The short answer is “no” unless you entered the marriage with US citizens in bad faith. What it means is that if you are a foreign national and you got a green card after marrying a US citizen, you do not necessarily lose your legal immigration status in case you get divorced.
But it is not that simple. There are many circumstances in which you might actually lose your green card after divorcing a US citizen. We asked our Salt Lake City green card attorney at the Familia America Immigration law firm to explain how divorcing a US citizen affects your immigration status.
Let’s review an example. U.S. citizen named A. marries a foreign national named B. After the marriage, A. files a petition for B. and the latter becomes a Lawful Conditional Resident. B. is not yet a Lawful Permanent Resident, as he needs to wait two years before filing a petition to become one. This 2-year period provides U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) time to assess the validity of A. and B.’s marriage.
What happens to B. if he divorces A. before the 2-year period passes and before he gets the chance to become a Lawful Permanent Resident? Contrary to the popular belief, divorce alone does not automatically nullify the Lawful Conditional Resident’s green card.
Our best green card attorney will explain that you may actually lose your immigration status obtained through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident only if USCIS determines that you entered into that marriage to evade immigration laws.
But if you got married in good faith and you get divorced or separated from a US citizen or permanent resident before these two years pass, you may still be able to use your conditional green card to file a petition to remove the conditions on residence and become a Lawful Permanent Resident.
However, you might require legal help from an experienced green card lawyer, especially in the era of strict anti-immigration policies introduced by United States President Donald Trump and his administration. If USCIS has any reason to doubt that the divorce or marriage itself was not genuine, you will most likely lose your immigration status and may even face deportation.
Even though US citizens are required to file a petition for their spouse to become a Lawful Permanent Resident jointly after the 2-year period, the conditional resident has a legal right to file Form I-751 separately after a divorce or separation.
Be warned, however, that USCIS will most likely spend more time reviewing your petition, as it does with petitions filed separately by conditional residents after a divorce or separation as opposed to those filed jointly by green card holders and their US citizen spouses.
The only legal way USCIS has to deny your petition to become a permanent resident after a divorce is if it can prove that the marriage was entered into in bad faith. In other words, if you entered the marriage for the purpose of bypassing US immigration laws and fraudulently obtaining a green card, you will face deportation.
Let’s review another example. Let’s imagine that an individual named A. is sponsored by his employer for a green card, automatically making his spouse B. and their child under age 21 eligible, too. While B. and their child are also eligible to become green card holders even though A. is the employee and primary applicant, if a divorce occurs before the approval of B.’s application for a green card, B. will no longer be eligible to obtain a green card.
Make sure you understand how US immigration law works before getting divorced or separated, as there is a huge risk that you might lose your green card or even get deported. Contact the Familia America Immigration law firm to speak about your particular case. Get a consultation by calling 801-656-9605 or complete this contact form. Se Habla Espanol.