Many Californians are granted conditional permanent residence to live in the United States for getting married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. Under U.S. immigration law, assuming you got married in good faith, your status as a conditional resident through marriage will only last up to two years. This means you have two years to become a permanent resident by filing a Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence (Form I-751). This form must be filed in the 90 days leading up to the date of your green card expiration.

How does a divorce impact my immigration status?

If a couple is still married when it comes time for Form I-751 to be filled out, both spouses will file the form jointly and include proof of their marriage. However, if you and your spouse have already finalized your divorce, you must request a waiver of the joint filing requirement. If your request is granted, you will be allowed to file as a single person and potentially become a permanent resident without your spouse.

Waiver requests are not always granted though, so you will need to prove that you entered the marriage in good faith and provide reasons for the end of the marriage. A waiver request is more likely to be granted if it was a no-fault divorce than if the citizen spouse divorces the non-citizen spouse based on the non-citizen’s bad faith, adultery, or other wrongful actions.

If you and your spouse get a divorce after you have become a permanent resident, your immigration status will not be affected, but you will have to wait longer (five years instead of three) to become a naturalized citizen.

Divorce attorneys specializing in immigration law issues can help

Immigrant divorce can make it more difficult to a spouse to become a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. If you or your spouse is a non-citizen, it may be in your best interest to speak to an attorney specializing in these issues before filing for divorce.