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Divorce and aliensMany couples marry in order to ensure security in a number of areas; whether this is financially or otherwise. Some couples even marry for residency status within the country. But what happens when these couples file for divorce? Legal status in the county is affected, as well as the other impositions that come with any divorce.

Under the law, a divorced, remarried citizen can file for a green card for his or her new spouse, provided the marriage qualifies as ‘real’ and can be proven as such. Under a 1990 law, a person can divorce and file for a new spouse within five years of getting permanent residence, upon proving the new marriage was bona fide, or ‘real.’

Divorce With A Green Card
Divorce does not adversely affect an alien’s immigration status under immigration law. Although, this is only applicable after the alien obtains permanent residence unconditionally. The only affect divorce may have on an alien at this stage of their filing for residency, either permanent or otherwise,  is that it may delay the alien in obtaining citizenship.

If a permanent resident is married to a U.S. citizen, he or she has a three year residency requirement for U.S. citizenship, as opposed to the normal five year residency requirement. In order to benefit from the shorter residency requirement, the alien must have been married to a U.S. citizen for at least three years before the exam date. Therefore, if the alien divorces a U.S. citizen spouse before three years of marriage have elapsed, and they have not been a permanent resident for five years, they will then have to wait for five years before they are eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship.

There are two ways an alien can obtain permanent resident status through their spouse. One way is by qualifying as the direct beneficiary of an immigration petition made by a sponsoring U.S. permanent resident or citizen spouse. This is often done through a place of business or a specific government institution.

The other way is by qualifying for permanent resident status through a petition where the alien’s spouse is permitted to include the alien on his/her immigration petition as a derivative beneficiary. In both instances, the alien is a beneficiary of an immigration petition on the basis of marriage. This means if the marriage is terminated by divorce before permanent resident status is granted, the beneficiary or derivative beneficiary will not be eligible for permanent resident status through this relationship.

Know the Law
There are classes of alien non-immigrants who obtained their legal status in the U.S. based on marriage to another alien non-immigrant. The marriage of the alien to the non-immigrant is a requirement for the alien’s non-immigrant status in these instances. So, if a marriage is terminated, the holder of the dependent legal status would be out of status immediately, as the relationship granting that status would be terminated.

Now, all of this may be a little intricate, but all of the information is necessary to know whenever anyone emigrating to the United States is planning on marrying, or even contemplating a divorce. There are many loopholes and small details to know, and not properly understanding them or following the strict protocol, can often lead to deportation. Know the law, and stay informed.

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