All posts by Cheng, Cho, & Yee, Immigration Lawyers

Immigration Myths Debunked

Debunking immigration myths is important for immigrants and natural-born citizens alike. Certain immigration myths continue to perpetuate among many people in Illinois, and throughout the U.S. However, it’s essential to understand where these myths are wrong and the reality behind them.

Here, you’ll learn more about some myths out there and their respective truths.

What Are Some of the Most Common Myths Associated With Immigration?

The following are some of the most frequently spread myths about immigration in the U.S. These myths have led to a harmful perception of immigrants that simply isn’t the reality of the immigrant experience.

Immigrants Take Away Jobs from U.S. Citizens

One of the most common myths around immigration is that immigrants take jobs from American citizens, leaving the native population with a high unemployment rate.

However, the reality is immigrants typically aren’t competing with the rest of the U.S. workforce. Employers often seek immigrant workers with skill sets that they can’t find in the American-born workforce, and studies have shown that immigrants actually create more jobs than they take.

Meanwhile, low-skill immigrants and low-skill native workers typically work in vastly different areas. Many of the jobs that low-skill native employees take require English-speaking skills and work authorization. These requirements can be challenging for immigrants to meet.

Undocumented Immigrants Strain Public Services

Contrary to popular belief, undocumented immigrants don’t actually qualify for many public services in the U.S. In fact, undocumented immigrants who entered the country illegally can’t obtain benefits like food stamps or welfare, leaving them without assistance in many respects.

While undocumented immigrants still qualify for emergency care services and education, they won’t be able to apply for public assistance through most government programs. Such programs require legal immigrants to have lived in the country for at least five years along with immigration documents, qualifiers that undocumented immigrants don’t have. Even documented immigrants don’t rely on public services as much as people born in the U.S.

Immigrants Increase Crime Rates

Another reality to consider is that immigrants don’t contribute as much as native-born individuals to the country’s crime rate, especially when it comes to serious crimes.

Immigrants generally don’t commit as many property or violent crimes, and studies have found that the rate of violent crime in the nation has decreased as the number of immigrants increases.

Also, recent research from Stanford University has found that immigrants are generally less likely to be incarcerated than U.S.-born citizens.

Immigrants Don’t Succeed Economically

Some people also believe that immigrants don’t excel financially in this country as they did in the past. However, this is a misconception. Immigrants actually succeed just as well as they used to in the early days of immigration.

Immigrants work to grow economically after moving to the U.S. and tend to integrate just as much as they used to nearly a century ago. Many immigrants attempt to move into neighborhoods with large native-born populations, learn English, and otherwise try to successfully integrate into American culture as much as possible.

There Is an Impending “Immigration Crisis”

Outcries warning of a pending immigration crisis are yet another of the most common immigration myths. Many immigration critics claiming that too many immigrants are entering the U.S. at one time.

The truth contradicting this myth is that immigrants make up about the same percentage of American citizens as they had a century ago.

Immigrant Children Struggle to Climb Out of Poverty

Children of immigrants in the U.S. are just as likely to succeed economically as any immigrant. Even when born in poverty, these children tend to be able to rise to the middle class or higher statuses, overcoming their difficult upbringings.

Also, this trend occurs across immigrants from a wide range of countries, not just those from wealthier nations. For example, many successful children of immigrants come from families emigrating from countries like Mexico, Cuba, El Salvador, and many African nations.

Immigrants Don’t Want to Become U.S. Citizens

Immigrants who come to the country often want to gain citizenship or, at the very least, lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, which would make life easier for them in the U.S. For instance, many immigrants would like to become citizens to open up more job opportunities and bring family members to the U.S.

While this desire is strong for many immigrants, it can be difficult and time-consuming to navigate the citizenship process. Many undocumented immigrants who want to come to the country legally can’t do so quickly because of the many steps involved in legalization, and the U.S. government also often experiences a backlog that leads to long wait times for processing.

