How to Qualify for a Green Card if You are Separating or Divorcing

This post is also available in: Español

Going through a separation or divorce is already a difficult challenge. On top of that, it might seem like the end of the road for your immigration process. But before you jump into conclusions, there might be a way (or two) for you to lift conditions on your marriage-based green card even if you are separating from or divorcing your spouse. And, you can still qualify for a green card even if you never filed for anything, as long as you meet certain requirements. 

¿Would you like to know if you can get a green card or work permit on your own? Before you file any paperwork, I highly recommend that you have your case reviewed by a licensed immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can help you review your case and file the appropriate petitions and waivers for a higher probability of success.  


#1 Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residency

If you are already in possession of a two-year green card obtained through your qualifying marriage, your next step would have been to file the form I-751 to lift the conditions on your green card and get a ten-year green card. However, you might think that this is now impossible because you are separating from or divorcing your spouse and you cannot file this form jointly anymore.

But what you might not know, is that you are able to lift your conditions alone if you are in one or more of the following categories: 

  1. If you actually finalized your divorce, you can file an I-751 waiver to lift your conditions on your own. For this, you need to prove that you entered into marriage in good faith, present proof that your marriage was real or valid from the very beginning, and proof of a real divorce.
  2. The second option to lift conditions on your green card without your spouse is to show that there was some form of abuse or extreme cruelty. It is very important to consult with an immigration attorney about this option to know what constitutes proof of abuse or extreme cruelty. Note that you can qualify for this option even if there wasn’t a police report. Extreme cruelty or abuse can come in many different ways, and it is not limited to physical abuse. You can find examples in the next subheading.
  3. The third way is to show proof of extreme hardship. If departing from the United States would put you in a position of extreme hardship, this might be an option for you. Examples of extreme hardship include family separation, economic detriment, medical considerations, lack of educational or employment opportunities abroad, your safety in the new country, etc.

When you speak to an immigration lawyer, you can see if you are in a position to benefit from one of these options and lift conditions on your green card on your own. But, if you never filed for anything or you were in the process of getting your residency when the separation or divorce occurred, then the following option might be just what you need.

#2 Get Your Green Card Through VAWA

The Violence Against Women Act, or VAWA, is a legislation that allows both men and women who were/are victims of abuse or extreme cruelty to receive their permanent residence, even if they didn’t have a green card before or never filed for anything. This can also be your option if your case was still pending when you separated or divorced from your spouse.

Again, it is very important to consult with a legal professional to clear any misconceptions regarding what abuse or extreme cruelty is. Many make the mistake of defining abuse only in terms of physical abuse. However, abuse can also be psychological, emotional, verbal, sexual, or financial, and each case is different. If you think you were in such a relationship, an evaluation of your case done by an immigration attorney can help you see if you may qualify.

Each case is unique and deserves a professional assessment. Some people have been married for many years and no one ever filed anything for them. Then, after digging a little bit more, it becomes clear that their spouse has been using their immigration status to manipulate them. Or, there might be other forms of manipulation tactics and threats that constitute psychological abuse, like if you weren’t allowed to leave the house, your spouse was extremely possessive or jealous, or you had to ask permission for everything.

These forms of abuse can also be presented as proof when lifting the conditions on your green card on your own petition and obtain your permanent ten-year green card without your spouse. Or, if you just never had a green card before but suffered extreme cruelty or abuse, you might qualify for your residency and work permit under VAWA.

Immigration Help: I-751 and VAWA 

If you have any questions about how to file the I-751 on your own or would like to know if you qualify for VAWA, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Call (310) 803-3040 or visit https://abaudlegal.com/appointment/ to schedule an appointment.

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Need help? Contact Law Office of Sharon Abaud to speak with an immigration lawyer.

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About the Author Sharon Abaud, Esq.

If you have any questions about your Immigration Status, I'd be happy to help. I’m a dedicated and passionate immigration attorney, fluent in English and Spanish, located in the Los Angeles area. Your immigration case matters to me.

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