Can a Divorce after Issuance of a Green-card affect a Divorced Spouse’s Right to Obtain U.S. Citizenship?
In bad economic times, divorce rates increase dramatically as money issues drive couples apart and many spouses who receive their green-card/permanent residency through marriage to a U.S. Citizen or permanent resident worry that a later divorce may affect their citizenship or naturalization application.
Assuming, that the marriage was not a sham or for fraudulent purposes, divorce does not adversely affect a spouse’s immigration status after the spouse obtains a green card or permanent residence unconditionally and a divorce will not invalidate the green card or cause the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to deny a citizenship application automatically.
Divorce may however pose doubts and require the divorced spouse seeking to obtain U.S. Citizenship to reassure the USCIS interviewing officer that the marriage was not a sham. A good way to prove that your marriage was genuine is to take copies and originals of documents that show that you and your ex-spouse lived together, had joint bank accounts, and shared important and memorable moments together. Examples of documents include, home title or rent receipts or home lease in both names, joint bank account statements, credit card statements, photographs of both spouses on vacation, birth certificates of children born during the marriage, etc.
Also, divorce may delay a spouse’s right in obtaining citizenship in certain cases. For instance, a divorced spouse having a green-card who was married to a U.S. citizen will not be able to avail the short three year residency requirement, if the spouse is not married to the U.S. citizen for at least three years before the naturalization exam date. In essence, if the green-card holder spouse divorces the U.S. citizen spouse before three years of marriage have passed, then s/he will have to wait until the normal five year residency requirement has elapsed before s/he is eligible to apply to become a naturalized U.S. Citizen and cannot take advantage of the three year residency requirement.