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Marriage Green Card: Can I lose my permanent residence if I get divorced?

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Immigration through a marriage Green Card is one of the most common forms of obtaining permanent residence in the USA. However, getting a divorce while still pending approval might be troublesome for some.

Divorce is nothing to be ashamed of. Nowadays, around 750,000 Americans get divorced each year. This is not to say that divorce can’t be a traumatic and difficult experience for those involved, and for those who are going through an immigration process – like getting a marriage Green Card – it can certainly create some issues.

Before we continue, you should know that once USCIS approves your permanent residence and gives you a fully approved Green Card, you won’t lose your residence even if you divorce. However, if you had a form of conditional residence or your petition was still awaiting approval, you will be at risk of losing your permanent residence. Working with an experienced immigration lawyer can be crucial in order to save your case.

Can I renew my marriage Green Card after divorce?

In the vast majority of cases, changes in the marriage – including divorce – do not affect the permanent residence status of those involved if it has already been approved. Therefore, there are usually no problems when it comes to renewing. Simply, when the time is right, Form I-90 should be filed following the normal procedure.

A frequent question is what happens if the person changed their name after a divorce. This shouldn’t present any issues either. The new name can be updated during the same permanent residence renewal process. Simply include the name change on the I-90 form and attach the appropriate documentation supporting the legal name change.

In general terms, neither divorce nor name changes can affect permanent residence. However, the situation can become more complicated if at the time of divorce the marriage Green Card is conditional or still pending approval.

What happens if I get divorced during the Green Card application process?

If the couple divorces while the application process for a marriage Green Card is underway, the petition will be automatically denied. Therefore, the person who was sponsored by her spouse will no longer be eligible for permanent residence. This does not mean that you cannot apply for residence through other means, such as through the sponsorship of an employer.

It’s very important to note that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) is extremely attentive to detecting migratory intentions behind marriages. If you marry out of convenience or try to hide a divorce so as not to jeopardize your permanent residence, it’s very
likely USCIS will notice and deny your petition.

Can a divorce affect my right to apply for naturalization in the future?

A few years after obtaining a Green Card through marriage – or any form of permanent residence – you will be able to apply for the naturalization process. If your petition is approved, you will obtain full US citizenship.

One of the main issues that might arise after a divorce is the number of years that you will have to wait before applying for citizenship. Marriage Green Card holders have special privileges, and are able to apply for naturalization after just three years of continuous residence in the country.

However, most permanent residents have to wait at least five years before applying. If you get a divorce you will lose the three-year privilege and will have to meet the usual five-year requirement to be eligible.

Another problem that may arise is that USCIS might be suspicious about the authenticity of your original marriage if you get a divorce soon after obtaining a marriage Green Card. During the naturalization interview, the USCIS officer will likely ask what went wrong with your first marriage. Any indications of fraud or bad faith will end in USCIS terminating both the naturalization process and permanent residence.

If you are in need of immigration legal advice, do not hesitate to contact us! At the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon we have wide experience in immigration proceedings, family law, and personal injury and have successfully defended our clients for over 10 years. Contact us through our website or give us a call at (281) 606-0800!

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