Different immigration statuses have different divorce risks

Divorce changes your family and your life in unpredictable ways. One of the important considerations of divorce that people often overlook initially is how it could affect the immigration process if they are trying to become a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.

Every immigration situation, like every divorce, is unique. However, there are certain general rules that apply to non-citizens getting divorced in the United States. Understanding how your marriage impacts your visa or green card can help you make more informed decisions about potentially ending it.

Did you secure a green card through your marriage?

One of the first and most important questions is whether your immigration status stems from your marriage. If your spouse is a United States citizen and you are not, the chances are good that your immigration applications reflect that marital relationship.

The length of your marriage and how long you have been in the United States will directly influence whether or not a divorce will change your immigration status. If you were married for more than two years before you attempted to enter the United States or applied for a green card, then in most cases the divorce will not impact your immigration status.

However, if you got married shortly before you were set to leave the country or before you entered the United States and it has been less than two years, the potential exists for immigration complications. Before you formally separate from your spouse or file for divorce, you should carefully review your circumstances.

Is your immigration status dependent on your spouse?

If neither you nor your spouse is currently a United States citizen, your immigration status could very well depend on their immigration status. Did you enter as the spouse of someone with a work or business visa? If so, dissolving that relationship will likely impact your ability to stay in the country.

Are you eligible for another kind of visa?

If you have an education or employment skills, it's possible that you could seek a work visa while currently in the United States as a way to ensure that you can stay and continue your path toward citizenship or permanent residency. For some people, that may not be an option.

Still, there is one final immigration option that may apply in rare circumstances. If you have been the victim of certain crimes in the United States, particularly a crime committed by a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible for a special visa program. That could extend to individuals who are victims of spousal abuse or violence. If you intend to leave your spouse because of marital violence, you may be eligible for a special Visa program that will allow you to stay in the country after your divorce.

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