Immigration and Divorce
Divorce is a complicated legal process in general. When you add in an immigrant spouse (regardless of status), you potentially add new complications. Let’s discuss some common scenarios where immigration and divorce overlap.
Can You Divorce An Immigrant Spouse?
Just like U.S. citizens, immigrants also have the right to divorce their spouses. However, it is important to know that divorce could potentially affect your ability to remain in the U.S. if you are not a citizen. Keep reading to find out how to divorce an immigrant spouse.
Ramifications of Immigration and Divorce
According to immigration laws, only legitimate marriages can qualify an immigrant for a green card. For this reason, officials often question the legitimacy of immigration marriages that end in divorce. Foreign nationals who commit marriage fraud are subject to deportation. However, divorce does not always indicate a sham marriage; legitimate marriages fall apart all the time.
Nonetheless, it is crucial to understand the effects a divorce can have on your residency status. Depending on your specific situation, divorce may affect your immigration status positively or negatively. Keep reading to find out how you and your family can be impacted by immigration divorce.
Common Questions About Divorce and Immigration
So, what exactly happens when you file for divorce during the immigration process? If you find yourself in this situation, it’s important to know what’s to come and prepare accordingly. So, let’s answer some common questions about divorcing an immigrant spouse.
What happens if you divorce an undocumented immigrant?
Undocumented immigrants, also called “illegal aliens”, do not automatically gain lawful status from marrying a U.S. citizen. If you are in the middle of applying for a green card, you may want to consult with an immigration attorney to review your options going forward.
Going through a divorce does not alert ICE pr prove them with information about a person’s immigration status. Therefore, filing for divorce will not immediately result in deportation or removal proceedings, but it is still advisable to speak with an immigration attorney, especially if you have already filed your applications with USCIS.
Just like citizens, immigrants have the right to receive spousal support. In addition, following the divorce, they may also receive child custody, child support, and alimony in qualifying states.
In order to remain in the U.S. after the divorce, you will need the help of an immigration lawyer to prove any of the following:
- the marriage was in good faith; the divorce was at no fault of the undocumented spouse;
- you were in an abusive relationship with your citizen or permanent resident spouse; or
- you will face extreme hardship if deported.
Will my divorce affect my ability to be granted U.S. Citizenship?
It’s possible. When you become a permanent resident by marrying a U.S. citizen, you are allowed to apply for U.S. citizenship three years after you were granted permanent residency. However, if the marriage ends in divorce, you will instead have to wait five years after you were granted permanent residency before applying for citizenship.
Will divorce affect my green card status?
No. Once you have been granted permanent residency, filing for divorce will not terminate or otherwise affect your immigration status.
What happens if you are accused of marrying a U.S. citizen solely for immigration benefits?
If your U.S. citizen spouse accuses you of marriage fraud to receive an annulment, you should seek guidance from an immigration attorney. U.S. citizens can face criminal liability for false marriage fraud allegations, but an accusation of marriage fraud can be extremely detrimental to your current application and/or any applications you may pursue in the future. Experienced divorce and immigration lawyers can help you defend yourself against these serious accusations.
Will separation affect my immigration benefits?
Separation, or living apart, from your U.S. citizen spouse, does not constitute a termination of your marriage and therefore it does not generally affect your immigration status. However, in some cases, a legal separation may be converted into a divorce after an extended period of time. Likewise, if it is discovered that you and your spouse are living in separate locations, this could cause USCIS to question the validity of the relationship.
Choosing the Right Immigration Lawyer
When it comes to immigration and divorce, every detail matters. Do you need an experienced attorney to address your particular needs with immigration and divorce?
Lamb & Turner’s team of Houston immigration attorneys have years of experience working with immigrants who are struggling with marriage and divorce. Additionally, our professionals offer legal services for many areas of family immigration, asylum, employment-based visas, and more.
Contact us online today or call our office at 713-529-5025 for a personal analysis of your situation and advice on how to proceed. Se habla español.