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January 19, 2009: I-751 and Naturalization Issues

I-751 and Naturalization Issues

Hi, I’m currently married to a U.S. Citizen and we filed the I-751 together and it got approved recently. However, our relationship does not seem to be working out and we are thinking of separating. Will I still be allowed to apply for citizenship later if we divorce? Will my residence be taken away? I highly appreciate any information you can provide. Thanks!
— Jose

Generally, once the Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions from Residence, is approved and you are granted the 10 year permanent resident green card, your subsequent divorce will not invalidate your lawful permanent resident status. Importantly, you will still be eligible to file (if otherwise qualified) for Naturalization. If you separate from your spouse, it is highly improbable that you will be eligible to file for Naturalization two years and nine months from the date your residency was granted because you will probably not be able to meet the `living with” requirement for early filing. Plus, since Naturalization is a matter of discretion, you may be asked to prove your ongoing relationship with your spouse by providing bona fides of the relationship.

If you divorce your spouse, you will definitely not be able to file for Naturalization two years and nine months from the date your residency was granted because you would no longer meet the marriage and `living with” requirement. Instead, you will have to wait four years and nine months from the date your residency was granted to file for Naturalization.

It is important to realize that the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will have your entire file at your Naturalization interview and the officer may, in his or her discretion, review its contents. Before you file for Naturalization, it would be wise for you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to explain to you the law and your options.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys

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