Documented and Undocumented Immigrants Are Separate From Each Other

Documented and undocumented immigrants aren’t necessarily separated from one another. Many immigrant families consist of both types of immigrants, such as those comprising native-born children with undocumented parents.

Also, many families enter the country with young children, who have the ability to speak English and integrate into American culture. Often times, however, their immigration status prevents them from accessing the same opportunities as U.S.-born children of immigrants.

Do Immigrants Pay Taxes in Illinois?

Immigrant households pay millions of dollars every year in taxes, including state and federal taxes. Even undocumented immigrants pay taxes in the form of income, sales, and property taxes. In addition, they contribute to the Social Security Administration in many cases, despite the fact that they are unable to receive these benefits without proper documentation and lawful residence in the U.S.

Immigration Screening Process

To help you determine how to enter the country legally as an immigrant, consider undergoing the immigration screening process with the help of an experienced immigration legal services attorney.

With the help of a screening, you can better figure out what chances you have to enter the country legally and potentially become a U.S. citizen.

The following are a few key steps involved in the screening process:

Biographical Reviews

The attorney will want to know about your biographical background to help gauge what opportunities you have. In the process, the attorney may ask about your:

  • Previous contact with immigration
  • Relationships with any family members who are U.S. citizens
  • Time spent living and working in the U.S.
  • Sexual orientation
  • Educational history

Extensive Background Checks

In addition, you may be subject to a deep background check to determine what kind of criminal history you have. You may not be able to gain citizenship if you have a history of violent or otherwise bad faith crimes on your record.

For instance, you could be unable to legally immigrate to the U.S. if you have convictions for armed robbery, domestic violence, drug trafficking, or sex offenses.

Legal Pathways for Immigrants to Become Citizens

During your screening, you could find the right path to becoming a U.S. citizen with the right approach based on your situation.

Some pathways for immigration include:

A Green Card Via Marriage

One potential method for gaining citizenship in the U.S. entails obtaining a green card by marrying an LPR or American citizen. However, you must show proof that the marriage is valid and that your relationship is genuine.

The DACA Program

Children of immigrants traveling on DACA could also gain citizenship through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA). DACA doesn’t directly provide a path to citizenship, but these children of immigrants could avoid deportation and obtain valid work permits.

Asylum Status

If someone believes that he or she faces persecution while staying in his or her country of origin, it may be possible to enter the country legally as a refugee with asylum status. You must meet certain criteria to qualify for this status, including being present in the US and likely facing discrimination if you return to your home country. However, if asylum is denied in the US, you may be able to appeal the decision or enter the country using another method.

U Visas

You may also be able to enter the country legally if you are the victim of a crime under the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Prevention Act. The U visa gives individuals protection from law enforcement while encouraging them to cooperate with prosecutors and police.

Continuing to Debunk Immigration Myths

There remain many immigration myths that continue to spread in Illinois and throughout the U.S. Such misconceptions can make many immigrants concerned about discrimination and limited opportunities in the U.S. Many of these myths are untrue, and it’s often possible for undocumented immigrants and those with other statuses to become U.S. citizens when they take the right path. Ultimately, immigrants have many opportunities to flourish in the U.S. with legal assistance and proper documentation. 

Illinois Immigration Vaccine Requirements in 2023

Before entering the U.S. to begin living your version of the American Dream, you must meet the immigration vaccine requirements. The Advisory Committee for Immunization Practices (ACIP) maintains immunization recommendations for the U.S. population. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention then assess whether those recommendations should extend to requirements for people seeking to immigrate to the U.S.

Knowing these requirements can help you avoid any issues during the medical examination portion of the immigration process, and potentially expedite receiving your approval to lawfully enter the U.S.

Navigating Immigration Vaccine Requirements in Illinois

If you’re wondering how to speed up the green card process, you may be able to do so by meeting all immigration vaccine requirements in Illinois. It’s important to know which vaccines to get and when to get them to avoid any issues during the immigration process.

