Getting a divorce after a permanent green card has been issued is a situation faced by many foreign national spouses. Usually, there are problems in the marriage before the foreign-born spouse obtains the green card, but the couple manages to remain married throughout the immigration process.

Getting a divorce after a permanent green card has been issued is a situation faced by many foreign national spouses. Usually, there are problems in the marriage before you obtain a green card, but you manage to remain married throughout the immigration process.

“Will I lose my green card if I get a divorce?’ or “will I be deported, if I get a divorce?” are the questions that keep you up late at night as you try to figure out how the divorce will affect your immigration status.  Rest assured; you will not automatically lose your green card if you get a divorce. You also will not automatically be deported if you get a divorce, after a permanent green card has been issued.

A permanent green card is issued for ten years. This is different from a conditional green card, which is issued for two years. If you have a conditional green card, you have to file an I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, beginning 90 days before the conditional green card expires. If your petition is granted, you will receive a permanent 10-year green card.

Marriage Fraud


U.S. immigration officials are concerned about people obtaining green cards through sham marriages and marriage fraud. In these types of marriages, the couple has no intention of establishing a life together.

The point of the marriage is for the foreign-born spouse to receive lawful permanent residence and the U.S. citizen or green card holder who made this possible receives quid pro quo.

Once the foreign-born spouse receives his or her green card, the parties no longer have a reason to stay married and they head to divorce court. This is a federal crime for which each offender could be sentenced to a maximum of 5 years in prison and be fined up to $250,000. In addition, the government can revoke the foreign-born spouse’s green card.

If you engaged in marriage fraud, you are always at risk of losing your green card because you deceived the government into granting you an immigration benefit, for which you were not qualified. The passage of time will not cure this issue.

It is however, the government’s burden to prove that you knowingly entered into a fraudulent marriage for the purpose of evading a provision of immigration laws. The government also must prove that you knew the immigration laws.

Real Marriages that End in a Divorce


There are real marriages, however, that end in a divorce. Filing for a divorce too quickly after getting your permanent green card could lead the government to believe that the marriage was not real.

There is no bright line rule regarding a safe period to file for a divorce after getting a permanent green card, as immigration lawyer Cheryl Fletcher from Fletcher Law states. Certainly, you do not want to file for a divorce the next day after you get the green card.

Waiting a few months or even years to file for a divorce is a stronger fact scenario for you if you are charged with marriage fraud.

Assuming you wait a reasonable amount of time before filing for a divorce, the immigration consequences are minimal. Immigration law does not require you to be married to your spouse forever to keep your permanent green card. If your spouse is abusive or your marriage is just not working, a divorce could be the best solution.

You do not need to notify the government that your marriage has ended if you do not have an open immigration case. After you receive your 10-year green card, your case is closed until you renew the green card or apply for U.S. citizenship.

Abusive Marriages


Your mental health, safety, and overall well-being are of paramount importance. Living in a toxic environment with your U.S. citizen or LPR spouse is detrimental to your health. Many foreign nationals remain in abusive marriages for various reasons.

Fear, lack of financial resources, the stigma of a divorce, psychological damage and lack of a support system are some of these reasons. Some hopelessly believe that things will return to normal once their abusive spouse calms down. Unfortunately, the abuse usually gets worse. Abuse is not only physical; emotional abuse is also abuse.

According to the National Coalition against Domestic Violence, in the United States, more than 10 million adults experience domestic violence annually. On a typical day, domestic violence hotlines nationwide receive over 19,000 calls.

Although spousal abuse is common in marriages, this is not a normal situation. You should not in any way accept that this is how you should be treated. If you are being abused by your spouse, you may want to move out of the marital residence before filing for a divorce. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is a good resource to use to get information on how to leave your abuser.

U.S. immigration law anticipates that there may be abuse in immigrant marriages and created an abuse waiver for conditional permanent residents. Permanent green card holders do not have to prove that their marriage was abusive, unless the government later questions its authenticity. The government may serve you with a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court.

Although your situation may be empathetic, if there is a court case against you, you must prove to immigration officials that the marriage was abusive. Documentation such as police reports, therapy records, affidavits from witnesses, medical records, and court records relating to a domestic violence petition are some forms of evidence that you may use to prove the mistreatment that you suffered. You have a strong likelihood of winning your case if you preserved the evidence.

U.S Citizenship After Divorce


It is possible for your immigration status to be unaffected by a divorce and you may continue to move forward to U.S. citizenship.

There are no additional eligibility requirements for divorced permanent residents who wish to apply for U.S. citizenship. To be eligible, you must wait 5 years from the date that you became a permanent resident. The three-year eligibility requirement is for permanent residents who are still married and living with their U.S. citizen spouse.