Getting married when one of the spouses is an immigrant can be extremely difficult.  The federal government is very strict with immigration policies, and it does not give out green cards to married couples as easily as you might hope.  Even after a green card is awarded, you might face extended scrutiny about your relationship.  Ending a marriage quickly after the marriage may draw questions and investigations.  If you are considering getting divorced while you have a permanent residency card, talk to an attorney.  The Ventura divorce lawyers at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth represent husbands and wives seeking divorce in Santa Barbara, Ventura, and other areas in California.

Can You Lose Your Green Card After a Divorce?

There is nothing illegal about getting married for legitimate reasons like love and companionship, even if you get the added benefit of a green card by marrying your spouse.  Many marriages do not work out.  Especially if you recently moved to the United States and up-ended your whole life, you may quickly find out that your newly married life is not right for you at this time, and seeking a divorce may be a necessary choice.

The phrase “green card marriage” refers to a marriage that is exclusively for immigration purposes, not for the purpose of a happy marriage.  These marriages are considered fraud, and the government typically investigates marriages involving a green card to determine whether the marriage is legitimate.  If you seek permanent residency along with your marriage, it is likely you will undergo an investigation to ensure your marriage was not solely for immigration.

Typically, these investigations take place when you apply for the green card in the first place, not after your divorce.  However, if you have a temporary green card or your marriage is still being investigated, your divorce may hurt your case for residency.  If you are divorced before your temporary green card expires, the government may refuse to give you a permanent green card or may think that your marriage was fraudulent.  If you are married but have not yet received a green card, it is likely that getting a divorce very quickly will hurt your green card application.

If you have had a permanent green card for many years, divorce should not be an issue.  Many permanent residents with permanent green cards can keep their green card or apply for full citizenship without the divorce raising much suspicion.

Can I Win My Divorce to Keep My Green Card?

Many immigrant spouses are the ones who initially file for divorce after coming to the United States, but what if your spouse files for divorce against you?  If you recently moved to the United States to marry your spouse, having them ask for a divorce can be extremely painful and lead to many emotions and much confusion.  In these cases, is your green card safe?  Can you fight the divorce to stay married?

The question of whether your green card is safe once again comes down to how long you’ve had your green card.  If you are still in the process of applying or have only a temporary green card, it is possible that your green card application may be denied or your temporary green card will not be renewed.  If you have a permanent green card and have lived in the U.S. for many years, it is more likely that you will be able to keep your green card and potentially naturalize and become a citizen.

Because of the way that divorce works in California, it is unlikely that you will be able to stop or “win” a divorce case once your spouse has filed for divorce.  California works on a “no-fault” divorce system, which means that a divorce is granted when either party petitions the court to end the divorce based on “irreconcilable differences.”  Some states have “fault” divorces where the petitioner needs to prove claims of adultery or domestic abuse before the court will grant a divorce to the “winner,” but CA does not have these kinds of divorces.

In California, there is no real burden of proof to meet in a divorce case, and it is difficult to get a court to block the divorce.  However, your divorce attorney may be able to negotiate with your spouse and their divorce lawyer.  In some cases, you may be able to convince your spouse to withdraw their divorce petition and seek marriage counseling or other therapy instead, which can delay or end any plans for a divorce.  Legal separation may also be an alternative option to maintain your legal status as “married” but still begin living apart.

California Divorce Lawyers Offering Free Legal Consultations

If you are seeking a divorce in California or your spouse has filed a divorce against you, contact the Ventura family law attorneys at the Law Offices of Bamieh and De Smeth today.  Our Santa Barbara divorce lawyers offer free legal consultations to help you understand your divorce case and the potential legal consequences of divorce in California.  For help with your case, call our attorneys today at (805) 643-5555 to schedule a free legal consultation.