Relevance of Immigration Vaccine Requirements

All immigrants must undergo a medical examination before receiving approval to enter the U.S. In the process, they must provide proof to doctors that they have received U.S.-required vaccines that prevent certain illnesses and their spread.

However, the required vaccines change depending on the circumstances, such as the risk that specific viruses present to the public.

Changes in Immigration Policies

Since immigration vaccine requirements change, there are key policy changes to keep in mind as you go through the immigration process.

One of the main changes to occur is the inclusion of new vaccination criteria from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These three criteria include: Age-appropriate vaccinations for immigrant applicants, vaccination against diseases that can lead to an outbreak, and vaccination against diseases that the U.S. has either eliminated or is in the process of eliminating.

Additionally, travel bans may soon be lifted for fully vaccinated visa applicants. Lifting these bans could help reverse the effects resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Common Vaccine-Prone Diseases

You will need to provide your immunization records during a medical exam prior to receiving a decision on your visa or green card application. Some required vaccines for immigrants include:

  • Mumps
  • Measles
  • Polio
  • COVID-19
  • Rubella
  •  Hepatitis B

You’ll also need vaccines for tetanus, diphtheria toxoid, pertussis, seasonal flu, and Haemophilus influenza type B.

How Do Vaccines Impact Public Health Considerations

With the help of vaccines, countries across the globe are able to work together to eradicate many types of viruses. For example, people no longer contract smallpox and polio because of their respective vaccines. As a result, vaccines on a large scale can minimize the risk of viruses, and subsequently affect public health policies.

Generally, people who have received all required vaccines also have more freedom to travel in the country and abroad.

What Are the Benefits of Vaccination?

There are multiple benefits of getting vaccinated for various conditions. One of the main advantages of getting a vaccine is the ability to avoid severe illness from certain conditions. While people may still be able to contract the illnesses for which they received a vaccination, the likelihood of a severe illness is significantly lower. As a result, vaccinated individuals can avoid hospitalization and death that illnesses could otherwise cause.

In addition, getting vaccinated can help prevent the spread of illnesses to others. As your immune system more easily combats the vaccinated illness, you’ll overcome infection more easily and subsequently avoid infecting others. Other people who have received vaccinations will also benefit from more protection if you inadvertently expose them to an illness.

Common Concerns or Misconceptions

Some myths and misconceptions have led people to view vaccines as ineffective or even harmful, but the fact is that vaccines are typically safe and critical for helping combat dangerous illnesses.

One of the main misconceptions about vaccines is that they aren’t as effective as natural immunity. However, while natural immunity has its benefits, the risks of a natural infection make it worth it to get the vaccine instead. For instance, diseases like measles can cause inflammation in the brain or even death in many individuals when infected naturally. If people take the measles vaccine, they will be far less likely to experience these severe reactions and recover more effectively from the virus. Some vaccines can also be far more effective in immunizing individuals than natural infection.

Another misconception is that people are more prone to getting sick when vaccinated. While it’s true that vaccinated individuals could still contract an illness, people are generally more susceptible when unvaccinated. For instance, if you have a group of 1,000 vaccinated individuals and 20 unvaccinated individuals, you could see the same amount of infected people among each group when exposed to a virus. However, the percentage of people who contract the illness in the vaccinated group would be much smaller than that of the unvaccinated group.

One last big misconceptions about vaccines is that it’s no longer necessary to vaccinate against diseases that the U.S. or other countries have eradicated. However, diseases like polio are still present in other countries outside the U.S. Consequently, this could lead people from other countries to reintroduce the virus to the U.S., and potentially infect unvaccinated or previously uninfected individuals.

Determining Vaccine Eligibility and Required Vaccines Based on Immigration Status

Depending on your immigration status and how you want to enter the U.S., you may need to get certain vaccines. The CDC and immigration forms will list all the conditions for which you’ll need a vaccine, which can help you determine what vaccines to receive before entering the U.S.

After receiving every vaccine, you should maintain documentation proving that you received the immunization. You can then present this documentation to doctors when undergoing a medical exam while applying for a visa.

