Divorced the person who I married me after he won DV lottery: Can I apply for citizenship?

If you marry someone after finding out that he has won the diversity visa lottery and you then divorce him, obtaining U.S. citizenship will require convincing immigration authorities that your marriage was the real thing.

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Question

I immigrated to the U.S. five years ago, with my husband. He won the diversity visa lottery. After we immigrated, our marriage fell apart, and we were divorced a year ago. I would like to naturalize. Will our divorce be a problem for approval of me as a U.S. citizen?

Answer

Possibly. It will depend on how long you were married before you immigrated. If you were married for many years, then your divorce will not be a problem. But your situation is very different if you got married after your husband learned that he had won the visa lottery.

If you don’t remember when your husband was notified, here is some basic information: As a general rule, diversity visa lottery winners are notified four to six months before the federal fiscal year in which their visa will be issued. Because the federal government’s fiscal year begins on October 1st, that means the winners are usually notified between March and June. BUT: most diversity visa lottery visas are not actually issued until near the end of the federal fiscal year (August and September of the following calendar year) and most winners immigrate in the late fall after their visas are granted (October to December).

Altogether, the average time from notification to arrival in the U.S. is 19 to 22 months.

This means that if you were married less than 22 months before you immigrated, and especially if you were married less than 18 months before you immigrated, your marriage will be what the U.S. State Department calls a “pop-up” marriage – one potentially entered into with the main purpose of getting the new spouse a U.S. green card.

To test its theory that your marriage wasn’t the real thing, the U.S. government may ask you for evidence of the length and validity of your relationship.

It’s going to be up to you to prove to the government that the marriage is not solely for immigration purposes. The fact that your marriage ended in divorce within a comparatively short period will make the government suspicious that you married only to get immigration status in the United States.

The good news is that all you would need to do to qualify for naturalization is to provide evidence that your marriage was in good faith, and not for immigration purposes.

Your evidence of good faith may include proof of your relationship from before your husband learned he had won the visa lottery, (records of your courtship: letters, cards, phone records, email records) other records of your good faith marriage (birth certificates of your children, lease agreements showing you lived together, joint bank accounts), or sworn statements from his or your family and friends describing the length and quality of your relationship. If your marriage fell apart because of domestic violence, that also is considered evidence of a good faith marriage, so you should provide those police and court records.

See an experienced immigration attorney if you'd like help with this process.

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