A green card marriage is a term used to describe a marriage between a U.S. citizen and a foreign national in which the purpose of the marriage is not a commitment to spending a loving lifetime together but rather to obtain a green card. In order to prevent individuals from marrying simply to obtain green card status, the U.S. has set rules and regulations in place to verify the authenticity of the marriage.

If you receive a conditional green card through marriage, your second wedding anniversary is an important deadline: you must petition for permanent status before this date. Once you petition for permanent status before your second wedding anniversary, then your green card will be valid for ten years.

What Is the Process for Obtaining a Green Card after Marriage?

First, the couple must prove they are married. They can get married in the U.S. or abroad but must prove their legal marriage with a marriage certificate. When the non-citizen first enters the U.S., he or she will have conditional non-permanent resident status.

Second, the couple must validate or authenticate their marriage. This means they must show they didn’t marry for fraudulent reasons (such as simply to obtain green card status). The couple can prove this through showing:

  • Joint or shared bank accounts
  • Jointly filed tax returns
  • Happy couple photos
  • Witness affidavits about the nature of their marriage
  • Length of relationship
  • Length of time they have lived together under the same roof

After two years and after validating the marriage, the status will be changed to permanent. After several more years of permanent resident status, the individual can then petition to become a U.S. citizen.

What Happens to My Green Card If I Get a Divorce?

When you marry, you are granted a conditional green card for two years. The conditions can be removed if you petition for permanent status prior to your second wedding anniversary. The permanent green card is then valid for ten years.

The two year requirement is in place to weed out couples who only marry to obtain green card status. If you divorce before the end of the two year period, you will have difficulty petitioning to remove the conditions. In addition, your green card may expire.

However, under certain circumstances, you will not be immediately removed from the country. For instance, if the divorce happened because your spouse was abusing you, the U.S. may grant you permanent status. In addition, if your ex signs a waiver and provides valid reasons for the divorce, the U.S. may waive the requirement that your ex sponsor your permanent visa. The waiver must still state that the marriage was real and must prove the marriage was real. The waiver must also state that it was a no-fault divorce.

There is a presumption that a marriage is not genuine if the couple divorces before the two-year wedding anniversary. As such, it is your burden to submit very persuasive evidence that the marriage was genuine.

If you became a permanent resident prior to divorce, your green card might not be revoked. Again, you must prove that your marriage was not for fraudulent reasons. Once you become a full U.S. citizen, however, divorce will not affect your green card status.

Do I Need a Lawyer If I Get Divorced before My Two Year Anniversary?

The U.S. immigration system is extremely complex, and the U.S. is very hesitant to grant permanent resident or U.S. citizen status to foreign nationals who have divorced their U.S. citizen spouse. However, approval is not impossible. You will need an immigration lawyer to help you navigate the system, gather persuasive evidence that your marriage was genuine, and advocate on your behalf to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.