in the process of doing so, are concerned that filing for divorce will result in the loss of their permanent residency status and lead to deportation. While this is usually not the case, it is important that foreign nationals who are considering filing for divorce consult with an attorney who is knowledgeable regarding how divorce may affect an individual’s immigration status.
Can Divorce Affect My Green Card?
The ramifications of filing for divorce on a foreign national spouse’s immigration status will depend on a variety of factors. One key factor to consider is how far along the immigration process the foreign national spouse is when the couple files for divorce.
If a foreign national spouse is in possession of an unconditional green card when the couple divorces, the separation will have minimal impact on their immigration status. Generally, the only impact the divorce will have is on the length of time the foreign national spouse will have to wait before obtaining U.S. citizenship. Legal permanent residents who are married to U.S. nationals can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years of residency. If the divorce occurs prior to three years of marriage, the foreign national spouse will have to wait the standard five year period to apply for U.S. citizenship and cannot take advantage of the abbreviated residency requirement.
If a foreign national spouse is in possession of a conditional green card or has applied for a green card but has not yet been issued one, they may still be able to obtain permanent legal status even if couple files for divorce. However, the foreign national spouse may be required to make certain filings with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services in order to prove that the marriage was valid.
If you are a foreign national who is married to an American citizen and you or your spouse are considering filing for a divorce, you should contact an attorney immediately. An attorney can review the circumstances of your case and help you understand the immigration ramifications of your divorce.
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