Two of the most popular family-based immigration programs involve marital relationships. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues special visas for those engaged to a United States citizen. A K-1 visa lets someone enter the country to get married and will help that individual secure a green card once they have officially become the spouse of a United States citizen.
There are also marriage-based immigration opportunities that allow foreign nationals who marry United States citizens a chance to secure a green card. Occasionally, the marriages that help people enter the country do not last for a lifetime. The immigrant or their citizen spouse decides to file for divorce. When might an immigrant have to worry about divorce affecting their status?
If the marriage has lasted less than two years
Green cards typically last for 10 years, which reduces the burden on permanent residents. They will only need to apply to renew their green card once a decade instead of reapplying for visas every few years. However, those who secure green cards through marriage may only have a conditional green card initially. They typically need to have been married more than two years before seeking entry to the United States or a green card. Otherwise, they will only qualify for conditional permanent resident status.
They have to remain married and compliant with immigration rules for at least two years and then apply to have the USCIS remove the conditional status from their green card. There are special exceptions for those who entered a marriage in good faith, only to have their spouse die before the two years pass.
Those who divorce before two years are at risk of immigration challenges. However, there are options available to such parties, especially if they divorce due to domestic violence or criminal acts conducted by their spouse. For those who have already removed the conditional status and intend to divorce later, there will typically not be inquiries into their marital status when they renew their green card with the traditional 10-year paperwork later.
Those worried about removal from the United States because of a divorce may need to learn more about their options for alternate visa programs or the timeline for removing the conditions on their permanent resident status. Understanding the rules that apply to immigrants who enter the country due to marriage can benefit those worried about how a divorce will affect their lives.