Many immigrants who live in Virginia are married to United States citizens. Should the marriages of these immigrants end in a divorce, they may wonder what will become of their legal status.

After all, without the right status, an immigrant may not be able to apply for permanent residency and, in the worst case, may lose his or her permission to live in the United States at all.

A divorce can affect two different types of immigrants. First, a person who came to the United States under his or her spouse’s status and did so within two years of marrying, that is, a conditional resident, may be affected by a divorce. Likewise, to the extent that an immigrant’s status depends directly on the status of his or her spouse, a divorce may affect that immigrant’s status.

To give an example of how a divorce affects one’s immigration status, a divorce can prevent a conditional resident from obtaining permanent residency. Normally, a conditional resident waits for two years after arriving in the United States to obtain permanent residency and will remained married during that time. A quick divorce may make it appear that the only reason the couple married was to get permission for the immigrant to come to the United States.

However, the immigration laws of the United States recognize that sometimes people do intend to be married but just wind up deciding to divorce early on. An immigrant can thus still ask for permanent residency, but this will likely involve having to demonstrate to authorities that his or her marriage was in good faith and not a sham marriage designed to evade the country’s immigration policies.

In any event, though, a non-citizen immigrant who is going through a divorce would do well to speak with an attorney with knowledge of both family law and immigration law.