Can I apply for citizenship if I’ve divorced the person who got me my green card?

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Question:

I am from China, and married a U.S. citizen. He helped me get a green card in the United States. But we got divorced two and a half years after I came here. Now I have been a resident for five years, and would like to apply for U.S. citizenship. Will I be permitted to do that? Or will the divorce mean they will refuse my application?

Answer:

Many applicants for U.S. citizenship (naturalization) worry that if they got their green card through marriage, but later divorced, they will no longer qualify for citizenship. In most cases, such applicants have little or nothing to worry about.

They key is that your marriage must have been the real thing, meaning that you honestly intended to establish a life together – as opposed to entering into a fake, or a sham marriage, meant to get you a green card. The immigration authorities are always on the lookout for fraudulent marriages, and perceive them to be a common problem.

Your divorce will not, by itself, cause U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to assume that your marriage was a fraud. However, when you attend your naturalization interview, the USCIS officer may ask some additional questions to double-check. The officer may not make a decision on your citizenship that day, but may ask you to first submit additional paperwork proving that your marriage was real.

Judging by your description, you probably spent two years as a “conditional resident,” then had to submit proof of your real, ongoing marriage (along with Form I-751) in order to become a permanent resident. If that is indeed the case, then USCIS will be looking in particular for documentation covering the time period beyond your submission of the I-751.

For example, you might want to submit the same sorts of documents that you did before, but covering that time period, such as leases or mortgages in both your names, copies of joint bank or credit card statements, and so on. If you and your husband attended couples counseling before your divorce, a statement from your therapist would be good evidence that you were really trying to make this marriage work. And if you happen to have had any children that USCIS doesn’t yet know about, their birth certificate will serve as excellent evidence that your marriage was real.

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