Divorce can be a highly emotional and challenging time for anyone. But for immigrants holding a Green Card, there may be additional concerns and questions regarding their immigration status.
What is the Relationship Between Divorce and Green Cards?
A Green Card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, grants a person “lawful permanent resident” status in the United States. It is important to note that status as a lawful permanent resident and the associated Green Card is not always directly tied to marital status. While marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is one of the common paths to obtaining a Green Card, divorce does not automatically result in losing status and getting your Green Card taken back.
Is Your Green Card Conditional?
If an immigrant spouse obtained their Green Card through marriage and the marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, they will receive a conditional Green Card. They will be considered a conditional permanent resident. This means their status depends on meeting specific requirements after receiving their card. In such cases, divorce within the first two years of marriage after getting your Green Card may have specific consequences.
Filing for a Waiver of Joint Filing
To become a full permanent resident, a conditional Green Card holder must file an application jointly with their spouse after two years called a “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.”
However, if you’re getting divorced or are divorced, you can’t file this application jointly. When a conditional Green Card holder goes through a divorce before the two-year mark, they are often required to file for a waiver, which requests an exemption from the joint filing requirement.
To qualify for the waiver, the applicant must prove they did not engage in marriage fraud to get a Green Card. They need to demonstrate that the marriage was entered into in good faith but ended unexpectedly in divorce. It is crucial to consult an experienced immigration attorney to navigate this process successfully.
Factors Affecting Green Card Status After Divorce
When you feel divorce is necessary, keep in mind the following considerations when making a plan for your situation:
Demonstrating Good Faith Marriage
Regardless of whether the Green Card is conditional or permanent, a divorce may raise concerns about the authenticity of the marriage. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will evaluate the marriage to determine if it was entered into in good faith. Evidence such as joint financial accounts, shared assets, birth certificates of any children, photographs, and testimonies from friends and family can help demonstrate the legitimacy of the marriage.
In cases where the divorce results from abuse or extreme cruelty, the immigrant spouse may be eligible for a waiver of the joint filing requirement or the two-year marriage requirement. Proving such circumstances may require supporting evidence, such as police reports, medical records, or relevant testimonials from professionals like psychiatrists.
Protecting Your Green Card Status
Even if you got your green card through marriage, your status doesn’t have to end just because the marriage does. Take these key steps to protect yourself during this challenging process:
Consult an Immigration Attorney
If you are an immigrant facing a divorce, it is crucial to seek professional guidance from an immigration attorney who specializes in family-based immigration. They can provide personalized advice based on your unique circumstances, ensuring your rights and immigration status are protected throughout the immigration process.
Maintaining accurate and detailed documentation is vital in protecting your Green Card status. Keep copies of important documents such as marriage certificates, divorce decrees, tax returns, joint bills, any other evidence demonstrating your marriage’s legitimacy, and any letters you get from USCIS.
Notify USCIS of Changes
It is crucial to promptly notify USCIS of any changes in your marital status. Failure to update your marital status could lead to potential immigration consequences in the future.
Risks of Divorcing With A Green Card
Divorcing when you recently married and received a Green Card is a red flag for USCIS when they review your application. This factor will almost always require more forms and additional evidence to support your case that you entered into the marriage with intentions to remain married.
Remember to gather evidence demonstrating the authenticity of your marriage and check your mail often to ensure you’re communicating with and complying with USCIS. If your claims aren’t supported when you file your application, you may receive Requests for Evidence requiring you to send in even more documents for your case to proceed.
It is inevitable that getting divorced will invite more scrutiny into your case when you take the next steps in your immigration process. Therefore, it’s vital to seek help from an experienced immigration attorney who knows how to tell your story best.
Let Us Help You Navigate Divorcing With A Green Card
While divorce can be a challenging experience, it does not automatically result in the revocation of your Green Card. The implications of divorce on an immigrant’s Green Card status depend on various factors such as the type of Green Card, the duration of the marriage, and the circumstances surrounding the divorce.
By taking proactive steps and working with a knowledgeable attorney, you can ensure that your immigration status remains secure during and after the divorce proceedings. Call the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation. We have helped many clients navigate complicated immigration processes and are here to help you too!