Divorce is not a rare thing in this century. It hits you strongly, whether mentally or emotionally. And what makes it worse is knowing that it can have a drastic impact on your green card process and can even possibly end in getting you deported from the US. This article will analyze the scenario of divorce (or separation) during the green card process obtained through marriage with a USC and how it can influence your chances of getting a green card in the US.
Road about obtaining a green card by a spouse of the US citizen or LPR of the US
Form I-130 is the first step towards bringing an eligible relative to the US. A US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) of the US has the option to get an eligible relative(including spouse) to the US by filing Form I-130. All he/she needs to do is establish his/her relationship with the spouse, and then the spouse can come to the US and apply for a green card. Applying for a green card is the second step towards immigration to the US. A spouse can do so by filing Form I-485, Registering permanent residence, or adjusting status. Filing Form I-485 will not give him/her LPR straightaway. It will depend on the period of his/her legal marriage with a US citizen or LPR of the US. USCIS has to check the genuineness of the wedding and make sure that nobody is taking undue advantage of immigration law to get a green card. So, USCIS will issue a conditional green card to the immigrant if the marriage is less than 2 years. After that, he/she can apply for a permanent green card by jointly filing Form I-751 within 90 days before the expiration of his/her conditional green card period.
Divorce after approval of Form I-130
Approval of Form I-130 does not provide any immigrant benefit to the spouse. He/she cannot travel and enter the US after its approval. The approval only establishes your spouse’s intention to bring an eligible relative (you) to the US. You need to establish your bona fide relationship with the spouse (if the eligible relative is a spouse) for getting Form-130 approved. For that, you can show evidence of marriage, such as a marriage certificate. It is required to file Form I-130 and get it approved before applying for a green card by an eligible relative.
If you get a divorce after I-130 approval, but before you have applied for legal permanent status, then your immigration process will not carry on, and you will become ineligible to become a green card holder through this course. The reason is that the sole purpose of granting you a visa is that you and your “soulmate” (who is a US citizen or LPR of the US) should not live apart and can live together in the US. So if the only base for you getting a visa is gone, so are your chances of getting a green card.
Divorce after getting a permanent Legal Residence status
If you are issued a conditional green card, you have to apply for permanent legal resident status (or unconditional green card) by jointly filing Form I-751. For example, suppose everything in your marriage goes well in the initial period of two years, and you and your spouse jointly file Form I-751 and get it approved. Then, you will become a legal permanent resident of the US after removing your conditions.
But again, you will wonder whether divorce can affect your LPR status or not? The answer is that if you are a legal permanent resident at the time of your divorce, your divorce may not disqualify your status or affect your immigration status at all. But, it surely can make you wait longer for the process of naturalization. Many individuals think that divorce at this time will jeopardize their immigration status, and some remain in an unpleasant and sometimes abusive relationship with the fear of losing their status. Usually, you can apply for naturalization after 3 years of LPR status in case of no divorce. However, if divorced, you must file the petition to request that the joint filing requirement be waived. This is also known as a divorce waiver. Once the divorce waiver is approved, you need to wait for two more years and apply for naturalization after 5 years of LPR status. When you apply for US citizenship by the process of naturalization, USCIS will look upon your file and scrutinize whether you had a fraudulent marriage or not if you are divorced at the time of applying for citizenship, a requirement that is known as proof of good faith marriage. At this time, you will have to show the legitimacy of your marriage when it occurred. One such document could be a joint lease agreement in your and your partner’s name at the time of marriage or testimony by your close family and friends.
At Sethi and Mazaheri law firm, we provide easy and affordable guidance through USCIS immigration applications in the case of divorce. If you are not certain how your situation will turn out in the immigration process, contact us now!