Additionally, an Illinois immigration legal services attorney can provide more information about immigration vaccine requirements and help ensure you meet them during the green card process.

Fiancé Visa vs. Spouse Visa: What Immigrants Should Know in Chicago

When considering a fiancé visa vs. spouse visa, there are certain things that immigrants should know, including their respective requirements, what to expect during the application process, and factors that can influence eligibility.

Here, you’ll learn all about these visa types and how their processes work for immigrants in Chicago.

What Are the Requirements for a Fiancé Visa?

If you or your partner want to enter the U.S. on a fiancé visa, you must meet several key requirements, including:

  • The partner petitioning for this visa must have American citizenship at the time of seeking the visa. Otherwise, if the petitioning partner only has a green card and is a permanent resident, allowing entry for the other partner would require petitioning for a spouse visa.
  • The petitioning partner must be able to show that your relationship is legitimate, with evidence such as a marriage certificate and other documentation proving its legitimacy.
  • You and your partner must be able to marry legally, with both parties officially divorced from any previous spouses.
  • Both parties must also show that they have had in-person encounters a minimum of one time within the previous two years upon filing.

How Long Do You Have to Get Married on a K-1 Visa?

If you obtain your K-1 fiancé visa—which is often erroneously called the K9 visa or K1 visa—after applying for it, the petitioned partner will have up to six months to enter the U.S. Once this partner is in the country, the couple will have a total of 90 days to get married before the fiancé visa is no longer valid. This time limit makes it ideal to get married as soon as possible after the initial approval of the visa.

Steps After Marriage

After getting married, the sponsored spouse has another 90 days to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Filing this form and getting it approved will enable the petitioned partner to legally stay in the country and gain conditional resident status.

After living in the country as a conditional permanent resident for two years, it will be possible for both spouses to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. If U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) approves this document, the spouse holding the green card will become a lawful permanent resident (LPR).

The Spouse Visa Process

If you want to bring a spouse into the country, there are two main steps you must follow, including:

  1. Petitioning — The petitioning spouse will begin by filing a petition via Form I-130 with all necessary documents that prove the legitimacy of the marriage, along with proof of either citizenship or LPR status.
  2. Applying for a Spouse Visa — The petitioning spouse will then file Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application. This document will require supporting documentation, including proof of the marriage’s legitimacy and the sponsored spouse’s qualifications for a spouse visa. The petitioned spouse will then need to visit a U.S. consulate or embassy to undergo an interview in his or her country of origin, where an official will question the interviewee about the marriage and other aspects pertaining to the visa.

Options for Bringing Your Spouse to the United States

Unlike when both partners are unmarried and want to enter the country on a K-1 visa, it’s possible for the sponsoring spouse to bring his or her partner into the U.S. if he or she possesses a green card or U.S. citizenship.

Different forms will apply depending on whether the petitioning spouse is a green card holder or American citizen and whether the petitioned spouse is currently in or outside the U.S. USCIS can provide guidance on this.

What Are the Current Processing Times for a Spouse Visa?

The amount of time it takes to obtain a spouse visa will depend on different elements. For example, the availability of the visa may decrease if many people from the foreign spouse’s country are attempting to obtain the same type of visa, creating a backlog. Other factors may also influence the length of time it takes to get a response from USCIS, including requests from the government for additional supporting documentation and backlogs at the foreign spouse’s nearest consulate or embassy.

Factors to Take Into Consideration Before Choosing Your Visa

Generally, if you are currently married to your partner, you would want to obtain a spouse visa that allows the foreign partner to enter the U.S. If you are still unwed but intend to get married and are engaged, a fiancé visa would be the right decision. However, there are other visa options available if you don’t want to choose these visas, either.

Here are some other factors to consider when choosing a visa.

Which Types of Visa Allows for Travel in and Out of the United States?

First, consider whether you or your partner intend to travel in and out of the U.S. on the requested visa.

