Immigration and Divorce: What You Should Know Before You File

Immigration and Divorce: What You Should Know Before You File

Nearly 750,000 people filed for divorce in 2019, and many of them were immigrants. Filing for divorce is difficult enough without having to worry about immigration status. Spouses of lawful permanent residents and U.S. citizens often depend on that relationship for support throughout the immigration process, but what happens when the relationship comes to an end? What do you do if you've sponsored your spouse's immigration to the U.S.? Keep reading to find out more.

Conditional Permanent Residence

As complicated as divorce is for immigrants, LPRs and citizens also have a lot at stake if they have sponsored their spouses. Individuals who immigrate to the U.S. through spousal sponsorship from a marriage of two years or less receive conditional permanent residence status.

Conditional permanent residence, or CPR, allows an immigrant to receive a green card that is valid for two years. Unfortunately, you cannot renew a CPR green card, but you may be able to adjust your status. To obtain full permanent resident status, you will need to file a petition with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) before your second wedding anniversary. If the marriage is no longer intact, the immigrant spouse will lose their status and be subject to deportation.

Conditional Permanent Residence and Divorce

For immigrants involved in a complicated divorce, you may be able to avoid deportation if you have been a resident for at least two years. If this is the case, you do not need your spouse's sponsorship to file for lawful permanent residence.

On the other hand, if your marriage lasted less than two years, you can request a waiver based on three qualifications:

  • Extreme hardship if deported
  • Termination of a good faith marriage
  • Battered spouse or child

In other words, if deportation results in harm or endangerment of you and your children, you can file a petition to the USCIS. Additionally, if you entered the marriage in good faith, but your relationship ends suddenly, the USCIS may consider allowing you to pursue an adjustment of status. Immigrant spouses and/or children of lawful permanent residents or U.S. citizens who are victims of abuse and/or neglect also qualify for deportation alternatives in the event of a divorce.

Will Divorce Jeopardize My Green Card?

In addition to the stress of property division, alimony, and child custody, many divorcing immigrants have to cope with the fear of losing their opportunity to stay in the United States. Immigrants who obtain residence status because of their marriage to a permanent resident or citizen receive conditional permanent residence to prove that the marriage is legitimate and not for the sole purpose of receiving an immigration benefit. Generally, ending the marriage results in the termination of CPR, but if the immigrant spouse can prove that they entered the marriage in good faith, they may avoid deportation. This includes verifying that you had a child together and owned joint property.

Immigrants with unconditional permanent resident status are not susceptible to deportation after divorce. The only adverse effect divorce may have on immigrants at this stage is that their citizenship application may experience delays. Citizenship applications require biographical, ethnographic, and financial information that may change after divorce.

Typically, permanent residents married to a citizen have a three-year residency requirement for citizenship instead of a five-year requirement. To benefit from a shorter residency period, you must be married for at least three years; otherwise, you may need to wait a more extended period before you are eligible for citizenship.

The best thing you can do to protect your immigration status or pursue divorce from an immigrant spouse is to speak to an attorney. Legal representatives understand what is at stake in these cases and can help you navigate both the divorce and immigration process.

Speak with our attorney at the Law Offices of Joyce Komanapalli Jones today.