What happens when a foreign national gets married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and immigrates to the United States and the marriage falls apart? What are the consequences? Does the foreign national have to leave the United States? Will the foreign national get to remain in the U.S.? What if the U.S. citizen has been abusive?
Generally speaking, if you get married to a U.S. citizen you will acquire a conditional green card which is valid for a period of two-years.The government places conditions on the green card to ensure that the couple stays married and as a precautionary measure to verify that it is a bonafide marriage. If your marriage is still intact when you apply to remove the conditions, there is a good chance that you can obtain a permanent green card, which is valid for ten-years and can be renewed. You will still need to provide adequate evidence of your relationship and therefore you should consult with an attorney.
However, if your marriage falls apart before the two-years have ended, and you entered into your marriage in good-faith, then you may still be able to obtain a permanent green card. To do this, you do not need the cooperation of your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. You will have to apply for a waiver and you must prove that when you entered into the marriage, it was done so in good-faith and the marriage was genuine, but it just so happened to fall-apart. The government is not going to just take your word for it however; you have to provide sufficient proof and documentation that it was a bona-fide marriage and you will most likely have to attend an interview with an immigration officer who will attempt to verify your claims.
It is highly recommended that you consult with an attorney and hire an attorney to represent you in the waiver process.
If my marriage is “on the rocks” and I have not yet removed the conditions on my green card, should I remove the conditions on my green card through a joint petition before filing for divorce? Or should I file for divorce first and then apply for a waiver to acquire a 10 year green card?
This is a complicated question because it really depends on the specific facts of your case. If your marriage is on the rocks and the conditions have been not removed on your green card, you have to figure out whether you will have your U.S. Citizen spouse’s cooperation in removing the conditions on your green card. Certainly marriages go through trying periods, and the immigration laws do not state that your marriage has to be “perfect” in order to jointly remove the conditions on a green card. You and your spouse could be in marriage counseling for example, but you are still considered married. You should ascertain first whether your spouse will likely cooperate in filing a joint petition with you to remove the conditions.
If you file for divorce first because you do not have your spouse’s cooperation in filing a joint petition to remove the conditions on your green card, it is also true that you will be faced with a higher burden. However, the government understands that some marriages are completely bonafide and entered into in good-faith but can still fall apart, through no fault of either party. Therefore the waiver process is intended to help conditional residents that can make a showing of a bonafide marriage.
The most important rule to remember in this process is that you must be honest and never misrepresent the facts of your marriage. If you have a good-faith marriage, then waiver or no waiver, you are likely to be able to obtain a permanent green card with the right documentation and evidence. Speak to a lawyer today about the specific facts of your case.
If I get divorced and the conditions are removed on my green card, how long will I have to wait to acquire U.S. citizenship?
Generally speaking, a foreign national spouse who acquires a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen may apply to become a U.S. Citizen after 2 years and 9 months from the date when the spouse acquired his or her green card. However, a divorce will affect this process and the spouse will likely have to wait an additional two-years (assuming the conditions were removed), or a total of five-years from when he or she first acquired their green card.
What if I am married for several years before my U.S. Citizen spouse obtains a green card for me?
If your marriage was more than 2 years prior to your U.S. Citizen spouse petitioning for your green card, then you will get a permanent green card (10 year green card) instead of a conditional green card and you will not have to remove the conditions on your green card.
The aforementioned is not intended to be legal advice. Contact Dream Law attorney Sanjay A. Paul, Esq. for a consultation on the facts of your case.