The Consequences of a Divorce When You Apply for a Green Card based on the Violence Against Women Act
Can I get a divorce, if I am not yet a legal permanent resident and my husband or wife is not willing to sponsor me?
It may be possible. A divorced spouse who was subject to extreme cruelty from his or her legal permanent resident or U.S. citizen spouse may apply for an immigrant visa as an abused spouse (eventually leading to a green card) if the petition is filed with CIS (INS) within 2 years following any final divorce decree. Thus, if you are already divorced, you can still file for VAWA protection, but only if your divorce is 2 years old or less at the time you file and can prove that the abuse was related to the reason for or was the reason for the divorce, itself. The divorced battered spouse must still prove the basis elements of a VAWA self-petition including bona fide marriage as well as prove that s/he lived with the abuser when they were married at some point.
This provision allowing for divorce spouses to file applies to all cases that are pending on or filed on or after October 28, 2000. There are exceptions to this date, however, so if this situation applies to you, contact an immigration attorney who regularly deals with VAWA (Violence Against Women cases) to determine if you are eligible to file for immigration protection.
WARNING: If you choose to not file a VAWA-based immigrant visa petition and choose to rely on your spouse to sponsor you, if s/he fails to sponsor you or the case s/he is sponsoring you on is not approved by the time the two of you get divorced, that case will be denied and you will have to start over with either a VAWA-based immigrant visa (if eligible) or some other potential immigrant visa or will be stuck without the means to obtain a green card.
If you think that your spouse is going to file for divorce or has already filed for a divorce and you have a case based on your spouse’s sponsorship currently being decided by INS (CIS), there may be a way to save the green card (adjustment of status) application that is attached to your spouse’s immigrant visa filing and file for VAWA immigrant visa to protect yourself from his or her threats, and retain your work card and travel authorization instead of having to start all over again with a new green card application. If this applies to you, feel free to contact us to understand more.
If I am already a lawful permanent resident or legal refugee, will a divorce or separation affect my immigration status?
If you have non-conditional permanent resident status or are a legal refugee, your legal status may not be affected. However, you should keep the following items to show that your marriage was real and not entered into only for immigration purposes: a lease or mortgage showing that you share a home or apartment; joint bank accounts or other joint financial records, any love letters, photos and cards from the wedding, photos of you and your husband or wife as a couple, and phone numbers and addresses of friends who knew you as a couple.
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