On a K-1 visa or spouse visa, the foreign partner will only be able to enter the country one time, preventing him or her from leaving the country while in possession of this visa. However, partners with either visa will have the option of filing for advance parole with USCIS, which would enable the visa holder to leave and re-enter the country freely. If the visa holder has an emergency reason for leaving the country, such as family emergency abroad, it will take less time to process advance parole. Normally, it will take USCIS around two to three months to process an advance parole request, making it important to apply for it as early as possible.

Individuals can also apply for IR1 or CR1 visas, which open up the path to LPR status once the visa holder enters the country. Gaining LPR status would allow the person to freely enter and exit the U.S. as needed.

Another option is the K-3 visa, which is a type of nonimmigrant visa that enables visa holders to enter and exit the country without a K-1 or spouse visa.

There are other types of visas that allow nonimmigrant visitors to enter and exit the country if you don’t want to seek a spouse or K-1 visa. For example, B-2 tourism visas allow nonimmigrants to enter the country temporarily for tourism purposes, while B-1 visas allow individuals to enter the country on temporary business. Some people may also apply for both visas to allow for work and tourism while staying in the country.

Location Where the Marriage Takes Place

Where you want to get married will also determine which type of visa to choose. If you want to get married in the U.S., a K-1 visa allows for this. On the other hand, if you want to get married abroad, you will only be able to do so with a spouse visa.

How Much Does a Visa Cost?

You will also want to consider how much you are willing to spend on a visa. K-1 fiancé visas tend to cost more than spouse visas, but the price can vary depending on the nature of the application.

To give you a rough estimate, it can cost around $1,200 to $2,500 for a spouse visa, while you’re more likely to spend upwards of $2,000 to $3,000 on a K-1 visa.

The Time of the Marriage

One more factor to think about is when you want to get married to your partner, if you’re engaged. You might decide to wait a while before getting married and ensure your relationship is healthy. In other cases, couples may want to get married shortly after their engagement.

The sooner you plan to marry, the more likely it will be that a spouse visa is the right option. Conversely, you might want to get a fiancé visa if you plan to wait for a period of time before getting married.

You can get married abroad in the foreign partner’s country of origin before petitioning for a spouse visa.

Make the Right Choice of Visa for You and Your Partner

Depending on your circumstances and the nature of your relationship with your partner, you may choose either a K-1 fiancé or spouse visa. However, the right choice of visa and the application process aren’t always clear.

If you need help with applying for these or other types of visas, a fiancée K1 visa lawyer may be able to help. Not only will he or she provide some guidance during the application process, but he or she may also help with immigration adaptation to American culture when bringing the foreign partner into the country. Choosing either a K-1 or spouse visa allows you and your partner to enjoy a happy life as a couple in the U.S.

Frequently Asked Questions About Russian Immigrant Visas in Chicago

If you want to enter the country on a Russian immigrant visa in Chicago or elsewhere, you may have a lot of questions about the green card process and how it works.

The following are some frequently asked questions about Russian immigrant visas and what you can expect when applying for a green card. You’ll also learn how immigration attorneys may be able to assist you with your visa application and other immigration issues.

What Is USCIS?

This acronym is short for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, the agency responsible for processing immigrants in the U.S. It’s a branch of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and will be the agency you go through when applying for a green card. Additionally, this agency handles the processing of other documents, including travel and work permits for immigrants. It also processes naturalization applications for immigrants who wish to become American citizens.

How Long Is the Green Card Process?

Generally, it takes up to two years before you’ll be able to obtain a green card, but the entire process will vary depending on several key factors. For instance, it could take more time to go through the Russian immigration process if you’re entering on a visa type that takes a longer time to become available, such as a marriage-based or spousal visa. The number of immigrants from your country of origin applying for a green card could also affect the length of the process.

However, properly preparing for the immigration process and Russian visa interview questions can help make the process quicker.

How Much Does a Green Card Cost?

