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Does divorce mean an immigrant spouse will face removal?

On Behalf of | Sep 4, 2023 | Deportation & Removal |

Foreign nationals who secure the legal right to enter the United States do not always get to stay as long as they would prefer. Those with employment visas could face removal from the country when their visas expire or they lose their jobs. Most immigrants are subject to removal proceedings after certain types of criminal convictions.

Those who enter the United States using a family visa can sometimes lose their eligibility to remain in the country because their family circumstances change. There are special immigration programs for spouses and fiancés that allow people to enter the United States because of their relationships. They can secure conditional green cards that they can eventually upgrade to standard green cards. And, in the event of divorce after entering the country to marry or through marriage, a change in circumstance may result in someone’s removal from the United States.

The timing of the divorce determines the degree of risk

Whether or not the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will remove a foreign national spouse from the United States after a divorce depends entirely on the length of the marriage and their stay in the country. Those who enter the United States with a K-1 or fiancé visa will typically need to remain married for at least two years after their domestic wedding. At least initially, they will only have a conditional green card and will need to apply to remove the conditions when they have remained married for long enough.

Someone who is already married to a citizen when they entered the country or apply for a marriage-based green card will also receive a conditional green card. They will also need to remain married for at least two years after entering the country to remove the conditions from their green card that require that they remain married.

There are, thankfully, certain exceptions to these rules. Those who divorced due to criminal activity, like domestic violence, may qualify for special visa programs. There are other, rare circumstances in which the USCIS will be lenient with an immigrant spouse who divorces before becoming eligible to apply to remove the conditions on their green card.

Those who enter the country through engagement or marriage typically need to understand the rules that apply to their immigration status if they want to secure the best outcome if their relationship changes.