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Green Card and divorce: what happens if I get divorced before becoming a citizen of the United States?

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The life of the majority of people who get a divorce changes once the marriage is over. However, if one of the divorcees is not yet an American citizen, that person may have to face challenges and fight for their right to remain inside of the United States. Usually, when an immigrant marries an American citizen and their partner lives in the United States, the immigrant spouse is granted the status of conditional permanent resident if the couple has not been married for two years.

In order to obtain the permanent residency, the immigrant spouse will have to make a petition before the USCIS. And they must do so 90 days before the second anniversary of having obtained the conditional permanent residency. If the couple is still married, the immigrant spouse will obtain the definitive permanent residency. If the couple is not married anymore, the immigrant spouse may be deported.

Exceptions to deportation 

Even though a divorcee who does not possess the status of a permanent resident will be deported, there are some exceptions to this rule. If the divorcee desires to remain in the United States, they shall prove, with the help of an immigration lawyer any of the following points:

  • That the contracted marriage was a true one and that it was not contracted for the purposes of acquiring the American citizenship. Whether the couple have lived together as spouses, if they had children, etc.
  • Proving that the immigrant may face great peril if they were to be deported.
  • Proving that the immigrant was beated or treated with extreme cruelty by the American spouse.

If any of these exceptions were to be proven, the immigrant may remain in the United States.

Couples that separate after 2 years of marriage

I an immigrant divorces an American citizen after 2 years of marriage, they will likely not face deportation as long as they have obtained the status of permanent resident.

Divorce may affect the immigration rights of third parties 

In some cases, not only the immigrant spouse is the one affected in terms of immigration in the United States. A divorce may have an effect in the Visa petitions for the relatives of the person who is sponsored.

Lastly, it is important to know that the right to property and to legal custody of children cannot be affected by the divorce.

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