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Immigration Issues/green card expiration


Dear Eileen:

I recently got my green card through marriage to a US citizen. My spouse and I have known each other for 20 years and have been living together in the past 4 years. However, we got married just last year and since we have been married for less than a year, I am only a conditional green card holder and my card has to be renewed 2 years from now.

Unfortunately, our marriage started to crumple even before we went to the initial interview. To continue living in this stressful condition is detriment to both of us, despite our many efforts to repair the marriage. I want to file for a divorce.

My question is, when I file for a divorce before my green card expires, do I have to leave the country immediately? Or can I still keep the green card until it expires 2 years from now? If I have to leave the country, can I enter the country again? Or will I be banned?

Thank you for your help.

Eileen Chun-Fruto, Los Angeles immigration attorney writes:

Dear Mayte,

Sorry to hear of your marriage falling apart.  If your divorce if final before the greencard (2 year conditional) expires, then you can either leave the country or ask the USCIS to allow you to keep your greencard despite the fact that you are no longer married to your spouse.  If you ask for the latter, you will have to prove that your marriage was ENTERED into in GOOD FAITH, and that the reasons why the marriage fell apart wasn't your fault.  You would file for this process on the form I-751.

It is kind of a strange rule, but if you are successful, then you will be able to keep your greencard.  If you fail, then the USCIS will probably start removal (deportation) proceedings.

This type of case is looked upon with a lot of skepticism and scrutiny.  You will probably have to attend an interview, so good luck.  As always, I advise people not just to rely on the information they find on the internet, but to meet with an attorney.  Our office provides free consultations, if you are interested in talking with me, you can give us a call.  We represent clients throughout the nation and internationally as well. Otherwise, call your local bar association and find a reputable attorney who can give you some additional insight and help you weigh this option.  

Good luck,
Eileen Chun-Fruto

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Eileen Chun-Fruto


I can answer any employment-based immigration question including questions about PERM labor certifications, H-1B skilled workers, L-1A multinational managers or executives and L-1B specialized knowledge, R-1 and I-360 religious workers, investor cases (E Treaty Trader and E Treaty Investors and EB-5 "million dollar investors") and O-1 extraordinary ability cases. I can also answer any questions regarding family-based immigration, such as adoptions, waiver cases, consular processing (using foreign consulates to enter as an immigrant), marriage and fiance/fiancee cases, 245(i) cases, VAWA (Violence Against Women's Act), battered spouses, and Child Status Protection Act (CSPA).


I have over 12 years of experience in business and family immigration. I was a former law clerk for the Executive Officer for Immigration Review (the immigration courts) in San Francisco and I current serve as the California Service Center's (CSC) liaison on behalf of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. I represent individuals and corporations alike, ranging from professionals in the high tech, science, liberal arts fields. I have a special niche in working with start-up companies and individuals with more complex immigration issues.

Member, American Immigration Lawyers Association Member, Los Angeles County Bar Association, Executive Committee on Immigration

J.D., University of California at Davis - King Hall School of Law (1997) B.A., University of California at Irvine, cum laude (1994)

Awards and Honors
2005, 2006, 2007, 2008: Selected to Southern California Rising Star - Super Lawyers List (an honor shared by no more than 2.5% of the attorneys practicing in the entire Southern California region) Faculty/Moderator on various AILA and LACBA continuing legal education seminars in the following topics: H-1B, O-1, religious workers, business immigration visas

Past/Present Clients
My typical business clients can range from a start-up company, established engineering and software research and development companies, manufacturing, trade and distribution companies, public and private schools, and religious organizations. Family clients include spouses, parent-child petitions, siblings, naturalization, and most especially, representation of abandoned and neglected children viewed as orphans under the immigration law. I have represented many clients who relied on special provisions of the immigration law to preserve or "grandfather" benefits to family members in limited (and complicated) circumstances, to avoid re-application fees and longer waiting times.

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