Just like the time it takes to process your green card, the cost of your green card will vary based on case-specific factors. Specifically, the cost will depend on the type of green card you seek.

For example, if your spouse lives outside the U.S. when applying for a marriage-based visa, the visa could cost around $1,200 or more. On the other hand, if the spouse seeking the visa is an American resident or citizen, these visas tend to cost around $1,760.

Also, you may need to pay additional fees for medical examinations and other elements of your green card application.

What Is the Visa Bulletin?

The U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin that details the green card applications that are able to proceed. The bulletin updates according to the number of immigrants who have submitted an I-130 petition to begin the green card process. You can regularly check the Visa Bulletin to find out whether the green card you want to apply for is available.

How Does Permanent Residency Work?

Immigrants coming to the U.S. may obtain either conditional permanent residency or lawful permanent residency, depending on their status. Conditional green cards remain valid for two years after approval. Typically, individuals who have been in a marriage for less than two years when obtaining a green card will be able to receive a conditional permanent resident green card.

Immigrants may also obtain a lawful permanent resident green card under certain circumstances. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) can live and work in the U.S., petition for family members to immigrate to the U.S., and potentially undergo naturalization to become American citizens.

Why Are Visas No Longer Available in Moscow?

At this time, the Russian government is preventing the U.S. government from hiring, contracting, and retaining any third-country or Russian workers to help issue visas in Moscow. As a result, the U.S. government is unable to provide consular services in this city, requiring immigrants to obtain visas in Warsaw instead.

The American government chose Warsaw because of its close geographical proximity to Russia, physical space allowing for plenty of staff and applicants, and the overall cost-effectiveness of the location. Warsaw also contains many individuals who speak the Russian language to communicate with applicants.

Why Might a Green Card Application Be Denied?

There are multiple reasons why USCIS may deny a green card.

If you’re wondering why H-1B applications get denied or why any other visa could see a denial, the following are some main reasons for denials:

  • Mistakes on the green card application
  • Insufficient finances
  • Submitting insufficient documentation
  • Ineligibility to apply for a green card in the U.S.
  • Failure to establish an authentic, valid marriage

How Can an Attorney Help Russian Immigrants?

When looking to apply for a green card or in need of help with other aspects of immigration, a Chicago immigration legal services lawyer can assist Russian immigrants.

The right attorney can help you apply for your green card by helping prepare all necessary documentation. An immigration lawyer can also help you collect certain U.S. immigration benefits, such as Temporary Protected Status (TPS), which allows immigrants to enter the U.S. to escape conditions like armed conflicts, natural disasters, and other dangerous situations.

If immigrants are involved in administrative hearings, lawyers may also be able to provide representation in these settings, such as when facing deportation. An attorney may provide defense that helps protect the immigrant from removal.

An Attorney Can Help Employers and Russian Nationals With Work Visas

Another way an immigration lawyer may be able to help Russian immigrants is by helping them obtain work permits. These permits would allow immigrants to gain employment inside the U.S.

Reuniting Families in Chicago

Many Russian and Ukrainian immigrants have attempted to reunite with their families in the U.S., including Chicago, in an attempt to get away from the recent war. With the right approach to the green card process, you can also reunite with family in the Chicagoland area.

Tackling Language and Cultural Barriers

Russian immigrants may struggle to communicate and acclimate to American culture, but there are many resources to help them successfully integrate into the U.S. For instance, immigrants can take English classes online or through various programs.

Another critical resource is the Immigrant Learning Center, which is an online source that allows immigrants to learn more about American culture and the English language. Over time, it can become easier to learn English and become familiar with the customs and traditions in the U.S.

Be Prepared to Provide Documentation

When you apply for a green card to immigrate to the U.S., you will need plenty of documentation to support your application. If you don’t prepare the necessary documents, government officials may deny you entry into the U.S. Even if they don’t deny your application, they may request additional documentation during the application process, which can make it take longer to obtain a green card.

