Finalizing a marriage visa amid divorce

Marriage between an American citizen and a foreign national is one of the most common routes that applicants pursue towards permanent residence in the United States. So what happens when a foreign national on a temporary marriage visa is faced with a pending divorce? While saving their marriage might not be in the cards, another card can still come to life: the green card. 


The first stage of a marriage visa is a two year visa that is typically applied for by the couple. This is where you show evidence of your relationship, which is frequently accompanied by reference letters from friends and family, and other proof that your marriage is real and valid. 


Once that conditional period passes, these foreign nationals have the ability to apply for citizenship, also referred to as a green card. 


However, sometimes, unique scenarios arise and a foreign national who has been living with their American citizen spouse in the U.S. has to manage their legal status with divorce. Thanks to recent changes to conditional visas, divorcing foreign nationals currently residing in the U.S. still have the ability to apply for residency and continue to legally live and work in the United States. As you can imagine these situations are full of complexities, it is advised to retain two attorneys–a family law attorney and an immigration attorney. 


The I-751 is a form that you should familiarize yourself with. As the USCIS website states, it is a form if you are a conditional permanent resident who obtained status through marriage and want to apply to remove the conditions on your permanent resident status.


If you are filing a waiver of the joint filing requirement due to a termination of marriage other than through death of the petitioning spouse or stepparent, you must provide the following:


  • Copies of the front and back of your Permanent Resident Card; 
  • Copies of the front and back of the Permanent Resident Cards of any conditional resident children you are including in your petition (if applicable);
  • Evidence of the relationship;
  • Submit copies of documents indicating that the marriage upon which you were granted status was entered in good faith and was not for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws. Submit copies of as many documents as you can to establish this fact, to demonstrate the circumstances of the relationship from the date of the marriage until the marriage terminated;
  • The final divorce or annulment decree;
  • Evidence demonstrating any circumstances surrounding the end of the relationship;
  • An explanation for the reason you are filing separately from your primary conditional permanent resident parent (if applicable);
  • Dispositions on criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable)


Special rules also apply for applicants based outside of the U.S. due to military orders. 


If you are a foreign national looking to move forward with a marriage visa, contact our team of immigration attorneys today to understand your options and best process forward.