Guest Post by Kara Lynum:
Will A Divorce Affect Your Immigration Status?
Divorce and immigration are closely linked: if you’re an immigrant residing in the United States and considering divorce, you should be aware that divorce may affect your immigration status.
For green card holders (lawful permanent residents – LPRs), this may mean waiting longer to apply for citizenship. For shorter-term visa holders, this may mean losing your dependent status and needing to find your own independent visa.
A divorce alone will not make your deportable, but it may mean you are no longer eligible for your current status and you could begin accruing unlawful presence.
IF YOU HAVE YOUR GREEN CARD
Green cards come in two varieties – a conditional permanent resident card (the two year card) and the permanent resident card (the 10 year card.) When you’re going through a divorce, knowing which kind of card you have can be very important.
Two year card:
If you were issued a two-year conditional permanent resident card, this means you obtained your green card within two years of your marriage to a U.S. citizen. At the one year, nine month mark, you are eligible to apply for your ten year (permanent) card using Form I-751. If your divorce is final, you can request your permanent 10 year green card by filing your Form I-751 with proof of your bona fide relationship with your ex-spouse. If your divorce is pending, you should speak with an immigration attorney about your options – this may include asking for your ten year card based on abuse or waiting to file your Form I-751 until your divorce is final.
Ten year card:
If you were issued a permanent 10 year green card and you have divorced the U.S. or permanent resident spouse who petitioned for your green card, you will have to wait until five years after your green card was issued to apply for U.S. citizenship.
APPLYING FOR CITIZENSHIP
If you have divorced the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse who petitioned for your green card, you must now wait 5 years (instead of the 3 year wait if you were married to the petitioning spouse) after receiving your green card to be eligible for U.S. citizenship. You will need to submit a copy of your certified divorce decree either with your citizenship application or at the naturalization interview.
If you have a visa based on your spouse (usually called a derivative spouse), a divorce may mean your status will be terminated and you would have to find an independent way to remain in the United States or depart the United States after the divorce is finalized. If you are here on a visa based on your spouse’s status (for example, H-4, F-2, L-2), seek out an immigration lawyer if you are going through a divorce so you can be fully aware of how it can impact your immigration status.
If you are on a visa in the United States based on your spouse’s immigration status or you have a green card, be sure to speak with an immigration attorney to know the consequences of your divorce. Immigration law and family law interact in many ways and an experienced immigration lawyer can help you as you navigate this complicated area of law.