To increase your chances of success when applying for a green card, make sure you have the following documents:

  • Birth certificate
  • Court records
  • Financial records
  • Expired or current visas
  • Proof of a bona fide marriage

The documents you need to enter the U.S. will depend on the type of visa you wish to obtain. For instance, you will need documents showing that your marriage is valid when entering the country on a marriage-based visa.

Questions to Ask an Immigration Lawyer

If you want to get the help of an immigration attorney as a Russian immigrant, you can make the right choice by asking key questions during an initial consultation. Knowing what to ask an immigration lawyer is critical for helping you select the ideal representation in your case.

The following are some questions to ask your prospective immigration lawyer:

Do You Have a Focus on Immigration Law and Visas?

Some immigration lawyers may not have a specific focus on immigration law. Instead, they may include it in a range of legal services. Ideally, you should work with an attorney who’s used to immigration cases and can help you obtain visas, work permits, and other immigrant benefits.

What Kinds of Cases Have You Handled?

You should also find out what types of cases the lawyer has handled in the past. Has he or she worked with immigrants like you? What kind of success rate does the attorney have with those cases?

A good lawyer will be able to reassure you by discussing past cases related to yours and revealing his or her success.

What Strategy Would You Use for My Case?

When discussing your case and its unique nature, you should also find out what type of strategy the attorney would use to handle it. What approach would the lawyer take to achieve the best outcome for you? The attorney should give you some idea of what to expect from the start.

Can I Divorce After Getting a 10-Year Green Card?

If you want to divorce after getting a 10-year green card, it’s possible to do so in many cases. You may have come to the U.S. to be with your spouse. While your marriage may not have worked out, you may not want to give up the life you have built. Even if you get a divorce with a green card, you may still have immigration options, such as to renew your green card or pursue naturalization.

Can a Divorce Impact Your Green Card?

Whether a divorce affects your green card will depend on the type of green card you have and the details of your marriage. Depending on varying factors, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may question whether your marriage was real, or merely an attempt to help you obtain a green card.

Types of Green Card

There are two main types of green cards that will determine, in part, how a divorce may impact your immigrant status.

These green card types include:

Permanent (10-Year) Green Cards

A 10-year green card is a legal identification document that shows the holder has lawful permanent residency in the U.S. Generally, if you get a divorce while in possession of a 10-year permanent green card, the divorce won’t impact your immigrant status. However, this doesn’t mean it can’t affect your immigration case.

Whether a divorce impacts your permanent green card will largely depend on the timing of the divorce. USCIS might believe your marriage is fraudulent if you divorce shortly after receiving your permanent green card, for example. If USCIS decides to investigate your case and determines that, in fact, your marriage was fraudulent, this could lead to a deportation case.

However, a permanent resident getting divorced isn’t likely to set off any alarms with USCIS after obtaining a permanent green card. Instead, USCIS may discover that your marriage ended in divorce during the naturalization process or when initially applying for citizenship.

Conditional (Two-Year) Green Cards

Individuals who have been married for less than two years at the time of applying for a green card may receive a two-year conditional green card with the help of their spouses. Their spouses must have either lawful permanent resident status or U.S. citizenship.

If you get a divorce before it comes time to apply to remove your green card’s conditions, you may still be able to remain a permanent resident. You’ll need to file the application form, I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions, on your own and disclose the reason for the divorce. You’ll also need to show how you and your spouse had originally intended to get married on legitimate grounds.

Everything from marriage certificates to family photos can help prove that your marriage wasn’t fraudulent.

Proving Your Marriage Was Not Fraudulent

Getting a divorce on its own won’t threaten your green card status. It all comes down to whether you can prove that your marriage was real and that you didn’t simply marry a citizen or permanent resident to enter the country legally.

If USCIS suspects that your marriage ended in divorce because it was fraudulent, you could defend yourself in various ways. For example, your marriage could have led to a divorce because you were the immigrant victim of domestic violence in the relationship. You may also show how your marriage resulted from irreconcilable differences that made you and your spouse incompatible.

