Divorce is complicated, and going through a divorce as an immigrant can mean a whole new level of complications. In addition to the other worries that come with a divorce, you may worry about deportation.
The good news is that a divorce does not necessarily mean you will immediately be deported. However, you should still know how divorce will impact your immigration status, learn about your options and take any necessary steps to avoid deportation.
If you are already a lawful permanent resident, your immigration status should not be affected. This is not the case if you are a conditional resident.
You are a conditional resident when you are married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident for at least two years. When you are a conditional resident, you have a 3-year residency requirement before you can become a lawful permanent resident.
This residency requirement is typically five years, but your marriage shortens the requirement to three years. Once you receive your conditional residency status and wait out the three-year residency requirement, you can apply for U.S. citizenship by proving that your marriage was in good faith and not for immigration purposes.
Proving a good faith marriage
There are various ways you can prove your marriage was in good faith. You can provide documents showing shared assets, such as a house or bank accounts, or photographs of you and your spouse together.
But what happens if you get divorced within the three-year waiting period? You will not be deported, but you will then need to wait out the standard five-year residency requirement.
The situation is different if you have a dependent visa. This means you legally entered the United States as part of your spouse’s visa status.
You will lose your immigration status if you divorce while you are on a dependent visa and must reapply for a different type of visa. You might be able to avoid deportation due to a dependent visa in certain situations, such as if you are a victim of domestic violence, but this can be challenging to prove.
What happens if you are an undocumented immigrant? As you probably know, getting married did not automatically change your immigration status. Likewise, getting divorced will not automatically trigger deportation proceedings.
Even if the divorce court is aware that you are an undocumented immigrant, they cannot contact the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement (ICE) to alert them to your status.
Your status as an undocumented immigrant has no impact on your rights during the divorce. You can still be awarded child custody, child support, alimony or spousal support.
Know all your options
You may be able to remain in the country lawfully while you try to obtain a visa or work toward lawful permanent residency.