From marriage-based immigration and the laws that it requires to the troubling nature of divorce when one spouse is a citizen and the other is not, being married and also becoming a citizen of the U.S. are two troubling things separately, and putting them together can often make things extremely complex.
This article will go through some of the common marriage-related immigration scenarios and what you need to know about them, so let’s get started!
Marriage Based Naturalization
If someone who is a United States Citizen marries someone who does not have citizenship yet, then the only thing that will be looked for is that the marriage itself is valid. If the marriage was valid under the law of the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed, then it is considered valid for immigration.
For the couple to take advantage of their marriage during the immigration process, the spouse of the applicant must already be a U.S. citizen and must also remain one for the duration of the immigration process. This is from the time of filing the request to the taking of the Oath of Allegiance.
Additionally, the couple must remain married as well through the process, and some provisions also require that the couple live together in a marital union for at least three years under the same roof, and they need to do this before the naturalization application is filled.
What About Divorce?
As sad as the fact might be, at least half of all marriages end in divorce, and having a divorce after green card has been received can be a massive pumping of the brakes on your plan for citizenship, not to mention a very painful and emotional separation. The person seeking Citizenship is no longer considered a spouse of a U.S. citizen, and it is not cured by marriage to another U.S. citizen.
If you have received or applied for a marriage-based green card, and have gotten a divorce, then your immigration status will be affected. Here are some scenarios and what they mean for you.
A Divorce Before The Approval of A Green Card (But After You Have Sent In An Application)
If the divorce occurs while you have applied for a green card, but also haven’t gotten your approval, then you can not get a green card. The entire process stops and you must return to your country of origin. The risk of a marriage-based qualification for a green card is that you need to be married, and if you are not married then you do not qualify and cannot remain in the United States.
Now, some exceptions do exist if you are divorced because you are a victim of battery or abuse at the hands of your spouse, then you might be able to continue your drive for a green card with the aid of a lawyer, but these are only in special circumstances.
Divorce After Getting A Green Card (Without The Removal Of The Conditions)
If you have gotten a green card with conditions attached to it (which normally happens if you have been married for two years or less), often that condition is that you remain married to the spouse that has sponsored you getting the green card in the first place.
If you fail to meet these conditions, you can try to continue the process without your spouse by proving that you entered the marriage in good faith, but it will take some evidence.
You will both need to file a petition called Form I-751 and provide evidence that your marriage was real and done in good faith despite the divorce.
Can You Still Be A United States Citizen After A Divorce?
As long as you have a green card in your hands, then you will still be able to become a citizen of the United States. You just need to take a few extra steps and wait a bit longer for citizenship, and it will require a lot of extra work.
If you are married to a U.S. citizen, then you will be able to start the process of naturalization after three years. You just need to live with your spouse the entire time and remain married. However, when a divorce happens, then you will need to wait for five years to become a full citizen and start the process.
Still, after five years, the eligibility to become a citizen doesn’t depend on marriage, so it won’t matter too much.
If you have a permanent green card that will expire in ten years, then divorce typically doesn’t affect that. You will still need to renew your green card just like everyone else, and your marital status doesn’t affect that.
Can I Remarry After A Divorce While Waiting For Citizenship?
If you have a conditional green card, get divorced, and then get married again before the five years are finished, that can lead to much extra scrutiny. You can get remarried if you fall in love again, but you do need to reassure the USCIS that the first marriage was valid and that you weren’t just marrying someone for immigration benefits.
After five years, then your second spouse will be able to support you in your petition for a green card.
Divorce Isn’t The End Of The World, But You Will Need Help
Make sure to contact attorneys who are experienced not only in immigration matters but also who know how to handle both a divorce and the effect that a divorce can have on the immigration process. There are a lot of new things to consider once a divorce happens, and many of these can affect your citizenship, so getting the help you need to navigate everything is a great idea.
No matter what, if you have a green card, then you will become a citizen, even if it takes more time!