Can divorce affect my immigration status?

If you have come to California as an immigrant, can divorce affect your immigration status? The answer is yes, but the details depend upon the exact circumstance of how you and your spouse came to the United States.

If your immigration status is dependent on your spouse’s immigration status, divorce or legal separation can affect your status.

Conditional residents

A person who entered the United States within two years of their marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident is known as a conditional resident. For two years after their wedding, their residency in the United States is based on the condition that they remain married to the citizen or permanent resident.

If you are one of these conditional residents and you wish to divorce without having to leave the United States, you can file to become a permanent resident in your own right. You can do this by filing Petition I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence). Ordinarily, a married couple files out this form together. If you have already divorced, you can file for a waiver to allow you to file the petition on your own.

Be sure to file this petition within 90 days before the green card expires. You may have to prove that your marriage was in good faith, and not just a ploy to get you into the country.

Legal help

Gaining permanent status after divorce isn’t easy, but it is possible. Lawyers with experience in family law and immigration may be able to advise you of your options.