If you have married a United States citizens and you are trying to become a resident of the country, things can get tricky if you decide that you want a divorce. The facts vary depending on your case. To help, here's what you need to know.
1. You Become a Permanent Resident After Two Years
When you marry a US-citizen, the immigration process involves several steps. In some cases, you may start with a fiancee visa to enter the country. Then, after your wedding, you receive a provisional visa, and you meet with immigration officials several times to talk about your relationship — these meetings are to ensure that your marriage is real and valid.
At the two year mark, you become a permanent resident. This milestone is key if you want to get a divorce. In most cases, if you get a divorce before the two year mark, you will be required to leave the country. However, if you get a divorce after your two year anniversary, you are already a permanent resident, and you can continue to stay in the country, regardless of the nature of your relationship with your American spouse.
2. Applying for Citizenship Can Trigger a Review of Your Relationship
Note that at your two year anniversary, you become a legal permanent resident. You do not become a citizen. As a permanent resident or greencard holder, you can live and work in the country, but you can't vote, and you may be required to leave under certain circumstances such as committing a serious crime.
As a permanent resident, you can opt to become a citizen if you like. This involves a test and an oath as well as a few other conditions. As part of the process of becoming a citizen, immigration officials will review your entire history as an immigrant. That includes looking at your marriage.
If the immigration officials have any reason to believe that your marriage is a sham, they may turn down your citizenship application and possibly even revoke your residency status. For example, if the officials think that you only got married to get into the country and then got a divorce as soon as you become permanent, they may decide that your marriage was not real.
3. Abuse Offers an Exception
There are a few exceptions where you may be able to get a divorce before your two year anniversary, and one of the exceptions is in cases of battery or extreme emotional abuse. If you are in an abusive relationship, you should not stay for immigration reasons or for any other reasons.
Instead, you should leave and contact the authorities to help you. Hospitals and battered women's shelters can help you find safety and point you in the right direction of whom to call. However, they can't necessarily help with immigration issues.
To help with that, you need a skilled immigration attorney. They can help ensure that you get free from the abusive relationship and that it doesn't affect your immigration process.
4. There Are Other Exceptions
In addition to abuse, there are other exceptions where you may split up with your partner without risking your immigration status. In particular, if your removal from the country would result in severe hardship, you may be able to stay even if you aren't married to your spouse for two years. This condition can be extremely subjective, and you may need the help of an immigration attorney to help convince immigration officials of a hardship.
For instance, if returning to your country would be dangerous for you, that may be considered a hardship. Alternatively, if you have a child who is an American citizen and your ex-spouse cannot take care of them, that too may be considered a hardship.
If you are thinking of divorce but you are worried about immigration, contact an attorney today through websites like http://www.kasselandkassel.com.