Remain permanent U.S. resident after having divorced
Some people who got their Green Card through marriage may decide to divorce. As a general rule, as long as you have an unconditional Green Card or permanent residence, you can keep your Green Card. This even applies in the event that you divorce or your wife or husband dies.
However, if the residence permit is conditional because you received your residency status before having been married for at least 2 years, you and your spouse must complete an application together in order to remove the conditions present on your card. It is possible to withdraw the conditions by filling out an I-751 form to withdraw the conditions on the Green Card which you can find on the official US site USICS.gov. This must be done during the 90 day period before the end of the 2 year term of conditional status.
Remove the conditions:
If you have been divorced, it may be difficult for you to remove conditions on green card. You risk losing your permanent resident status. If you have a conditional Green Card and your husband or wife dies, you will have the option to withdraw your conditions as long as you are able to prove that the marriage was in good faith.
In the case of divorce, you may have difficulty removing your conditions because you must complete a form at the same time as your spouse (e) and your marriage must still be valid. However, in some cases it is possible to obtain an exemption to be able to complete the form without your spouse. USCIS will, however, verify that your marriage was real and not for the sole purpose of obtaining a Green Card.
You can get an exemption from having to complete the form with your spouse if you can prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith by the foreign spouse, but the marriage has broken down (other than by the death of one of the two spouses) without the foreign person having committed any fault in respecting the marriage criteria. In order to obtain this exemption, the marriage must have been completely broken down and not simply in the process of divorce. Even if your wedding has been called off, you will still be able to request an exemption.
Cases where it is impossible to complete the form alone
If you are not able to jointly complete a form to remove the conditions because the divorce or marriage annulment is in progress and has not yet been completed, you will not be able to apply for an exemption for not having to jointly complete the form on the basis of “good faith”.
If the conditional resident status of the foreign person has expired because he was not able to complete the form on time and an expulsion procedure was initiated against the foreign person, it is possible to apply to from an immigration judge to obtain a Form I-551 that allows you to stay in the United States until the end of the divorce proceedings. Generally, the judge issues this authorization to stay in the United States each time while the case is being processed.
Abused children and husbands
There are special rules that apply to divorces caused by mistreatment of one of the two spouses. Abuse includes domestic violence and mental abuse. These cases should be handled with USCIS.
As a general rule, a person can fill out a form themselves which allows them to withdraw the conditions present on their Green Card. To do this, the person will need to be able to demonstrate that the bodily harm or extreme mental cruelty led to or caused the divorce. The foreign person will also have to demonstrate that the marriage was carried out in good faith.
Divorce and obtaining American citizenship
If your Green Card is not conditional, the fact of getting divorced does not affect your permanent resident status. However, it changes the rules about the wait time that makes you eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.
Once you have had the Permanent Resident Card for a few years, you are eligible for US citizenship if you wish to obtain it. If you are still married with a permanent Green Card, you can apply for citizenship after a period of 3 years from the time you were granted permanent resident status. If you divorce, this period increases from 3 years to 5 years.
For this reason, if you divorce, you will have to wait 5 years of permanent residence with a Green Card in the United States before you can apply for the acquisition of American nationality.
Instruction manual on keeping a Green Card for divorced people
In order to help you keep your residence permit following a divorce, we have created a publication on the subject. Inside it, you will find the exact information on the procedure to be followed, the forms to be completed and the competent American authorities to contact to deal with your case.