Law Offices of Stuart J. Reich, PLLC

Practice Limited to Immigration & Nationality Law

11 Broadway, Suite 615
New York, NY 10004

(212) 430-6582 phone
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Must the Couple Stay Married for the Foreign National to Get or Retain Permanent Residence?

Q: Can a foreign national get and keep permanent residence based on marriage to a U.S. citizen if the marriage ends?

A: The answer depends on where the application is in the process at the time the marriage ends, and in some cases on whether the marriage was entered into in good faith (was a "bona fide" marriage).

If the marriage ends at any time before the initial marriage interview, the case cannot be approved unless the foreign national was battered by the U.S. citizen spouse and this was a reason for a divorce (or that the abusing U.S. citizen spouse died, or even that the marriage to the abusing U.S. citizen spouse never existed because of the that spouse's bigamy).

If the case has been approved for Conditional Permanent Residence but the I-751 Petition to Remove Conditions has not yet been approved, this I-751 petition can still be approved in a few circumstances:

  • If the marriage ended due to the death of the U.S. citizen spouse,
  • If it can be demonstrated that the marriage was entered into in good faith but ended through no fault of the petitioning conditional permanent resident spouse, or
  • If the foreign national was the victim of abuse by the U.S. citizen spouse.

If the conditions on permanent residence have already been removed (or if a full, ten-year permanent residence card had been granted from the start as the marriage was over two years old at time of original approval), then the end of the marriage has no direct impact on permanent residence.

However, the validity of the marriage may again be questioned later in the context of a Naturalization process. As the couple is no longer together. the five-year wait for naturalization eligibility applies rather than the three-year period applicable only to individuals married to a US citizen who are still married and together with that citizen.

Contact us here to arrange a consultation, to inquire about retaining us to handle your immigration matter, or simply to suggest topics you would like to see covered on our site.

The above is presented for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal advice or create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The information provided should not be used as guidance in pursuing an immigration matter absent consultation with a qualified immigration attorney.