If you are a resident of a foreign country married to an American citizen, you may wonder how divorce affects your status with respect to your green card.
Under U.S. law, conditional permanent residents are granted a visa (green card) for two years. If these individuals wish to stay in the country on a permanent basis, they must petition U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to lift their conditional status within 90 days of the expiration of their visa. This is an important step, as conditional visas can’t be renewed.
For conditional permanent residents who planned to change their status after two years of marriage, divorce can be a major roadblock. For example, if you were married to an American citizen for less than two years when you got your visa, U.S. immigration law requires you to wait two years before petitioning USCIS to lift your conditional status. At that point, both you and your spouse are required to file a joint petition.
But what if something happens within that two-year period? What if your marriage becomes intolerable? Does divorce jeopardize your status as a green card-holder?
Help for Abused Spouses Who Hold a U.S. Visa
Fortunately, there are options for foreign resident visa-holders who are in an abusive marriage in the U.S. Even if you are still within your mandatory two-year waiting period, you can petition USCIS to remove your conditional status.
However, the law requires you to approach your case a bit differently. Instead of waiting to petition USCIS 90 days before your visa expires, you are required to file your petition once the court has granted your divorce.
Additionally, if you can prove that your spouse was abusive, you may be eligible to have your conditional status lifted before your divorce is final.
If you decide to pursue an early removal of your conditional status, it’s very important that you are able to show your marriage is valid under U.S. immigration law. The law is strict when it comes to so-called “sham marriages.” Under the law, a sham marriage is any marriage in which the spouses agreed to marry solely for the purpose of one spouse gaining entry to the U.S. as a permanent resident. If immigration officials suspect your marriage is not a real marriage, they can deny your petition to lift your conditional status and even revoke your green card altogether.
Vitale Family Law: North Carolina Divorce Lawyers
Immigration law is a complicated area of law. If you are a conditional permanent resident considering a divorce, it’s important to work with a divorce lawyer familiar with how divorce law intersects with immigration law. Don’t jeopardize your status by attempting to navigate the divorce process on your own. Call the North Carolina divorce lawyers at Vitale Family Law today to discuss your case. You can reach us by calling 919-841-5680.