Divorce can be financially and emotionally draining. And if you are a foreigner who is married to a U.S. citizen, divorce can also complicate your residency status, depending on a variety of factors. Before filing any paperwork with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), it helps to understand how your relationship status may impact your situation.
To fully understand how divorce could impact your residency status, you’ll need to address the timing of the split. At what stage of the green card status and marriage are you dissolving your union?
Divorcing before receiving your green card
The first step in the family immigration process involves filing an I-130 immigrant relative petition. Even upon approval, this petition does not give the foreign national residency rights. Thus, if the marital union ends before the green card is issued, the foreign national in question may not have any legal residency status. In other words, the severance that terminates the marriage automatically ends the foreign national’s eligibility for a green card.
Divorcing before the expiration of the conditional residency period
Most spousal-based green card petitions are filed after finalizing a marriage. The green card marriage petition moves an applicant to the second step in the process upon the approval of I-130. Here, the newly wedded couple will file an I-485 green card application form and schedule an interview with the USCIS. Upon passing this interview, the immigrant will receive a conditional green card.
If a couple divorces while the conditional green card is still in effect, the foreign national must convince the USCIS that the marriage was indeed valid or they may have their visa canceled and may be subsequently removed from the country.
Protecting your rights
Divorce does not have to bring your dream of becoming a lawful U.S. permanent resident to an end. Understanding your legal options can help you protect your rights when your residency status is on the line following a decision to divorce.