Immigrants, Divorce, and Conditional Residence

Immigrants who marry a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident can be granted a special status to live in the United States. This status is called conditional residency status, because the immigrant is granted residency status with the condition that he or she be married to a citizen or legal resident of the United States. Conditional residence lasts for 2 years, at which point the status of the immigrant is reevaluated. However, marital problems that lead to divorce or legal separation within the 2 year period may compromise the residency status of an immigrant.

Granting Conditional Residency

Conditional residency may be granted to immigrant spouses if the marriage is less than 2 years old. The immigrant is given a green card, which allows him or her to live and work in the U.S. This status also allows the immigrant to enter and leave the United States. As long as the marriage remains valid, the immigrant spouse will maintain conditional residency for the 2 year period.

Conditional Residency and Divorce

If you are an immigrant on conditional residency and want to pursue a divorce, you should first consider how a divorce would affect your residency status. At the end of the 2 year conditional residency period, an immigrant spouse may apply for legal permanent resident status. However, if you have been divorced or separated from your spouse, applying for permanent residency will be more difficult, because you and your spouse must jointly file the application. An immigrant may apply to have the joint application waived if the applicant can show that he or she entered into the marriage in good faith.

Domestic Violence Cases

Special circumstances can override the joint application requirement. If an immigrant spouse is a victim of domestic violence, she or he may separate from her or his spouse and seek legal residency status without the spouse’s approval. This is a special condition that usually applies to battered women or mothers with children who have been abused by the husband. If you are a conditional resident and a victim of domestic violence, consider contacting a divorce lawyer and an immigration lawyer immediately.