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Does divorce threaten immigration status?

Divorce is a complex process that affects nearly every area of two spouse's lives, both personally and even professionally, in some cases. On a personal level, divorce means ending a relationship, or at least ending the relationship in its current form, but the legal impactions are much larger.

Divorce also means that the legal privileges that one enjoys in marriage may not continue once the marriage ends. For immigrants working toward permanent resident status and ultimately full citizenship, divorce can present some significant setbacks.

If you face divorce and have concerns about how it may impact your resident status, make sure that you build a strong legal strategy to protect your rights and ensure that you navigate this difficult matter very carefully.

The good news

For many immigrants who marry citizens, the process of seeking permanent status is very time-consuming. In some cases, the marriage may end before the proper authorities lift the immigrant's status from conditional to permanent. Fortunately, the government does not automatically punish immigrants who divorce citizens by stripping away the progress already made toward permanent status.

As long as the immigrant and the citizen both file the proper paperwork within the prescribed timeframes, the immigrant spouse may still proceed from conditional to permanent status, and, in many cases, there is only the matter of signing and filing a few additional forms.

The bad news

Divorce has a way of bringing out the worst in people, so it is possible that the citizen spouse may refuse to continue helping the immigrant spouse seek permanent residence. If the citizen spouse will not sign the proper forms, then the immigrant spouse must act quickly to protect themselves.

It is still possible to lift conditional status to permanent status during or after divorce, but it requires filing additional forms and explaining the reason the citizen spouse is no longer assisting in the process. If the citizen spouse is particularly motivated to make things difficult, or believes that the immigrant spouse is dangerous, then this may complicate matters and the whole process can fall apart quickly.

Still, with careful attention and commitment to filing proper forms and obtaining the correct waivers, a divorcing immigrant may still continue to work towards permanent resident status.

Make sure to keep your own rights and resident status goals protected with a strong legal strategy to address your divorce properly and protect your rights while you work towards a new chapter of life and a fresh start.

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