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Does the End of a Relationship Lead to the End of My U.S. Residency?

Marriage is among the most common bases for immigration into the country. Several visas provide solutions to international partners to rejoin and build their life in the United States. However, just like marriages between two citizens, international marriages are susceptible to divorce. Unlike divorces between two citizens, the dissolution of the relationship can lead to consequences that jeopardize the non-native spouse’s right to stay in the country.

Conditional Resident

Residents who are in the United States on a conditional green card will face scrutiny in their attempts to remain in the country after a divorce. Conditional green cards are given to those who have been married to an American citizen for at least two years before the couple files Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. This two-year period is intended to provide USCIS time to evaluate the legitimacy of the marriage.

While the USCIS acknowledges that love marriages can end for any number of reasons, conditional residents will be burdened with the task of convincing USCIS that the marriage was genuine and not an attempt to bypass immigration laws.

The divorced conditional resident will still need to file Form I-751 when their conditional green card expires. If they fail to do so, or if their application is unsuccessful, they will likely face deportation.

Lawful Permanent Resident

Those who already have a 10-year green card will be relatively unaffected by the divorce in their renewal process. When the time comes to renew and replace their permanent resident card by filing Form I-90, they will find that there are no questions related to their marital status. They may elect to take this time to indicate a name change on their renewal application by submitting a legal name change document alongside Form I-90, such as a divorce decree.

Divorce and Naturalization

Legal permanent residents may face a challenge if they aspire to apply for citizenship. USCIS looks at the entirety of an applicant’s immigration file, and an untimely divorce may raise some concern in their eyes. Those facing this dilemma will need to provide ample proof to show that the marriage was, in fact, genuine.

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

Spouses of U.S. citizens are afforded a simplified path to naturalization. Immigrant spouses who remain married for three years after receiving their green card may apply for naturalization after that three-year period if:

  • The American spouse’s citizenship status remained unchanged
  • They lived together the entire time
  • They remained married until the non-citizen gained citizenship

In instances where the couple divorces, the non-citizen will have to wait five years to file for citizenship, but their divorce will not affect their eligibility.

Contact Cairns Law Offices for more information and assistance with divorce: (888) 863-9115.

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