*Practice limited to federal immigration law. Licensed in NY, MA, but not in CA.

What You Need to Know About Divorce and Your Conditional Residence Status

If you have received a green card through marriage, your initial green card is ‘conditional’. It is only valid for two years. After that period has expired, you will need to complete an I-751 petition in order to have the conditions on your green card removed. Essentially, this means that you will be applying to have your temporary, conditional green card converted into permanent residency. Under U.S. immigration law, the American citizen spouse of the green card holder is required to jointly file their petition for permanent residence.

Of course, we all know that marriage is complicated. Unfortunately, not every relationship works out in the end. While divorce is stressful for any couple, for conditional green card holders, divorce also creates a very complex immigration situation. If you were married and are now (or are planning to be) divorced before you submit your I-751 petition, you will need to obtain a waiver in order to file your application.

Can You Get a Divorce Waiver for Your I-751 Filing?

The good news for conditional green card holders is that divorce waivers are available under U.S. immigration law. This means that might be eligible to obtain a waiver that allows you to submit an I-751 petition without your former American citizen spouse taking any part in the filing process. However, it must be noted that obtaining an I-751 divorce waiver can be challenging. To do so, you will need:

  • A copy your green card;
  • A copy of the divorce or annulment papers;
  • Evidence that your marriage was entered into in “good faith”; and
  • Evidence that circumstances changed, which led to the divorce.

The last two bullet points are the key: To obtain an I-751 divorce waiver, you will need to be able to prove that your marriage was real. To put it bluntly, when divorce occurs within the first two years, it raises red flags in the minds of U.S. immigration officials. These officials may be concerned the marriage was not ‘real’, but instead, that it was simply being used to obtain a green card.

Worse yet, in some cases, a divorce leaves the American citizen spouse bitter, and they may try to sabotage your I-751 petition. Indeed, your spouse may even try to get the words “bad faith” put into the divorce decree. The bottom line is simple: If you currently hold a conditional green card, and you believe that you may get divorced before the two-year period ends, you need to speak to an experienced immigration lawyer immediately. Your lawyer will help you take action to protect your immigration status.

Get Immigration Help in Southern California Today

At the Goldstein Immigration Lawyers, our top-rated immigration lawyers have extensive experience handling cases involving I-751 waivers. For help preparing your 1-751 application, please call us today at (213) 262-2000. We represent immigration law clients throughout the Los Angeles metro area, including in Compton, Carson, Long Beach and Westminster.

Josh Goldstein
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