Will divorce affect my immigration status?

The decision to divorce is a difficult one that should not be made lightly. Spouses usually think long and hard before deciding to divorce, as there are many factors to consider, such as the effect on children, finances or property.

The decision to divorce becomes even more complex if you are an immigrant. In addition to the above considerations, you must also worry about if a divorce will affect your immigration status.

The short answer is yes, depending on your circumstances, a divorce could potentially affect your legal status if you are a conditional resident, or if your status is based on your spouse’s status.

Conditional residents

A conditional resident is an immigrant who married a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and used their spouse’s status to immigrate within 2 years of the marriage.

During this 2-year period, you must file a petition to remove conditions of residence to become a permanent resident once the 2-year period ends. Spouses usually file this petition together, but if you are already divorced, you may file it by yourself and ask for a waiver.

Although you can still become a permanent resident, you may have a harder time than you would if you were married. You must prove that you and your ex-spouse intended to live together as spouses when you got married and that you did not get married solely for immigration purposes. This is understandably harder to prove if you are now divorced.

Dependents or permanent residents

Your status may depend on your spouse’s status if your spouse holds a visa, and you are planning to obtain your green card based on this. When you are married, you are considered a dependent, but a divorce could remove you as a dependent.

If you are a permanent resident, a divorce will not affect your status, but you will have to wait five years to apply for naturalization. The normal waiting period is three years.

No matter your situation, guidance along the way is essential. An attorney experienced with divorce and immigration can help you develop a strategy to meet your immigration goals.