Green Card Marriage: What Happens If You Get Divorced?

What if you or your spouse receive a green card through marriage and then get divorced? Breaking up is hard enough without having to worry about your immigration status. In this article, we explore the possible consequences of divorce for those who were married and received a green card.

Green card eligibility

The process of getting a green card in the U.S. involves several steps and can be a bit complicated. The first step is to determine your eligibility for a green card based on factors such as your age, employment status, family ties, and other criteria. You may need to complete an application form, pay associated fees, and provide supporting documentation to prove your eligibility.

Once your application has been reviewed by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), you may be required to attend an interview with an immigration officer. During this interview, you will need to demonstrate that you meet all the requirements for receiving a green card. If approved, your green card will be mailed to you within several weeks or months.

While this sounds straightforward, the process of getting a green card can be complex and often involves lots of paperwork and screening steps. It may take years to complete. However, with patience and persistence, it is possible to successfully navigate the system and get a U.S. green card.

What is a marriage green card?

A marriage green card is a type of immigration status granted to foreign nationals who are married to U.S. citizens. To get one, you must go through the immigration process and submit paperwork to USCIS. This process often involves working with an immigration lawyer or other immigration professional.

The first step is to determine whether you qualify for a marriage green card. This depends on factors such as your age, the length of your marriage, and whether you have any criminal convictions. 

Once your eligibility is confirmed, you must fill out the required forms and submit them along with supporting documentation such as proof of your relationship with your spouse, evidence of your U.S. citizen spouse's income, and information about any criminal history. It typically takes several months to complete this process and receive a green card. In some cases, it takes years. 

If you’re considering applying for a marriage green card, it’s important to work with an experienced immigration professional who can guide you through the process so all necessary steps are taken.

How often must a green card be renewed?

To remain valid, a green card must be renewed periodically. Typically, a green card holder will need to renew their green card every 10 years, though there are circumstances under which renewal may be required more or less frequently. 

Additionally, there may be cases in which a green card holder is no longer eligible to renew their green card and must instead apply for U.S. citizenship.

Regardless of the circumstances surrounding your divorce, understanding your rights and responsibilities is crucial to keeping your immigration status.

Can I renew my green card after my divorce?

There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer to this question, as it depends on a variety of situational factors. Generally speaking, if you get divorced after you have been approved for a green card, it may be possible to renew your green card status after the divorce. However, this would likely involve a complex and potentially lengthy process with several steps and requirements.

For example, you may need to demonstrate that your marriage was genuine – i.e., not just for the purposes of obtaining a green card. This is especially true if you received a conditional green card. You may also need to provide proof of income or other financial resources to qualify for green card renewal.

Conditional green card vs. permanent green card in divorce

If you were married and received a conditional green card as a result of your marriage, divorce would likely have different consequences for your status than if you were granted a permanent green card through marriage.

With a conditional green card, you may need to submit additional documentation or go through a process called "removal of conditions" to maintain your immigration status after divorce. But with a permanent green card through marriage, there are no special considerations or steps that must be taken after divorce.

Understanding the differences 

To begin with, it’s important to understand the differences between conditional and permanent green cards. Conditional green cards are only valid for two years, whereas permanent green cards are valid indefinitely – as long as you meet the renewal requirements every 10 years. 

Further, conditional green cards require steps to be taken at certain points in order to keep the status active. Permanent green cards do not require maintenance beyond the renewal process.

If the validity of your marriage is doubted

If an agent with USCIS doubts your marriage was real, they may dig deep into your background to determine if there was fraud. They want to know if you married with good intentions and that the marriage was genuine. A short marriage may make USCIS agents suspicious, as some people attempt to circumvent U.S. immigration law by marrying simply to obtain a green card. 

If you have a conditional green card, even if you've already gotten a divorce, you'll need to prove through evidence that the marriage was real. This may include testimony from your former spouse regarding the genuine nature of your marriage. But the ultimate burden of proof falls on you to prove the marriage was genuine and that your conditional green card should not be revoked.

In general, the process of removing conditions on a conditional green card involves submitting documents and attending an interview with USCIS to prove you met all requirements for maintaining your status during the original period of time when you received your conditional green card. This process can be complicated and time-consuming.

Divorce before naturalization

Many people who get a green card have the ultimate goal of becoming a naturalized U.S. citizen. A divorce can affect naturalization eligibility. In fact, if you're not married at the time of your naturalization application, that too may impact your ability to be naturalized.

However, if your marriage lasted at least five years, that may help your case. Filing for naturalization if your marriage lasted at least five years, even if you're divorced at the time of filing, won't affect your naturalization proceedings.

To request naturalization, you'll need to complete and file form N-400. When you file this form, USCIS will review your complete file from the start, including your marriage. If the USCIS investigation finds any fraud in your marriage, or even suspects fraud, they may require you to provide additional evidence that your marriage was genuine.

Here's something you may not want to hear but you need to know: Getting a divorce shortly after a green card was issued increases the possibility of a more intense review during your naturalization process. While scary, knowing this gives you the chance to take proactive steps to make sure you have the evidence needed to overcome any suspicions from USCIS. 

If you cannot provide sufficient evidence, USCIS may deny your application for naturalization. Even worse, they could refer your case to an immigration court for removal proceedings if they suspect and have evidence to support their claim that your marriage was not genuine. While this is a worst-case scenario, it is a possibility.


Divorce Content Specialist & Lawyer
Divorce Strategy, Divorce Process, Legal Insights

Bryan is a non-practicing lawyer, HR consultant, and legal content writer. With nearly 20 years of experience in the legal field, he has a deep understanding of family and employment laws. His goal is to provide readers with clear and accessible information about the law, and to help people succeed by providing them with the knowledge and tools they need to navigate the legal landscape. Bryan lives in Orlando, Florida.