This was originally published on Divorce and Your Money here.
For most couples, divorce is a confusing, stressful process as they readjust to maintaining two separate households. If you have gained your conditional or permanent green card throughout your marriage, your stress levels can skyrocket as you consider possibilities. If you find yourself facing a divorce, will you be able to remain in the United States, or will you be deported?
There are a few questions you may want to start considering in regards to your green card status. To get a head start on thinking through the possible scenarios, answer the questions below.
There is a significant difference between a conditional and permanent green card. A conditional green card allows for residence in the United States for up to two years, which proves that your marriage has weathered the test of time. After two years, you may apply for a permanent version.
If the divorce is finalized before a permanent green card is issued, there is a possibility that ending your marriage could remove the “conditions” of your green card, which would result in deportation. Permanent green cards offer more security because the authorities at the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) are no longer investigating your file or considering your case. Once a permanent green card has been issued, they have no further reason to reopen your application or file for additional review, unless you decide to apply for US citizenship.
Deciding to pursue citizenship following the finalization of your divorce could be a trickier endeavor. The USCIS will once again need to review the information in your file, and they could request documentation to support your marriage. Many individuals start to fear that their marriage could be viewed as fraudulent, used solely for the purposes of obtaining a green card. As a result, you may be denied citizenship, and the case could be referred to the court system for further actions.
In certain circumstances, the USCIS will still allow individuals to apply for a permanent green card, even if their divorce has already been finalized. One of the main ways that an individual can continue to pursue their permanent green card (even with their marriage dissolved) is to provide proof that they entered into the marriage in good faith, rather than fraudulently.
The USCIS will require you to provide proof that you maintained a real relationship with your spouse and had every intention of remaining with them, barring outside circumstances. You may be asked to provide evidence surrounding the end of the marriage, as well as any records of your attempts to repair the relationship (such as marriage-counseling records). Depending on the reason for the divorce, you may submit evidence or affidavits pertaining to abuse, adultery, or other situations that arise from irreconcilable differences.
Taxes relating to divorce are always tricky, but they can be even more cumbersome if you are a green card holder. Individuals with this status are sometimes referred to as tax citizens, meaning that they are required to report all of their income to the US government, even though they do not hold official citizenship. Income must be reported, even if it is earned in your home country or elsewhere. However, this report does not necessarily mean that the income will be taxed by the US government.
Tax laws surrounding this field are extremely difficult to navigate, because of their many intricacies. To help handle taxes in these types of situations, consider adding a professional onto your team. A tax accountant can be a valuable asset to help you properly file your taxes in a sticky situation.
Find someone who is experienced dealing with tax citizenship and income earned abroad. Inquire about their experience and training, and take careful note of their customer service and personality. Be sure to also ask how billing is handled. Will you charged hourly, by a set fee, per phone call or visit, or by some other type of arrangement?
Ending an unhappy marriage does not necessarily have to mean moving back to your country of origin. Do you have the right evidence that your marriage was real, but the differences between the two of you were too great? Then the authorities may still issue you a permanent green card, or even US citizenship.
If you are considering a divorce under these circumstances, make sure that you are prepared for all of the documentation that you may need. Therapy records, information about your marriage counselor, and any relevant history regarding your children will support the reality of your marriage, and it will be extremely helpful in building your case. Divorce can be significantly easier when you are adequately prepared for what lies ahead.