Divorce is a highly stressful time, and doubly so if you’re a non-U.S. resident living here because you married a citizen of the U.S., as it can affect your ability to live here legally. In divorces involving non-U.S. residents, obtaining the services of a skilled divorce attorney versed in the immigration impacts a divorce can have is absolutely essential to staying in America.

Non-residents of the U.S. who marry U.S. citizens are given conditional residency status, allowing them to live here legally. An estimated 25 percent of all legal immigrants to the U.S. are here on conditional status related to marriage.

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In general, immigrants who are in the U.S. who want to convert the conditional residency they obtained by marrying a U.S. citizen, into permanent residency, are required to show that they were married in good faith, and that the marriage lasted two years beyond their approval for conditional residence.

If you’re an immigrant here on conditional status, and you get a divorce before the two-year anniversary of approval for your conditional residency status, significant legal hurdles exist to your ability to stay here legally. With the help of an experienced family law attorney, these obstacles can be surmounted.

If you’re involved in an acrimonious divorce, your spouse may allege that the marriage was entered into in bad faith, meaning you only got married to obtain U.S. residency. Even in less bitter divorces, this may be alleged, because spouses of non-U.S. citizens are financially responsible for any welfare benefits their divorced spouses may collect. The bad faith allegation can torpedo your bid for permanent residency, so it’s important to refute these claims.

When bad faith is alleged in a divorce suit involving a non-U.S. citizen, your best option is to avoid settlement and take the case to trial, where you can submit information to disprove the allegation of bad faith. Your divorce records must be submitted with the Form I-751 to remove the conditions on your residence, so disproving the bad faith claim is important. You’ll also need to file a petition for a waiver of the requirement that your spouse support your bid for permanent residency by signing off on the Form-751.

Experienced family law attorney

It’s also important to note that a divorce can impact your bid for U.S. citizenship. Non-U.S. residents married to a citizen may obtain citizenship three years after obtaining permanent residency. If you divorce your spouse, you must wait five years after obtaining permanent residency to become a U.S. citizen.

Nevada is a no-fault divorce state, meaning that divorces here are granted without regard to which party caused the dissolution of the marriage. It’s easier to get a divorce here, and residency requirements for filing are liberal, so, for amicably divorcing spouses where one party is a non-U.S. resident, Nevada may be the right venue for the proceeding.

McFarling Law Group provides family law services for the greater Las Vegas area. Emily McFarling is an experienced Las Vegas divorce lawyer who can guide non-U.S. residents through the legal hoops involved with both divorce and maintaining their U.S. residency status.