Having sufficient evidence showing that your marriage is legitimate may help you to avoid any repercussions as an immigrant during or after a divorce.

Consequences of Divorce After Getting a 10-Year Green Card

You likely won’t see consequences for a divorce if you have a 10-year green card at the time of the divorce. On the other hand, USCIS may become suspicious if you get a divorce shortly after receiving your green card, and you attempt to either renew your green card or seek citizenship through naturalization.

Once you have possessed your green card for five years, you may be able to begin the naturalization process on your path to citizenship. While it’s possible to do this on your own after a divorce, it’s important to remember that people with marriage green cards benefit from shorter waiting periods.

Divorce vs. Legal Separation

Depending on the circumstances of your marriage, you may want to consider getting a legal separation instead of a divorce as you navigate the immigration process. Knowing the differences between a divorce and a legal separation can help you determine which is right for your situation.

The main difference between these two concepts is that it’s far easier to reverse a legal separation than a divorce. A legal separation entails essentially “pausing” the marriage, allowing both spouses to live on their own, independently of one another. While you would still need to go to court to get a formal legal separation agreement, it’s possible to have this decision reversed if you reconcile with your spouse.

Conversely, it’s much harder to reverse a divorce, which is a more permanent form of separation. Getting a divorce officially ends your marriage and will often involve agreements revolving around the division of property and custody of children.

One of the main benefits of getting a legal separation over a divorce is that it can give you and your spouse time to decide whether to proceed with the relationship and work things out or put an end to the relationship.

Renewing a Green Card After Divorce

If you want to renew your green card following a divorce, you can do so generally without worrying whether the divorce will affect your application. You must complete the appropriate form every 10 years to remain a permanent resident, but the application won’t include any questions about your marital status.

Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card

The form you’ll need to complete to renew your green card is Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card. Completing this form will help you maintain your status until you wish to apply for citizenship and undergo naturalization.

When to Get in Touch With an Immigration Lawyer

If you’re worried about a divorce impacting your immigrant status in any way, and you want to avoid potential deportation, it’s important to know when to contact a deportation defense attorney.

If you believe that USCIS suspects your marriage was fraudulent, and you’re under investigation, consider speaking with a deportation defense lawyer to discuss your case and potential defenses.

An experienced Chicago immigration legal services attorney may be able to help you prove that your marriage was legitimate. He or she can collect and present ample evidence, including any joint financial records between you and your spouse, marriage counseling records, and evidence that you shared a home with your spouse, among other pieces of evidence. Your attorney can also help you explain the reason for the divorce and the conditions that led to the end of the marriage.

If deportation proceedings begin, a deportation lawyer can also provide defenses to prevent removal. For example, an attorney may show how you may face persecution in your home country upon your return and that you can remain safer in the U.S. via asylum. You could also remain in the country if you can show that you are the parent of an American citizen, provided you entered the country legally, in most cases. Additionally, a lawyer could show in other ways how your deportation could cause you or your loved ones to face hardships upon your removal.

Taking the Right Steps Before and After a Divorce in Chicago

Sometimes divorces are inevitable and unavoidable, in which cases you can still get a divorce as an immigrant. Couples may drift apart and decide to move on, which often occurs in the U.S. However, you may decide leading up to the marriage to attempt to resolve issues, seeking marital counseling or taking other steps to revitalize your marriage, which could help prevent a divorce.

Generally, you don’t have to worry about a divorce affecting your immigrant status, as long as you can prove that your marriage was legitimate. This is especially the case if you have a 10-year green card. As such, if you plan on getting a divorce as an immigrant, it’s best to prepare as much documentation as you can to help show that your marriage is real as you get ready for the divorce. Having this evidence could help you prove to USCIS the legitimacy of your marriage if they question it at any point when renewing your green card or applying for naturalization.

You may also want to consider getting a legal separation instead of a divorce if this is a more suitable alternative. You may need to consult with an immigration lawyer to discuss your options if you choose to divorce after getting a 10-year green card.