There are many paths to green card, or permanent resident, status in the United States. One path is through a legitimate marriage. Your very first green card is conditional and only valid for two years. After the two years, you can file a Form –751, which is the Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. This must be signed by both spouses and mailed to USCIS within 90 days of the date your green card expires.
But what happens if you divorce before the conditional green card expires? There are a few exceptions to the two year marriage requirement for US citizenship through marriage. You can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirements of Form I-751 if you can prove that your marriage was bona fide or genuine at the time and not aimed to get around immigration laws. Proof of this may be any of the following; children within the marriage, shared resources and a family home, insurance, wills and estates documents, vacations together, photographs together, shared family name, any other letters, correspondence or written proof of a valid and real marriage. You should also prepare a written explanation as to the reasons why your marriage ended. The USCIS approves these waivers on a case by case basis so be prepared for one on one interviews and correspondence before the process is complete. If USCIS discovers that you were at fault in the termination of your marriage (because you abandoned your spouse or committed adultery, for example), the agency may deny your I-751 petition.
Also note that you can file the I-751 with the waiver as soon as the divorce is initiated, even if the conditional green card has not expired. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney will help you strategize the best course of action for your immigration status. If you or your dependents have been abused within the marriage there are other waivers and expedited processes available.
After you file your petition, USCIS will issue you a receipt notice on Form I-797 that will serve as your green card after your conditional card expires and will allow you to continue to live and work in the United States and travel abroad.
Make sure to respond to all requests for evidence and appointment notices from USCIS, or you risk losing the temporary green card and your options for citizenship. Most petitions to lift conditions that are filed with a waiver of the joint filing requirement will be referred to a local office for an interview. When you attend your interview, bring copies of all evidence that you submitted along with your Form I-797 and be prepared to answer questions about your marriage and divorce.