Many naturalized U.S. citizens and permanent residents first got their green cards after marrying an American citizen. Marriage has a way of making your relationship to the United States permanent.  A US citizen traveling abroad may meet their spouse-to-be in another country. The spouse-to-be then enters the U.S. on a fiancé visa. Sometimes an international student with a student visa meets their spouse-to-be in the United States. After marrying, they can apply for an adjustment of status and get their green card. But what is the relationship between your green card and divorce?

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Get help filing a California Divorce!

…or continue reading the article below to learn more about what happens to your green card if you get divorced.


Foreigners who marry an American citizen often hear people make comments that the marriage was simply a way to get their green card. Likewise, if your spouse has a controlling streak they might threaten to have your green card taken away if you divorce. The good news is that most of those threats are empty. What happens to your green card if you divorce? Many people who receive their green card through marriage worry about this disturbing issue. In most cases, once you have a green card, it is yours forever unless you commit a major crime or it turns out that you obtained the green card by fraud. To avoid trouble, have a registered legal document assistant prepare your documents, whether for divorce or immigration.

Will You Automatically Lose Your Green Card?

If you are a non-US citizen going through a divorce, you might worry whether you will lose our green card status. Keep in mind that it depends on the circumstances, but probably not. Half of all marriages end in divorce; there is no law saying that immigrants must have superhuman abilities to put up with an impossible spouse.  Several factors come into play when considering how divorce will affect your green card status. First, they look at the length of the marriage. Next, is your green card is conditional or permanent?  Here are some scenarios in which divorce affects your immigration status in various ways.

  • At the time of your divorce, if your case has only gotten as far as your spouse filing Form I-130 (the visa petition), your green card application will automatically be denied.
  • Did you receive a green card after marriage, then apply for and receive a permanent green card two years later? If so, you can still keep your permanent green card after your divorce.
  • Were you and your spouse married for two years before you applied for a green card based on your marriage to your spouse? If so, you can get a permanent green card as soon as you successfully complete the application process. Divorce will not change your permanent resident status.
  • Do you have a conditional green card? With a conditional green card (the one that lasts two years and is issued to immigrants newly married to U.S. citizens) and you divorce,  the situation is somewhat more complicated. You can still apply for a permanent green card without your ex-spouse, but the burden of proof is on you to show that you had every intention of building a lasting marriage. Specifically, you must be able to prove you did not marry your ex-spouse just to get a green card. Reports from marriage counselors and court records about domestic violence can help your case; even if you have strong evidence, you might need a lawyer.

Most of the time, you do not need a lawyer to protect your rights in a divorce. This is true, even if you do not have U.S. citizenship.

Your Green Card is Probably Safe, Even if You Divorce

For most people, divorce without the involvement of lawyers is the best option, even for U.S. permanent residents. If you want to file for divorce but worry about implications to your green card status, we can help. Contact A People’s Choice to have a registered legal document assistant prepare your legal forms for divorce. Call 800-747-2780 for immediate help.

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