Marriage, Green Cards, and Divorce: An Overview

Unfortunately, not every marriage works out in the end. If you and your spouse are having trouble, you are certainly not alone. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that approximately 790,000 married couples get divorced each year. Although ending a marriage is never easy, the divorce process can be especially stressful for green card holders.

If you came to the United States on a K-1 fiancé visa or you obtained a green card through a marriage, it is imperative that you understand immigration law. Here, our immigration lawyers provide an overview of the most important things you should know about green cards and divorce.

Divorce and Immigration: Effect Depends on the Immigration Benefit Received

You always have a right to get a divorce. In the United States, no person is required to remain in a marriage. Similar to the rest of the country, California is a no-fault divorce state—meaning neither party to a divorce needs to prove that their spouse did anything ‘wrong’ to file for divorce. That being said, it is possible that a divorce will impact your immigration status. Here is what you should know:

  1. Conditional Status Green Card: As a general matter, immigrants are issued a two-year conditional green card when coming to the United States on a spousal visa. During this two year conditional period, USCIS will evaluate the legitimacy of marriage. If you separate while on a conditional green card, divorce could have a significant impact.
  2. Lawful Permanent Residents: For people who are already a lawful permanent resident—meaning those with a 10-year green card—a divorce generally has no little to no effect on their ability to renew their lawful permanent residency. In renewing a 10-year green card after a divorce, an immigrant may use the same name or seek a name change.
  3. American Citizens: For immigrants who have already become U.S. citizens, there is no restriction on divorce. Indeed, it is exceedingly rare that American citizenship is removed. Denaturalization is a very limited tool—it can only be pursued if the government has compelling evidence that an immigration benefit was obtained via fraud.

Immigration Tip: Renew a Two-Year Conditional Green Card Before Divorce

If you are getting divorced while on a two-year conditional green card and you want to remain in the United States, you should prepare a Form I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence with a request for a waiver of the joint filing requirement. You are not necessarily out of luck. A permanent green card may still be possible. Though, you will have to prove that your marriage—even though it did not work out—was entered into in good faith. An experienced immigration lawyer can help you put together a green card renewal package.

Call Our Immigration Attorney for Help With Your Case

At Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive, reliable immigration services to clients. If you have questions about divorce and immigration, we are more than prepared to help. Call us now for a completely confidential immigration strategy session. Our law firms represent individuals and families in Los Angeles and throughout the entire region in Southern California.