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What Happens If You Get a Divorce Before Your Green Card Interview?

What Happens If You Get a Divorce Before Your Green Card Interview?

You’ve got a green card interview, and you’re excited to finally become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. You’ve been planning for this day for years. You can’t wait to be able to live without fear of deportation and start applying for jobs —but then you find out you’re getting divorced.

What does this mean for your future? Will you have to return to your home country? Is there any way you can remain in the US? Your spouse was supposed to be your sponsor… what now? 

In many cases, if you and your spouse divorce before the green card interview, you will no longer have a basis for seeking a green card, and the application will be denied. However, if you have another distinct motivation for pursuing a green card—such as work or school—you may still be eligible to continue the process.

Learn more about your options in our guide below.

Divorce and the USCIS Green Card Interview

United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) requires an interview before approving a marriage-based green card. Essentially, they want to know whether you entered into the marriage in good faith and whether fraud or immigration benefit was involved in your marriage.

These interviews are most often conducted jointly. However, couples can be split up by immigration authorities and questioned separately in a «Stoke’s interview.» Interview questions will mostly center around the couple’s personal history and the history of the marriage.

Additionally, couples can be granted a conditional green card for two years if the marriage is less than two years old. Following that period, the couple must apply to have the conditions removed, which will require a second marriage interview.

If a couple divorces before either of these interviews, it will complicate the green card process.

What Happens if You Get Divorced Before Your Green Card is Approved?

If you get divorced while still in conditional residence status, moving forward with the green card application process depends on your entry status (whether you are a primary or derivative beneficiary on your entry visa).

The primary beneficiary is the person on whose behalf a visa petition is filed. A derivative beneficiary is a person who cannot be directly petitioned for but can accompany the principal beneficiary based on a married or parent-child relationship.

If you are a primary beneficiary, you can continue with your application following a divorce. A derivative beneficiary, however, cannot.

I Have a Conditional Green Card, but I Got Divorced. Now What?

If you and your spouse divorce before the second marriage interview, it is still okay to proceed with filing Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove the conditions for permanent resident status.

However, this form still has a joint filing requirement. If your estranged spouse refuses to participate, it can complicate your chance at permanent residence. An experienced immigration attorney can help you sort this out, potentially waiving this requirement.

I Already Have My Green Card but Have a Scheduled Renewal Interview. What Will Happen?

If you have received an unconditional permanent resident card and the USCIS requests an additional interview for renewal (rare), your divorce will not affect your green card status. You may, however, be affected if applying for citizenship. Permanent residents married to U.S. citizens can apply for citizenship after three years of residing in the US. After your divorce, you will have to wait five years.

What to Do if You’re Getting a Divorce Before a Green Card Interview

Divorce is emotional and certainly not something you expected. Now, it’s affecting your life in more ways than one, potentially hindering you from achieving your goals. But you can take steps to minimize the impact on your life.

Notify USCIS

If you get divorced before getting your green card, it’s essential to make sure immigration officials know about it. You can file for divorce at any time, but if you don’t notify USCIS of the separation before the interview and they find out afterward, this will raise red flags.

Immigration fraud is a severe offense and will not be taken lightly.

Contact an Attorney

Suppose you face divorce after submitting your application but before your interview with an immigration official. In that case, you should work with an attorney to help prevent problems during the interview process.

If USCIS suspects fraud or misrepresentation on your part, you could face severe penalties, including a lifetime ban from seeking legal immigration to the US. An attorney can help you determine your options and how to proceed with your case.

Getting a green card is a significant milestone. It’s not just a piece of paper; it’s also proof you are now officially considered a permanent resident of the United States. If you’re facing a divorce that threatens to dissolve your dreams,understanding the potential impacts and proper steps to take will help to keep those dreams of citizenship alive. A divorce lawyer knowledgeable about immigration law can provide more assistance through this challenging process.