The breakdown of a marriage can, in and of itself, be one of the most stressful times in one’s life. And if your immigration status is based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, a separation or divorce may introduce additional challenges and heighten your anxiety. Sadly, it is not uncommon for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse to even use their spouse’s immigration status as leverage in divorce, custody and child support matters.
The reality is that even if you are not a U.S. citizen, you may have options and there is no need to let a separation or divorce stop you from pursuing your “American Dream.”
The exact effect a separation or divorce has on your immigration status depends on a multitude of factors, including your spouse’s status, your immigration history, and your current immigration status.
For example, say you obtained a conditional green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. The two-year conditional green card requires you to once again demonstrate to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) that you entered into the marriage in good faith at the end of the two-year probationary period. If a couple is still happily married, they will file a joint petition Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence. However, if your marriage has already ended, if you are in the middle of a separation or divorce, or if your spouse refuses to file Form I-751 with you, hope is not lost. You may still file Form I-751 on your own by requesting a waiver to the joint petition.
Naturally, a separation or divorce casts doubt on the marriage but the conditional resident can overcome the additional scrutiny by providing an explanation of why the marriage ended and plenty of evidence demonstrating that you entered into the marriage with good intentions and that the marriage was not entered into for the purposes of obtaining a green card.
If you are thinking about or are in the middle of a separation or divorce, you should know your options. Consult with an experienced attorney who understands both family law and immigration law in order to protect yourself and your immigration status.
Rama Taib-Lopez, Esquire is an experienced family law attorney with Joseph, Greenwald & Laake, P.A. with substantial experience dealing with immigration law and the impact it has in family law cases.