Immigration and Divorce: Important Things to Know
By: M. Scott Gordon
For some Chicago area residents, the prospect of divorce also brings significant issues about immigration status. Many people in Illinois and across the country have what is known as conditional permanent residence (CPR) as a result of marriage. As such, a divorce could change the immigrant’s status and that individual could end up facing additional legal issues concerning immigration. While immigration law in relation to family law matters can be incredibly complicated, we want to provide you with some basic things to know about immigration and divorce in Chicago. If you are facing concurrent divorce and immigration issues, you should get in touch with a Chicago divorce lawyer to discuss your case.
Divorce – and Even Separation – May Affect a Person’s Conditional Status
If you obtained conditional permanent residence status through marriage, then getting separated or divorced could affect your status. When you got married and received conditional permanent residence status, you most likely received a Green Card, which was valid for two years, according to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). In order to remain as a permanent residence in the U.S., you would have learned of a requirement to file a petition to remove that “conditional” status during the 90-day period before your Green Card expires. That petition gets filed through a Form I-751 – a “Petition to Remove Conditions of Residence.”
For married couples, the form typically will be filed by both spouses and will include documentation to prove they are still married. If you are only separated, it may still be possible for you to file Form I-751 jointly with your spouse. However, a divorce is different. It legally ends the relationship. To be sure, an immigrant spouse may not be approved for permanent residence – without the “conditional” status – if a divorce will be finalized before the Form I-751 must be filed. If this is the case, you will need to file the Form I-751 on your own and you will also need to request a “waiver.” If you are only separated, but your spouse will not jointly sign the form, you will likely need to request a waiver.
Requesting a Waiver if You Are Divorce or Your Divorce Will Be Finalized Soon
If you cannot file Form I-751 jointly with your spouse because of separation or divorce, you will need to include your request for a “waiver,” meaning a request to waive the requirement that Form I-751 gets filed jointly by the spouses. When you request a waiver, you will need to provide an explanation why you are requesting the waiver. For example, you might explain you were married in good faith, but the relationship legitimately did not last. You may also cite domestic violence by your spouse after entering a good-faith marriage, or risk of harm or hardship if you were to be forced to return to the country where you are still a citizen.
If you get divorced and must file with a waiver, you will need to include evidence of a “good-faith marriage.” In other words, you will need to provide evidence, which proves you did not get married solely for the purpose of becoming a U.S. citizen. There are a variety of materials you can submit, from proof of minor children from the marriage to copies of letters or gifts between you and your spouse.
Seek Advice from a Divorce Lawyer in Chicago
If you have concerns about your immigration status and your plans for divorce, it is extremely important to get legal help as soon as possible. An experienced Chicago divorce lawyer can discuss the divorce process with you. We can help you to understand the timeline and how it may impact your immigration case. Contact Gordon & Perlut, LLC for more information about our family law practice in the Chicago area.