You obtained permanent resident status, commonly known as a “green card,” after you married your spouse, who’s a U.S. citizen. Now that divorce is under consideration, by one or both of you, you’re concerned about your immigration status. Will you be able to stay in the U.S. if you divorce?
That’s a big concern for many people in this situation. However, no one should stay in an unhappy marriage for fear that they’ll have to leave the country if they divorce.
The good news is that even if you got your green card based on your family connection (in this case, being married to a U.S. citizen), your divorce likely won’t affect your permanent resident status. However, if your green card is still conditional, having your spouse’s cooperation will make things easier for you.
Is your green card still conditional?
A green card typically remains conditional for two years. The immigrant spouse and the citizen spouse have to file the necessary form (I-751) 90 days prior to the end of that two years to make the residency status permanent. If your spouse refuses to cooperate in doing that, you can apply for a waiver. However, the United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) will need a copy of your divorce decree to grant the waiver.
Are you safe if your green card is no longer conditional?
If your green card is no longer conditional, then your divorce shouldn’t affect your permanent resident status. As long as you didn’t get married simply for the green card or you haven’t committed some other offense that would warrant deportation, your green card should be secure. If you obtained your green card based on your employment or some other eligibility category, a divorce will have no effect on your status either.
If you have concerns about your green card status as you consider or proceed with divorce – particularly if it’s still conditional and you’re less than confident that your spouse will help you remove that conditional status – it’s wise to seek advice from someone who understands immigration law as it pertains to divorce.