Immigration & Divorce: 3 Questions Answered

Posted on: 22 June 2015


The road towards naturalization is long and full of hurdles. If you've worked hard to become a naturalized citizen (or are currently working towards this goal), but are in the process of divorcing your U.S.-born spouse, you may wonder what this can mean for your citizenship status. Below are answers to three of the most troublesome questions you may have.

Question #1: If I Have a Green Card but am Not Yet Naturalized, Can I Be Deported?

There are a number of reasons that individuals currently holding a green card can be deported, but unless you've committed marriage fraud, divorce isn't one of them.

If you were married for less than 2 years when you received your green card, you could face some difficulty when your case gets reviewed. There are a number of reasons you and your ex-spouse may have divorced, and an experienced immigration lawyer can help you gather the information you need to prove your marriage wasn't a fraud, such as shared banking information, rental agreements, and records of marital counseling. If you were married for more than 2 years before receiving your green card but less than 3 years after receiving it, you will have an additional 2 years added onto your naturalization wait time for a total of 5 years, which is the normal wait for non-married green card holders. However, you won't be deported unless fraud is suspected.

Question #2: If I Became a Naturalized Citizen During My Marriage but Divorced Soon After, Can I Be Deported?

Except for in extreme cases, naturalized citizens cannot be deported as they are now full United States citizens.

As long as you were truthful throughout the permanent residence and naturalization process, you shouldn't fear denaturalization and the resulting deportation. If, however, you only married to receive citizenship or committed other fraudulent acts during the process of naturalization, denaturalization can occur, stripping you of your legal citizenship status. If you're worried about your rights as a naturalized citizen, consult with an immigration attorney. They can answer all of your questions and, if necessary (though this is extremely rare), they can help you to fight denaturalization.

Question #2: If I'm Not Yet Naturalized, Will My U.S.-Born Spouse Receive Custody of Our Child?

There are a lot of factors that go into a child custody decision, and while citizenship may be one of them, it isn't the only thing that's considered.

Family court will consider the best interests of your children when deciding which parent will be awarded custody or whether custody will be shared. If deportation seems like a real possibility for you, the judge deciding custody may consider this a strike against you, but if you're in the country legally (i.e. have a green card), family court will likely not give your status much thought. An immigration attorney with experience in child custody can best offer advice for your current situation.

The process of legal immigration can be time consuming and, when faced with divorce, downright terrifying. If you're in the process of receiving a green card, are working towards becoming a naturalized citizen, or have already received naturalized citizenship, you may have questions surrounding your legal status and how your divorce will effect it. An experienced immigration lawyer is your best bet for understanding your rights, no matter your current situation.