Divorcing a Foreign Spouse

Divorcing a Foreign Spouse

It is common knowledge that one way for someone born outside of the country to gain citizenship is by marrying a United States citizen. There are many marriages based on love, while others are more like a business transaction between two people. With one million foreign nations gaining legal status every year, one fourth of those do so by marrying a citizen or green-card holder. The government estimates that 5 to 15% of all of these marriages are fraudulent, done for the sake of citizenship alone.

How to Protect Yourself in a Marriage with a Foreign Spouse

What happens when someone enters into a marriage with someone they did not know was using them for citizenship? There are some things that could protect this individual the event of divorce. With any relationship, but especially those with foreign born nations, a couple should consider a prenuptial agreement to protect themselves from loss.

There are details that prove the legitimacy of a marriage:

  • The marriage was legal in the place it was performed and it was not terminated;
  • The marriage was not entered into in order to obtain United States citizenship; and
  • No money, aside from necessary legal fees, was paid to either spouse.

Marriages less than two years old are granted a conditional permanent residence, meaning that the foreign spouse can stay with the citizen. After two years, immigration evaluates the marriage to determine whether or not to grant permanent residence. The citizen will have to file an affidavit of support, which will give a 10 year liability for government-based financial assistance for the foreign spouse and their children. This means that if the marriage dissolved and the foreign spouse applies for welfare, the citizen can be sued to recover the cost of the assistance.

One of the best ways to prevent financial responsibility for a foreign spouse is to ensure that they have applied for a removal of temporary status and granted citizenship. This can occur after three years of living in the United States. Granting citizenship can relive a spouse of future financial responsibility if a divorce should occur.

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