Divorce-Related Immigration Issues

Many individuals who immigrate to the United States move here with a partner. Marrying an American provides a path to citizenship that single immigrants do not have. When a marriage between an American citizen and an immigrant becomes contentious and the couple considers divorce, the immigrant partner’s status in the United States can be jeopardized. Before filing for divorce, immigrants and their American spouses should understand the repercussions the divorce can have on the immigrant partner’s status.

Green Cards

When an individual becomes a lawful permanent resident in the United States, which is signified by a green card, they can remain in the country regardless of their divorce status. However, obtaining a divorce can disqualify them for the quicker path to citizenship granted to spouses of citizens, requiring them to wait five years to apply for citizenship.

If the individual has a conditional green card, meaning that they have been married for two years or less, the conditional green card is terminated by their divorce unless they sign a waiver demonstrating that they entered the marriage in good faith and that they were not at fault for the marriage’s failure.

Individual Visas

If an individual holds an H-4, J-2, or L-2 visa, a divorce will generally terminate their status as a legal visa holder. Individuals with these visas are advised to apply for non-immigrant status separate from their spouses before they are divorced if they intend to remain in the United States. If an individual has a pending permanent residency application, this application is terminated by their divorce.

Legal Separation

Individuals who are legally separated are still considered legally married. That means that their immigration status does not change. If the legal separation eventually becomes a divorce, then their immigration status could change depending on the circumstances present with the divorce and their status.


Once an individual is a permanent resident of the United States, their children are also permanent residents. However, if the parent’s residency is conditional, the children’s status is typically conditional as well.

Fraudulent Marriage

If an American citizen feels their spouse married them only for immigration benefits, they can petition for the marriage to be annulled. This is different from a divorce. With an annulment, the marriage never legally existed and all assets revert to their pre-marriage owners. If the immigrant spouse alleges that their American partner sought a fraudulent marriage, the American partner can face an investigation, and if convicted of fraud, he or she may be subject to criminal penalties.

Philadelphia Immigration Lawyers at Surin & Griffin, P.C. Help Individuals Facing Divorce and Immigration Law Issues

When there are immigration law issues intertwined with your divorce, it only becomes more complicated. For legal advice, representation, and guidance as you navigate these legal issues, work with an experienced Philadelphia immigration lawyer from Surin & Griffin. P.C. Complete our online contact form or call us at 215-925-4435 to set up your initial consultation in our Philadelphia office.

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