How Divorce Could Impact Immigration Status

Among the most common ways people become lawful permanent residents of the US is by marrying a US citizen. Obtaining a green card is one of the first and foremost steps to become eligible for citizenship. Lawful permanent residents, or Green Card holders, may live and work in the US, setting the foundation for their path to citizenship.

However, marriages can dissolve. Spouses who are unable to work out their differences may file for a divorce, but how does divorce affect permanent resident status?

In short, a divorce may impact conditional residents harder than it would for Green Card holders (permanent residents). Why? Let’s take a closer look.

If you are an immigrant who is married to a US citizen for less than 2 years, you probably have a Conditional Green Card, or CR1. Conditional permanent residents get a Green Card that is valid for 2 years. This conditional residency status is like a testing period. Once your marriage exceeds 2 years from your approval for conditional residency, you may receive an IR1 visa, which is a Green Card that lasts for 10 years.

Can I Lose My Permanent Resident Status If I Divorce?

If you and your US citizen spouse get divorced during your 2-year conditional residence period, you may risk losing the chance to get your IR1 visa, or worse, getting removed from the US altogether. To obtain a Green Card, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence 90 days before your conditional Green Card expires.

Both spouses are typically required to file Form I-751 together and include supporting documents that prove they are still married. Getting divorced, however, may prompt immigration officers to question the legitimacy of your marriage to ensure you got married for the right reasons rather than in bad faith. Out of anger and resentment, your spouse may allege that the marriage was made in bad faith, even if it’s not true.

But since your spouse is a US citizen, an immigration officer may heavily consider their allegations when determining whether to accept or deny your Green Card application. Your spouse may not support your application, meaning you may have to request a waiver of the joint petition filing requirement when you submit Form I-751.

In other words, a divorce does not automatically revoke your conditional Green Card but instead, divorce could make it harder to obtain an actual Green Card. You may have to submit proof that your marriage was made in good faith rather than a way to skirt immigration laws.

On the other hand, if you are a lawful permanent resident of the US and get a divorce, your Green Card status most likely won’t be affected. Similar to conditional residents, however, a divorce could make it harder to get citizenship by prolonging the process or imposing certain requirements.


Although our Orange County attorneys do not practice immigration law, we can help answer your questions about the potential impacts of your divorce. If you are a US citizen who is divorcing or contemplating divorcing your immigrant spouse, we can inform you of your personal rights as a US citizen and potential obstacles you could face during the process.

Again, we are not immigration lawyers but rather experienced divorce attorneys who can help guide you through your divorce proceeding and represent your best interests. To learn more, give us a call at (845) 605-4330!

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