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Attorneys Vic Hill and Brad MacDonald

The effects of divorce on the immigration process

Imagine this scenario: you have been granted citizenship or permanent residence in the United States because of your marriage to a U.S. citizen. Then, your marriage ends. Now, not only are you dealing with the standard stresses of divorce, but you are also worrying about how your split will affect your immigration status.

Although every situation varies, a divorce is highly unlikely to cause an automatic deportation or a similar result. If you have a permanent resident card, you will most likely be able to keep and renew it without the help of your ex-spouse. In fact, a divorce may be not only helpful, but necessary to do so.

There are three acceptable justifications for receiving the condition of marriage from your permanent resident card. Those reasons are:

  1. The marriage was bona fide and entered into in good faith, and it has since been terminated by divorce or annulment;
  2. You or your child has suffered domestic abuse at the hands of your spouse; or
  3. Leaving the United States would result in extreme hardship.

Before the immigration department will approve an application based on the first of the three reasons listed above, they will want to see a final divorce or annulment petition. Therefore, you will probably need to go through the legal divorce process before submitting your application.

If it comes time to do so and your divorce is not yet final, you should file your application anyway, at which time you will have 87 days to get a divorce judgment. At that time, if the divorce is not competed, you will be referred to an immigration judge, who will probably give you more time to finalize your divorce.

Source: New York Daily News, “Divorce may be abandoned immigrant husband’s best path to permanent green card,” Allan Wernick, July 25, 2012

At our Georgia family law firm, we help our clients deal with a variety of divorce-related issues similar to those discussed in this blog post. To learn more, visit the divorce page on our website.