Whether or not your divorce will affect your immigration status depends on the stage of the process you’re in. U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) vigilantly watches for possible fraudulent marriages, entered into solely to evade U.S. immigration laws. There are ways to demonstrate your marriage was entered into in good faith, but their effectiveness depends on your stage in the process.
Application for a visa or green card
If your application for a green card has not yet been reviewed or approved and you are applying on the basis of your marriage to an american citizen or permanent resident, your divorce or annulment will end the immigration process. No evidence of marriage in good faith will help at this early stage.
Conditional resident with 2-year green card
If you’ve been approved for a green card but you had not already been married for at least two years, you will receive a 2-year conditional residence. In two years you will be expected to submit Form I-751, asking USCIS to approve your permanent residence. This form is intended to be signed jointly by both spouses, but if you’ve gotten divorced or annulled, you’ll need to file a waiver of the joint filing process.
This, of course, will raise flags, and USCIS will scrutinize your case for evidence of a fraudulent marriage. You will need to provide ample and convincing evidence that you entered into marriage in good faith. It is still possible to get approved for permanent status at this point, but you may want to hire a lawyer expert in immigration and marriage law to help you present the best case.
Permanent resident status applying for citizenship
The N-400 Form is the application for naturalization. Normally a permanent resident must wait five years before applying for citizenship. A person with a green card who has been married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years can apply in three years, as long as the person remains married up to the time of naturalization. If the marriage ends before naturalization, the process stops, but the permanent resident is still able to apply within the five-year period.
Keep in mind that whenever anyone submits the N-400 Form, USCIS will scrutinize the person’s file. If you’ve gotten divorced in that time, fresh evidence should be submitted demonstrating that you married in good faith.
Evidence for marriage in good faith
It’s important to know what USCIS flags as signs of a fraudulent marriage in order to know what kinds of evidence will show yours was a true marriage.
Warning signs to USCIS of a fraudulent marriage include: wide disparity of age; individuals not cohabitating; marriage upon warning of removal; friend of the family; american spouse previously helping people apply for residence; major differences in ethnic or cultural backgrounds; inconsistent answers in separate interviews.
Knowing what USCIS looks for, you can show that you and your spouse engaged in the kinds of behaviors that spouses normally engage in: documents with both names on them (mortgage or rent, joint bank accounts); pictures from your wedding, family get-togethers, parties, and vacations; cards or letters from friends or family addressed to both of you; documents or bills in your name showing your address matching your spouse’s address; birth certificates for your joint children; affidavits from reliable people in support of your marriage. In this case, a statement from a marriage counselor indicating you tried to work out your problems is particularly strong.
If you’ve been divorced and you’re still working toward american citizenship, contact an attorney knowledgeable in immigration and marriage law to help you present the best case to keep your process moving forward.