TOLL-FREE 604-684-4211

U.S. immigration: What happens to a green card holder in divorce?

When a marriage between a green card holder from British Columbia and a U.S. citizen ends the consequences can be significant. U.S. immigration has several measures in place to prevent sham marriages entered into purely for the purpose of obtaining green cards. Even though state law governs U.S. marriages, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement essentially considers the marriage as nonexistent for immigration purposes.

Some couples would marry but separate soon after the non-U.S. citizen applied for a green card. For that reason, Immigration Services might even regard a legal separation as the end of qualification for a green card. However, if an application for a green card is filed more than two years after the marriage, the marriage will be regarded as genuine. If the application is submitted sooner, the green card holder may only apply for U.S. citizenship after three years of marriage.

Circumstances in a divorce that could indicate a good faith marriage include the couple having a child together or owning property. The noncitizen may not be deported if it can be shown that deportation would cause extreme hardship, or if  the noncitizen is the victim of abuse by a U.S. citizen spouse. Failing to show any of these may deny the green car holder the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship and could lead to deportation.

Any British Columbia citizen who wants to enter into a marriage with a U.S. citizen, or get a divorce from one, will likely benefit by becoming fully informed regarding any immigration law issues. A lawyer who is registered on both sides of the border and experienced in all matters related to U.S. immigration is a solid choice. The lawyer can review the available facts, suggest the best way to proceed and provide ongoing support.

Source:, “Green Card and Divorce“, Audrey M. Jones, Accessed on Sept. 29, 2017