After receiving a 10-year marriage-based green card, some immigrants are faced with the life-changing decision of obtaining a divorce. The impact that the divorce will have on one’s immigration status is of primary concern. |
There is a lot of misinformation on the internet and from well-meaning friends and family members about what will happen to the immigrant. The most common myth is, “you will be sent back to your home country.” Some U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouses even believe that they have the power to order the immigrant spouse deported. Nothing could be further from the truth.
After receiving a 10-year green card, the immigrant does not have an open case with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The case is closed until the immigrant either applies for U.S. citizenship or apply to renew the green card. The government does not require the immigrant spouse to continuously update his/her marital status. The law, however, requires that if the immigrant moves, he/she provides USCIS, with written notice of the new address, within 10 days of the move. This can be done by sending a certified letter to USCIS or using form AR-11.
Marriage fraud is a crime in U.S. immigration law. As long as the immigrant was in a bona fide marriage, there is little to be concerned about, if the marriage later fails. Getting married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to obtain immigration benefits is unlawful and can lead to deportation, fines, and imprisonment. A common example of marriage fraud occurs where the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is paid to marry the immigrant, but the parties do not intend to live together in a marital union. If this occurs, the 10-year green card was obtained unlawfully and can be revoked.
The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, motivated by spite or hurt feelings, may voluntarily play an informant role by sending a “tip letter” to USCIS, claiming that the marriage wasn’t real. In some cases, it is actually true, and the U.S. citizen spouse was deceived into getting married. If this happens, the government can reopen the immigration case and serve a Notice to Appear (“NTA”), in immigration court. Strong evidence and a skilled immigration attorney are one’s best defense in immigration court against removal.
If there was no marriage fraud, then the immigrant spouse should continue life as usual. A ten-year green card allows an immigrant spouse to live, travel, and work in the United States. He or she may petition for other relatives that are outside the U.S. He or she may even remarry.
Many states, such as Florida, are “no-fault” divorce states. This means that neither party must prove whose fault it was why the marriage failed. Sometimes the couple may be experiencing marital issues before the 10-year green card is approved. However, U.S. immigration law does not require a perfect marriage. Immigrants may want to exercise caution in filing for a divorce immediately after obtaining the 10-year green card. While there is no bright-line rule as to a safe period to file for a divorce, doing it the next day or week after green card approval may raise red-flags. In sum, a divorce after receiving a 10-year green card is of little consequence, if the marriage was real.
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