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What happens to your green card during a divorce?

Updated: Jan 4, 2021

Marriage-based visas are among the most common means of permanent residence in America. Obtaining an IR1 or CR1 visa is a lengthy and costly process, and when you and your spouse are finally reunited, there is no guarantee that your marriage will last. For thousands of immigrants, a divorce can mean more than a lifestyle change; it can put their immigration status is at-risk.

The history of marriage related immigration in America

In the 1980s, Congress passed the Immigration Marriage Fraud Act. The legislation was meant to prevent people from using fraudulent marriages as a way to enter the country. It requires couples to remain married for two years before granting any adjustments to immigration status. It also requires couples to offer evidence that their marriage is legitimate, like the birth of a child or the purchase of a home.

But what happens if you file for divorce?

If you file for a divorce or annulment within that two-year period, you may be jeopardizing your immigration status. But, there are exceptions.

As an immigrant, you may need to look for a status adjustment based on different grounds or on extenuating circumstances. Common reasons that divorced parties may stay in the United States include:

  1. Good cause: If the court has evidence that you entered into your marriage genuinely and that your relationship ended for legitimate reasons, you may be eligible to stay. In this case, the immigrant needs to be the person to file for divorce.

  2. Abuse: If your partner subjects you to physical or mental abuse or treats you cruelly, then you may be eligible for a waiver.

  3. Extreme hardship: This exception applies when returning to a home country may cause serious issues for a person’s safety or well-being.

Immigration status should never be a reason for you to stay in an unsafe or toxic relationship. You will, however, need to prepare yourself for a more complicated divorce process.

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