If you have a marriage-based green card, one of the things you may be working toward is your U.S. citizenship. When you have a U.S. spouse, you can apply for your citizenship after you’re married for three years. However, if you decide to get divorced, you could hinder your ability to get your citizenship and to stay in the country.
With your green card, you can apply for citizenship after three years of marriage to a U.S. spouse but must continuously live in the country at that time. If you leave to go back to your own country for long periods of time, then you may not have that time included in your stay. If you separate or divorce, then your ability to seek citizenship will be threatened.
Time periods for seeking citizenship when you’re married
The trick to getting citizenship despite divorcing is that you need to be married until after you file for citizenship. Initially, you will only need to be living in marital union for three years. As soon as those three years have passed, you should file for your citizenship immediately. If you divorce prior to this, then you won’t be eligible under the three-year rule. Instead, you will need to use the five-year rule, which means that you will need to stay in the country for a total of five years prior to applying for citizenship.
The good news is that those with a permanent resident visa can typically stay in the country even if they do divorce their spouses. If you don’t have this status prior to divorce, it may be harder to get it. You’ll have to show that you married in good faith and that you lived a typical married life together.
Since immigration is such a complex issue, it’s a good idea to talk to someone about the laws that may apply to your case before you pursue a divorce. Sometimes, it is worth waiting to divorce until after you apply for citizenship or to make sure you have permanent residency and can remain in the country despite leaving your spouse.