Unfortunately, not all marriages work out. This is true of marriages throughout the world – and is just as true for marriages between two U.S. citizens and marriages between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national. Unfortunately, when a marriage breaks up, a foreign national is often faced with intimidation and threats from the U.S. citizen spouse who believes that they can get the foreign national deported simply for getting a divorce.
This is not the case – a person’s immigration status should never be an intimidating factor. There are options available to foreign nationals going through divorce, and immigration concerns should never be a reason to stay in a marriage.
Here are some options available to individuals in the following situations:
Green Card Holder Married to a U.S. Citizen
In many instances, a U.S. citizen is married to a permanent green card holder. By permanent green card holder, I mean a person who possesses an actual permanent residency card that is valid for ten years at a time. If you a green card holder and your green card is not valid for ten years at a time – you are probably not be a permanent green card holder.
However, if you are a permanent green card holder, then your divorce will have no consequence on your immigration status. As long as you made no misrepresentations to the immigration agency during the process of receiving your green card – there is nothing that a former husband or wife can do or say to impact your immigration status. The only difference that a divorce may have is that it will make it necessary for an individual to be a permanent resident for five years before being eligible for naturalization.
Conditional Green Card Holder Married to a U.S. Citizen
Often times, when a foreign national receives permanent residency through marriage to a U.S. citizen, that foreign national receives conditional permanent residency. Conditional permanent residency is no different from traditional permanent residency – except that it is valid for only two years. At the end of those two years, a couple is suppose to file a joint removal of conditions application to USCIS.
If a couple cannot file a joint application, then there are certain situations where the foreign national can file for a wavier to the joint application to remove conditions. These waivers include instances where a couple enter into a marriage in good faith – but it just doesn’t work out. A waiver also exists when the foreign national spouse is subjected to physical or mental abuse by the U.S. citizen spouse. In both of these cases, it is necessary to show that the marriage was entered into in good faith (meaning that the couple married for reasons other than immigration benefits). An immigration lawyer can help individuals out in these types of situations.
Foreign National Married to a U.S. Citizen Without a Conditional or Permanent Green Card
Even foreign nationals married to a U.S. citizen, but without a green card, have options available to them if their marriage is failing. In particular, applicants who are subject to either physical or mental abuse at the hands of their U.S. citizen spouse can obtain a permanent green card – even if their spouse is uncooperative.
It is common in these types of marriages (the abusive ones) that a U.S. citizen spouse attempts to use a person’s “immigration papers” as a bargaining chip in their relationship. Such intimidation and leverage should never be tolerated – it doesn’t have to be tolerated.
If you are thinking of getting a divorce, and are a foreign national, please contact an immigration lawyer to determine your best options. The information above is general information, and there may be a better option available. No matter what, please don’t let a fear of immigration repercussions cause you to stay in an abusive relationship.