Experienced Family Law And Immigration Assistance In Dallas

What happens to an immigrant spouse if they file for divorce?

On Behalf of | Mar 11, 2024 | Immigration and family law

Family-based immigration allows those with loved ones in the United States of America to legally enter the country. Often, a marriage or engagement could give a foreign national an opportunity to secure a visa and then a green card. A green card establishes an immigrant as a lawful permanent resident.

Those who enter the country after marrying a United States citizen or those who secure a fiancé visa and marry shortly after traveling to the United States can secure a green card that makes them a permanent resident. However, it is not the standard green card available to other qualifying immigrants. Their marriage is a condition of remaining in the country. Therefore, a divorce for someone who immigrates due to marriage could affect their status.

An early divorce could affect someone’s status

Someone with a green card obtained through marriage has a conditional green card. It does not require renewal after 10 years like a standard green card. Instead, someone must apply to remove their conditional status roughly two years after becoming a permanent resident. They usually need to file immigration paperwork jointly with their spouse unless they qualify for a joint filing waiver. If someone divorces before they remove their conditional status, they may not be able to secure a standard green card.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the divorce occurs due to domestic violence or a crime committed by the citizen spouse against the non-citizen spouse, there may be programs that could help the permanent resident. Other times, a permanent resident might qualify for another form of family-based immigration depending on their other relationships.

For some immigrants, remaining in an unhappy but not dangerous marriage until they pass the two-year mark and remove their conditional status may be the best solution. After someone reaches the two-year threshold and secures a standard green card, they only have to renew their documents every 10 years. Their marital status should have no bearing on their eligibility for renewal after those initial paperwork requirements.

Understanding the limitations on marital green cards, and seeking legal guidance whenever necessary, may benefit those who enter the country through family-based immigration.