Divorce and Immigration

Many individuals obtain residency in the United States as a byproduct of marriage with an American citizen. These non-citizens must complete a two-year probationary period to obtain permanent resident status. When “conditional residents” do not meet the requirements of this period, their status may expire.

To meet these conditions, your marriage must remain intact for at least two years after the approval for conditional residence. A divorce can absolutely impact your lawful status and your right to remain in the United States. The following is what you need to know about ending your marriage and protecting your status as a conditional resident.

Divorce and “Bad Faith”

The second requirement for transitioning a conditional residency into a permanent residency based upon marriage is that the marriage must have been undertaken in good faith. That means that the relationship is sincere and was not created for the sole purpose of one person obtaining a green card.

In divorces where immigration matters are concerned, it is easy for one spouse to allege “bad faith” as partial grounds for divorce. In this situation, the citizen spouse swears under oath that the marriage is fraudulent and the conditional resident or “non-citizen” married them solely for the purpose of obtaining citizenship.

If the citizen’s allegations of bad faith are officially entered into the court record as part of their divorce proceedings, it cannot be undone unless the person admits to lying under oath. When a divorce decree indicates the marriage was made in bad faith, the non-citizen’s chances of obtaining permanent residence in the United States may become nearly impossible.

How to Handle Divorce as a Conditional Resident

While it is typically more challenging to achieve permanent residency status after a divorce, it is still possible. First and foremost, you will need to prove the marriage was approached in “good faith.” This means you and your spouse enjoyed a normal married life – sharing the things couples typically do, including bank accounts, credit cards, and health insurance.

As you approach your final 90 days as a conditional resident, you will need to file Form I-751. This is the “Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence.” This form must be completed by the expiration date on your green card. If you were still married, this form would be filed jointly with your spouse. If you are already legally divorced, you will need to complete a special waiver and file this form on your own.

If you have already received permanent resident status, your divorce should not impact your status. Yet it is important to note that instead of waiting three years to apply for naturalization, you will now have to wait five years to do so.

Because your immigration issues and concerns are unique, it may be helpful to contact a Philadelphia immigration lawyer for clarity regarding your individual situation.

Citizenship and Immigration in Philadelphia: Attorneys at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Work to Protect the Status of Divorcing Clients

No one wants to accept their marriage is not going to work. For foreign-born spouses, the fear of jeopardizing their status often keeps them in an unhappy marriage. If you know that divorce is the only option for you, make sure you protect your status in the process. To find out the next best step for you, contact the firm dedicated to resolving issues around citizenship and immigration in Philadelphia.

To discuss citizenship and immigration in Philadelphia with a knowledgeable and compassionate immigration attorney at Surin & Griffin, P.C., call 215-925-4435 or submit an online contact form. From our offices conveniently located in Center City Philadelphia, we represent clients throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.