man taking off his wedding ring
By: Katherine On: December 8, 2016 In: Family-Based, Immigration Comments: 19
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Divorce is complicated enough — but it becomes even more complicated when the end of your marriage could affect your immigration status.

If you’re getting a green card through your spouse but you divorce before becoming a permanent resident, will immigration officials void your application?

Divorce, Foreign-Born Spouses & Green Cards

The Center for Immigration Studies estimates that close to 400,000 US citizens marry foreign nationals each year. These US citizens must take steps to secure green cards for their foreign-born spouses.

Immigration law classifies spouses of US citizens as “immediate relatives.” Immediate relatives of US citizens have a much faster route to getting a green card than most other US immigrants.

While you may not want to dwell on what seems like an unpleasant or unlikely situation, it is important to be aware of the ways the divorce process can affect your immigration status.

Without a US citizen sponsor, an application for permanent residency may be denied.

Divorced & Staying in the US

While it seems like a divorce may lead to a denied petition or even deportation, most foreign-born spouses going through the divorce process will be granted conditional permanent residence if they do not choose to withdraw their immigration application.

How is this possible? By filing a waiver.

If you were in the process of getting a green card before the marriage ended, you will not be able to secure one based on marriage. However, if the marriage was a good faith union, you can apply for a waiver of termination.

One or more of the following criteria must be met for the waiver to be valid and accepted by US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):

  • Proof that the marital union was valid, such as photographs, evidence of shared property or leases, joint bills and other evidence of a life together.
  • Proof that the immigrant spouse will suffer extreme hardship if sent back to his or her country of origin, such as a statement about the life built in the US thus far.
  • Proof of having suffered extreme cruelty or abuse from a US citizen spouse, which can include sworn statements and affidavits from neighbors and family members.

Note that any documents submitted to USCIS in a language other than English must be accompanied by a certified translation.

Examples of the above proof along with the waiver will establish that the marriage was valid and that you should not be denied permanent resident status.

If you have already obtained a conditional green card before the marriage ends, you have conditional permanent residence. You will need to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence, before your first green card expires.

Form I-751 has a built-in waiver for those who have divorced their US citizen spouses, but USCIS will still require proof that your union was a good faith relationship and not just for immigration purposes.

If you have already obtained unconditional permanent residence before your divorce, the only immigration issue that may occur is a delay in obtaining full citizenship status.

If your marriage to a US citizen ends within a period of three years, you may have to wait until you reach five total years of permanent residence before being able to file an application to get rid of your immigration status once and for all and become a US citizen.

Therefore, as long as your marriage was not fraudulent, divorce should not affect the immigration process.

Note: This page is for general informational purposes only. LLS cannot give personal advice to any individual regarding immigration status. Please contact USCIS with any questions.

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    • Emmanuel Appiah
    • June 10, 2017
    • Reply

    Hello am Emmanuel, I just got married to my wife who is a us citizen and works for the state as nurse. But before our marriage she had married and divorce 4 years ago. Our marriage was this year on the 28 and 29 of April, 2017 in Ghana. What I want to know is that can he file for me and when can he do that? Thank you so much.

    • debi
    • July 20, 2017
    • Reply

    what are your options if you marry someone and find out 5 years later that they married for citizenship and you divorce???

      • Emily
      • August 27, 2017
      • Reply

      When you find out, let me know because I’m going through that myself. I sponsored my husband from 2010 til he got his citizen in 2016. Eleven months later, he’s divorcing me. During our marriage he was certain to buy “separate property” (with marital funds) to have himself all set up. I feel like such a fool.

      • Hussein
      • September 17, 2017
      • Reply

      I got my divorce and June the 2nd 2017 animal New York citizen and I want to get married to my girlfriend and I would like to know how long does it take to immigration to process her paper thank you

    • Nusrat jahan
    • August 01, 2017
    • Reply

    I am married a citizenin 2016.about one year.he apply petition for me.we are not live together because his Family does not like me.he is only one son that’s why he doesn’t leave his family and stay with me.that why we decided until his family will accept me.we live different places.he is citizens from new York .so he live in new York and I live in california.we rent a room in california together sometime he comes to meet me and sometimes I am going to new York. he apply petition for me this January 2017 in california.so can i get green card.without stay together long time.I have evidence of bank account,life insurance,lease document.marriage certificate,together photos,lots of people know us.now immigration send a letter for evidence.we send this paper.my marriage is not fraud.it’s a real marriage.but only problem his family.in love him,and he loves me.plz let me know about my getting green card.

    • Mitchell Krulock
    • August 02, 2017
    • Reply

    Hello, I am a US Marine who recently transferred back to the US from my 2 year tour in Okinawa Japan and my Japanese fiancé holds a permanent resident status from her previous marriage to another Marine. In 2011 they had married, in 2012 she gained her temp visa and moved to the US, in 2013 they were ordered back to Okinawa, in 2015 she gained her permanent resident status as she was considered still in US territory due to being married to a US Marine. He cheated on her around 6 months later and and they separated trying to work it out then divorced in Oct 2016. She wants to come back to the US and her marriage ending was beyond her control.

    She has been out of US territory for as of now, 10 months with 2 to go before we are required to file for a Returning Resident Visa in order for her to be able to return to the US. She has 3 kids as well from that previous marriage, all 3 are US citizens. The problem is I don’t know if they will allow her to return while not having any family ties or work in the US.

