Arrived On CR1 Visa, Now Separated From Husband, Can I Stay?
The situation described in the title of this post is so common which is unfortunate (or a god send to some). The first thing a new immigrant thinks about when they are in the midst of a separation or divorce is “will I be deported” or “can I still stay in the US”. The answer to these questions are: it depends.
If you arrived in the US on a CR1 spouse visa, you are considered a conditional resident. This means that you have been given a 2 year green card and will need to remove the conditions 90 days before the card expires. In the case of a married couple separating or divorcing, the removal of conditions will be a little more difficult to navigate if you don’t know what is required of you.
The good news is that you are doing your research now so that you avoid being denied and deported.
There are many couples who choose to go their separate ways after they had a chance to live together. Just because you are in an international marriage doesn’t necessarily mean that your relationship will last longer than any other marriage. Remember, the current divorce rates in the United States are around 50% so the odds can seem like they are stacked against you.
Should You File Alone For Removal of Conditions?
Short answer is yes. You do not want to pretend like your marriage is okay up until your interview. This will only invite suspicion and if you are found to have committed immigration fraud, you may receive a lifetime ban from the US. Even if you and your spouse are still on good terms, it’s best to file for divorce if there is no hope of reconciliation and saving the marriage.
The process of self-petitioning for your 10 year green card is not that difficult as long as you have all the evidence that the USCIS needs to provide a genuine marriage.
The other great thing about filing your own removal of conditions petition is that you are not relying on your ex-spouse to show up for the interview. This is where many green card holder get denied. If the US citizen spouse refuses to attend the interview, you will automatically be denied to remove the conditions on your green card.
Gather evidence of a bona fide marriage:
- Marriage certificate
- Provide a copy of your official marriage certificate to prove that you were actually married. It does not need to certified, just make a copy of the one you received after your marriage. You will then be asked to bring the original to the removal of conditions interview.
- Divorce decree
- Include the divorce decree once it has been finalized. You should only file for removal of conditions once the divorce has been finalized. If you apply before then and the process moves along quickly, you may be denied due to not having the divorce decree. There is no point in having to apply at later date so wait for the divorce decree so you can include in your removal of conditions petition.
- Birth certificates of children
- If you and your ex-spouse have had children, be sure to include their birth certificates. Although having children will not increase your chances of approval it helps build a foundation of a genuine marriage.
- Joint tax transcripts
- Provide transcripts directly from the IRS instead of printing the tax return you fill out on your computer. Some people have received an RFE (request for evidence) for submitting the return instead of the transcripts ordered from IRS.gov.
- Joint mortgage or lease
- Include evidence of living together as a married couple with current rental agreement or mortgage documents. This shows that you both lived under the same roof for a period of time which is great to prove a bona fide marriage.
Avoid A Removal Of Conditions Interview
A common question I get asked a lot is “how do I avoid a removal of conditions interview?” and honestly, the answer is to provide as much evidence as possible in your petition. This way, the adjudicator is satisfied that the marriage is/was real and that the interview isn’t needed. Obviously, there is no guaranteed way to avoid the ROC interview but you will have a better chance of being approved without having to attend one.
Did you know: 67% of removal of conditions interviews are denied!
Yes, that is correct. But this hides the fact that the almost all of the cases selected for an interview had these things in common:
- Not enough evidence of bona fide marriage
- No co-mingling of finances
- No cohabitation or joint household
- Lack of joint accounts, mail, insurance, etc
This goes to show you that if you don’t do your homework, the USCIS will eventually deny you at the interview. This is your life that is on the line, make sure you put in the effort needed to submit a SOLID removal of conditions petition! There is no excuses for not gathering all the evidence and documents.
Do I Need A Lawyer To File For ROC After Divorce?
In many cases, people are afraid of filing for a petition on their own if divorce is involved. There is nothing to fear, divorce happens very often and the USCIS understands that you cannot be expected to stay married forever just because you immigrated to the US. All they want to do is weed out those who are attempting to commit immigration fraud by doing their due diligence.
As long as your marriage was genuine and you have evidence to back that up – you should be fine.
If you want to hire the services of an immigration attorney, that is up to you. However, there are many green card holders that were approved without the help of a lawyer, all they had to do was learn what was required of them and submit all the documents.
If you situation is complicated by other factors such as abuse, child custody, alimony, or a lawsuit, I would recommend seeking out an experience immigration attorney that is also familiar with these areas. An attorney is not a guarantee that your removal of conditions will be approved after your divorce is final, but it may put you at ease to have someone else by your side.
In the end, what matters most is that you can move on with your life and start a new journey for yourself in the US. Never give up on your dream of a better life, and it starts with you taking the first step on this journey!
Good luck and feel free to get in touch with me.