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How divorce affects legal resident status

Unfortunately, a fair number of marriages just don’t work out. However, for those whose marriage also facilitated their immigration to the United States, divorce can be even more challenging. How divorce impacts someone’s immigration status depends mainly on where they are in the process when they decide to end their marriage.

Below, we outline the effect divorce has for those with conditional resident status as well as those who are lawful permanent residents.

Conditional residents

Generally, when someone obtains a green card through marriage when they have been married less than two years, they are given “conditional resident” status. If the relationship ends while they are still a conditional resident, the divorce can have an impact on their immigration status.

If the marriage was the basis for a K-1 or K-3 visa, the spouse who immigrated must file a Form I-751 petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. This is the same application they would submit if still married, but after a divorce, they file alone rather than with their spouse. The critical challenge, in that case, is showing U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services that the marriage was “the real deal.”

Permanent residents

Once someone achieves permanent resident status, divorce does not jeopardize their ability to stay in the United States. Once the I-751 petition is approved, their status does not depend on the marriage anymore. However, if they intend to apply for citizenship, USCIS will likely look at their marriage history with the rest of their application for naturalization. 

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