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Immigrants and Divorce

As a nation based on immigration, many people in the United States are foreign-born individuals. If an immigrant marries a U.S. citizen, the immigrant can be granted temporary or permanent residency and eventually may apply for citizenship. In fact, over 400,000 citizens each year marry immigrants and petition to help them obtain permanent residency. However, if the marriage dissolves and the couple files for divorce, the immigrant spouse may lose his or her residency, depending on certain factors.

Immigrant Residency

When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign-born person, the spouse is considered an immediate relative under the U.S. immigration laws. Because of this status, the citizen may petition for residency status on behalf his or her spouse. There are two different types of residency available to immigrant spouses:

  • Conditional residency. If a marriage is deemed authentic and is less than two years old, the spouse if granted conditional residency status.
  • Permanent residency. After two years of marriage, the immigrant is eligible for permanent residency status with no conditions.

Divorcing an Immigrant Spouse

If the couple decides to get a divorce, the immigrant spouse may lose his or her legal residency, depending on the length of the marriage and other factors. Conditional residency lasts for two years. After this time, the immigrant spouse must petition the Immigration and Naturalization Services to gain permanent residency. However, if the marriage has fallen apart within this two-year window of conditional residency, the immigrant may not be eligible to remain in the United States.

Contact Us

Divorce is a complicated process that becomes even more confusing when issues of immigration and naturalization are involved. For help with your divorce case, contact the Raleigh divorce lawyers of the Marshall & Taylor PLLC at (919) 833-1040.