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Does a Divorce Affect the Green-Card Status?

Over the years, Shaw Law has assisted in a number of divorce proceedings for international marriages in which one spouse is American and the other is non-American. In the instance where American and non-American spouses wish to end their marriage, it is important to ensure that their altered marital status will not hinder the non-American’s ability to remain in the country.

Changing “Immediate Relative” Status

Under United States immigration law, a spouse of a U.S. citizen is classified as an “immediate relative”. Persons classified as “immediate relatives” of U.S. citizens usually find it easier to obtain a green card than most other U.S. immigrants.

While it may seem like a divorce may lead to a denied petition for residency, or possibly even deportation, a foreign-born spouse does have an option: they can apply for what is known as a conditional permanent residence.

Since foreign-born spouses will not be able to obtain a green card once the divorce is finalized, the conditional permanent residence is a good option that affords the same rights as the “immediate relative” status. Assuming that the marriage was in good-faith, foreign-born spouses can apply for a waiver of termination of the “immediate relative” status. If accepted, they will be granted a conditional permanent residence.

How to obtain a waiver for conditional permanent residence

Even though obtaining this waiver and being granted a conditional permanent residence immigration status is not a certainty, the majority of those who apply are accepted. In order to obtain the waiver, here are some legal elements that must be proven:

  • Proof that the marriage was valid. The non-American spouse will need to provide evidence such as photographs, joint bills, shared contracts, leases, or other property titles, and other evidence of life together as husband and wife.
  • Proof that the non-American spouse will suffer extreme hardship if sent back to his or her country of origin. One such hardship is proof of the life that has been built in the United States (such as children) that will be lost if deported.
  • If applicable, proof of having suffered extreme cruelty or abuse from a U.S. citizen spouse, which can include sworn statements and affidavits from family members, neighbors and other professionals.

Conditional Permanent Residence Granted, Now What?

If granted, the non-American will receive a “conditional” green card that is good for a period of two years. Because the conditional card cannot be renewed, the holder must file a petition within 90 days of the card’s expiration to request the removal of the “conditional” status, in order to remain a permanent resident.

Every divorce is different, and those that cross international borders can be complicated. Non-American spouses need to take the necessary steps to ensure they maintain residency to remain in the U.S. after their divorce is final. Shaw Law Firm has handled numerous international divorce cases, and we understand their inherent intricacies.

Scott Shaw is founder and principle of Shaw Law Firm PC, founded in 1995 and dedicated solely to divorce, family law and child custody matters that must be addressed and decided in the state of Georgia. Shaw Law Firm serves the greater Metro Atlanta area, particularly the counties of Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, Cherokee, Forsyth, Paulding, Henry, Fayette, Coweta, Newton, Walton, Bartow and Douglas. Schedule a consultation today at 770-594-8309 or contact us via email.