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How to protect immigration status during divorce

As we all know, divorce is a pretty stressful life event for just about anyone. However, it can become a downright harrowing experience when one spouse is a U.S. resident and the other is not. One of the stipulations for an immigrant spouse to become a legal U.S. resident is that permanent residency will not be available until the second marriage anniversary. By U.S. standards, this mark proves that the marriage was entered into in good faith rather than for the sole purpose of attaining residency.

In cases where both spouses are willing to work together amicably and sensibly to protect immigration status, divorce mediation can be a great option. If the two-year anniversary has not yet been reached when the divorce is filed, both spouses can agree to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. This is intended to let the the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service know that although the marriage did not last the required length of time, it was entered into in good faith.

An immigrant spouse has much to prove in the case of a divorce from a permanent residence. Even if the resident spouse signs the above mentioned form, it is still the burden of the immigrant to prove the marriage was entered into in good faith and ended through no fault of the immigrant spouse, that deportation would cause extreme hardship, or that the immigrant spouse suffered significant abuse or cruelty. None of these are easy to prove.

Divorce mediation allows both parties to state and address their issues, and gives the U.S. resident spouse a complete understanding of the crucial impact in claiming a divorce was entered into on bad faith. Sometimes these statements are made in a highly emotional state without regard or understanding of what they actually mean. In these matters, working with an experienced attorney is crucial to the well-being of all involved.

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