Marriage and engagement are some of the most common tools for family immigration. People can bring fiancés and spouses to the United States to live permanently. However, someone who obtains a green card through marriage does not have all of the same rights and privileges as someone who obtains a standard green card.
The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) issues conditional green cards when people enter the country through marriage or to get married. Those conditional green cards are not valid for 10 years like most are. They also impose conditions on someone’s permanent resident status. Understandably, many people who obtained a green card through marriage often worry that divorce will strip them of their eligibility for a green card. Is that always the case?
Green cards are only conditional for two years
The sooner someone files for divorce after entering the United States, the greater the chances that they will lose their green card. Conditional green cards are usually only valid for two years. The immigrant spouse will have to file special paperwork with the USCIS to remove the conditions on their green card when it is about to expire.
If someone completes that process, they will then have a standard green card. It will be valid for 10 years, and their status in the country will no longer depend on them remaining married. Anyone who divorces after those first two years will not have to worry about their marital status coming up when they renew their green card with the USCIS in the future.
Unfortunately, those who divorce before removing their conditional status may have more at risk. In some cases, they may qualify for special exemptions. Those who have experienced criminal activity, including domestic violence, may be eligible for special programs. Others who choose to divorce due to infidelity or other complications might need to take their immigration status into consideration. Some people wait to file for divorce until after they have removed the conditional status on their green cards. It may even be possible to work on a damaged marriage during that time and preserve the relationship.
Discussing a difficult situation involving family law and immigration matters with an attorney may benefit those worried that divorce will force them to leave the United States, as a legal professional can provide personalized feedback unique to an individual’s circumstances.