Finding a way to be with someone you love across borders can be a challenge, and in the United States, the K1 visa is the gateway to this process. By acquiring a K1 visa, the foreign partner in a relationship is granted access to enter the United States for the purpose of marrying a US citizen.
After this event, the foreign individual can pursue a green card to seek permanent legal residence in the United States. However, not all marriages work amicably, and you may feel overwhelmed that there are immigration consequences at stake for divorcing during this process. It is important to understand that whether you can acquire and keep a green card if you divorce varies depending upon the individual situation.
The Process Of Obtaining A Green Card Through A K1 Visa
In general, the process of transitioning from a foreign partner to a US legal permanent resident begins with a K1 visa and progresses along a specific track. The K1 visa gives you six months to enter the US and then 90 days to marry a United States citizen. After this occurs, the non-resident partner can apply to adjust their status and seek a green card.
Throughout this process, they will be subject to providing documentation and even attending interviews. Once they are approved, they will receive a conditional green card for a short period of time; after two years, the foreign partner may apply to remove the conditions on the green card and earn unconditional legal permanent residence.
When Did The Divorce Occur?
The specific timing of a divorce after going through the K1 visa to green card process matters significantly in the context of possible consequences. There are essentially three times during which a divorce can occur in this situation: after the marriage but before the approval of a conditional green card, during the time in which the foreign partner holds a conditional green card but before removing the conditions, and after successfully seeking the removal of conditions on their green card. The further along in the process a partner is, the less severe divorce consequences may be, generally speaking. However, certain factors can increase or decrease the risk of divorce on immigration proceedings.
Potential Consequences Of Divorce During The K1 Visa To Green Card Process
If spouses are unable to work through their problems during the period between the marriage and the filing of a conditional green card application, the foreign partner’s options are sparse. This is because the Form I-485 to adjust status has not been approved, which means that the non-citizen spouse has no immigration claim to remain in the United States.
In this situation, the options are typically for the foreign spouse to return home before they begin accruing unlawful presence or to seek a green card through VAWA. This is only available to spouses who were married and then abused by their United States citizen spouse.
What If I Hold A Conditional Green Card?
If you choose to divorce during the period in which you hold a conditional green card, the odds of success improve. You will have had to pass an immigration interview in order to secure the green card, which indicates that the officers believed that your marriage was in good faith. However, it is still important that you thoroughly document the reasons for divorce so that the termination of your marriage does not impact the removal of conditions on your green card later.
What If I Already Obtained Unconditional Permanent Residency?
If you have already had the conditions on your green card removed and then choose to divorce, there are very few circumstances in which your green card would be taken away.
If you engage in a crime of moral turpitude that results in the United States citizen spouse choosing to divorce you, such as rape, theft, or fraud, you may be deported as a result, regardless of whether you possess a valid green card. However, once you have secured unconditional permanent residence, you are typically no longer at risk of losing your green card as a result of divorce.
Work With A Professional Immigration Attorney If You Want To Divorce
Whether you are considering a K1 visa to green card transition for the first time or are in need of guidance as you consider divorce during the process of applying for legal permanent residence, be sure that you work alongside skilled legal professionals in immigration.
The attorneys at Pride Immigration would be happy to help you navigate this challenging process and secure your path to legal permanent residence with as little challenge as possible. Reach out to schedule a consultation to discuss your options today.
Beeraj Patel, Esq.
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