    My questions are these: Is she able to return to the US on her own without USCIS and the State Dep denying her due to no ties to the US after filing a Returning resident Visa that states no ties to the US? Can she return having married someone else(me in the future) and have it written in on the Returning Resident Visa form INSTEAD of her now previous husband? Will they deny her returning because of that? Does she have to file to change her status first from married to single? Is her return possible this way or do we have to go through the process of marriage and then applying for a temp visa all over again and then a new green card(permanent resident status) afterward?

    I appreciate any information you can give me.

      • Martin Krulock
      • September 10, 2017
      • Reply

      Call USCIS 1-800-375-5283. Take your time explaining it calmly and fully.

      And call your dad. Lol. 8103385569
      My wife just became a full US citizen Thursday.

    • Clara
    • September 06, 2017
    • Reply

    my friend was married for more than 2/1.2 years and the divorce proceedings will take another 6 months but her conditional green card was just obtained due to delay at USCIS. Due to this delay their marriage suffered .She lived in another country . . She was born and brought up there. She cannot go back there because she cancelled her residence visa and also resigned from her present job and sold her car and left to live with him in USA. I would like to know what will happen to her conditional green card?

    • Steven
    • September 07, 2017
    • Reply

    Have been married over 3.5 years. I am a US Citizen and met my wife while working in Eastern Europe. We have been Stateside for 2.5 years and went through the process to gain her resident status. That took 10 months and about $2000. I was overseas 4 years prior to this so my parents and I both filed together to complete her application. Now she is working at a good paying tech job and wants a divorce immediately. No reasons other than “she isn’t happy” and it is going to be final prior to her late January 2018 date.given by immigration that marks 2 years, I believe. I feel used, betrayed, and that she planned this all along. The fact that there probably is someone else she is involved with further intensifies the hurt. It all came about suddenly and at her request. The divorce will be final before the end of 2017. We have not children, real property, or struggles. I am not trying to salvage the relationship but my parents and I feel used and lied to. What is the law and usual result for her now that she does and has had a resident status and social security card without restrictions and a valid state driver’s license? Thanks.

      • Joe
      • October 21, 2017
      • Reply

      Same issue would love to know how this works. In the middle of it now.

    • Michael Stith
    • September 10, 2017
    • Reply

    I met a woman in the Philippines in March 2016, We got along great and I met her family as well. We decided that I would apply for a Fiance’ Visa for her to come to the USA so that we can marry and apply for her Green Card. We married within one month and hired an Immigration Atty to file the forms for her Green Card. We just found out that there will be a delay and that she will have to get interviewed sometime over the next several months. Our marriage is not going well, she does not like my daughter at all and we argue about every 3 days. She claims that I did not meet all of the promises that I made her and is unhappy. I want to just pay for her return to the Philippines now and not complete the Green Card process. My question is do we have to get a divorce first here in the US or can she just return to the Philippines and can I file something that would annul the marriage without going through a legal divorce. Her marriage to me is not reported In the Philippines because she did not receive her Social Security Number or a Temporary Work Permit , but my marriage to her is recorded here in the US. What do I have to do if she decides to abandon me and return to the Philippines before she completes and receives her Green Card, Any advice would be much appreciated. Thank you, MIchael Stith.

    • EJ
    • September 14, 2017
    • Reply

    what are your options if you married someone and bring in US,and 6 month only she filled a divorce.she can stay in US?

      • Milcah Roberto
      • November 21, 2017
      • Reply

      hi Ej.. i was in your same situation,, anyways do you get any answer from uscis?


    • Gustavo
    • October 07, 2017
    • Reply

    i married a person with a tourist visa less than 2 years ago, we never submit any papers to apply for residency, now i’m applying for a divorce, we have a 1-1/2 year boy, what are my rights and what happen to her legal status in the USA???
    Thank you

    • LJ Ashemuke
    • November 07, 2017
    • Reply

    I married a Nigerian and just found out that he lied on his application. He has 2 kids and a girl back in Nigeria that he plans to marry and bring here. He told me he doesn’t love me as his wife but only as a friend but we have been married since 5/21/2014 and we could not get his visa until Dec. 2015 I am hurt by all this and don’t know what to do. I understand I can get an annulment if I can prove he scammed me into marriage for a visa which I feel he did. But we have to be living apart and he is still hear living in a different room because we have bills together and he is helping in that area. I also found out that he has slept with others that he works with. I am so sick and feel so stupid. I am at a loss on what to do. He just filled in September to have is condition removed. Any advise would be greatly appreciated.

      • LJ Ashemuke
      • November 07, 2017
      • Reply

      oh and He went back in the summer to Nigeria and had another child that makes 3 with this women.

    • Milcah Roberto
    • November 21, 2017
    • Reply

    hi got married january 7,2017,with my u.s citizen husband, and my status still pending in USCIS for my green card,my husband cheating on me and we got divorced Nov.12.2017. theirs an emotionally abused in our relationship..
    how it may affect to my status right now.?what is the best thing to do.? currently living now in Virginia.

    thank you in advance for the reply…


    • Lucia
    • December 19, 2017
    • Reply

    Hi, me and my husband are married two months. I havent file for green card or permanent residency yet. We decided to get divorce, my question is if my divorce will affect my way back home to my country. I wanna leave from USA but I am worried I will never come back for vacations. Is it some steps how to avoide that?

    • RA
    • December 21, 2017
    • Reply

    HI, I got a temporary residence through a marriage with an american citizen but I’m already divorced after one year of being together. I have to apply for the permanent residency in one year more. What can it happen if I get married again with another US Citizen during this period while I’m waiting for my next application? Can this next marriage affect to my approval for the permanent residency? Please help me…

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