Divorce Paper in Green Card or Other USCIS Applications

Updated on 10/15/2023

Divorce paper, also refers to as “divorce judgment”, “divorce decree”, or “divorce certificate”, is the dissolution document to prove the marriage between a couple has been legally terminated. If you would like to apply for marriage green card or K-1 fiancé(e) visa for your beloved, or other applications where you are required to prove all of your previous marriages have been legally ended, you should obtain divorce paper.  You may have various questions about divorce paper. Here we give you the best answers you are looking for.

At DYgreencard.com, we may help you handle many types of applications, like I-485 adjustment of status to apply for green card, I-130 immigrant petition for spouse, parent, child, or sibling, I-129F petition/K-1 visa for fiancé(e), N-400 application for naturalization, and more. All you need to do is just answer a few simple questions online and upload supporting documents to our platform. Then we take care of the rest. 

1. How to divorce in the United States?

Unlike some countries in the world, dissolving a marriage in the United States must take place by court litigation. In other words, one spouse must file a legal petition asking the court to terminate the marriage. Due to family laws in the U.S. are established by the individual states, not federal government, the divorce petition must be filed at the court of the state where he or she resides.

There is residency requirement for apply for divorce. Most states require a residency of at least six months before one can apply for divorce, while others demand a year or longer. Nevada is a popular state in which to seek a divorce because the residency requirement is only six weeks. Nevertheless, one must actually reside at least six weeks there before filing the divorce petition because sometimes USCIS will question the physical address history. If USCIS has solid evidence to prove neither of the divorcing parties meets the residency requirement, it will challenge the legitimacy of the divorce.

After the couple goes through the whole court procedure, a divorce decree or divorce judgment will be granted by the judge.

2. Should we divorce again in the United States if we have been divorced abroad?

If you have been duly divorced in the country or region where your divorce took in place, it is unnecessary for you to get divorced again in the U.S. because in most cases your divorce abroad is recognized under the family laws of each state in the U.S. 

However, if neither of the divorcing parties has residency where they get divorced, such divorce will not be recognized by the any of state in the U.S., even if the divorce is valid under the laws where they get divorced. The result of a divorce that not be reorganized by the states in the U.S. is that the existing marriage will be deemed as valid in the U.S. and thus she or he can’t legally remarry in the U.S.


Tom and Emily got married in Vietnam. Both of them are the citizens of Vietnam. Both of them were granted lawful permanent residence of the United States. Since they became lawful permanent residents, they have continuously resided in the State of California. In 2018, Tom and Emily duly divorced in Vietnam. In 2019, Tom married with Anna in Las Vegas. Tom filed an I-130 immigrant petition for Anna and got denied by USCIS because Tom’s divorce with ex-wife Emily in Vietnam is not recognized under the family laws of State of Nevada and thus the marriage between Tom and Anna is not legitimate.

In the above example, if Tom and Emily divorced in State of California, their divorce will be recognized by the State of Nevada and thus the marriage between Tom and Anna will be legitimate under the laws of State of Nevada.  Interesting thing is that if Tom and Anna got married in Vietnam, USCIS will not challenge the legitimacy of their marriage. Actually, assume either Tom or Emily only has non-immigrant status in the U.S. when divorcing, USCIS will not challenge the legitimacy of the marriage between Tom and Anna, either.

3. How to get a copy of divorce judgment if we divorced in the U.S.?

As mentioned above, one will finally get a divorce decree or divorce judgment granted by the judge if either of the spouses duly filed the divorce petition to the court with jurisdiction. As such, if you lost the original divorce decree or divorce judgment, you may request a certified copy from the court clerk office where you were divorced.

4. How to get a copy of divorce paper if we divorced abroad?

Dissolving a marriage in some countries or regions can take place by court litigation or by mutual settlement agreement. If by mutual settlement agreement, no divorce decree or divorce judgment but divorce certificate will be issued to the divorcing parties.

Divorce certificate is normally issued by the civil authority or marriage registration office of the country or region where you plan to divorce. If you are uncertain which office is the civil authority in certain country or region, you may check through the left column of the U.S. Department of State’s Reciprocity and Civil Documents by Country page. It clearly tells people the document format, issuing authority, fees, and other information for each type of civil document, including divorce certificate, divorce decree or divorce judgment if divorcing by litigation.

Death certificate and annulment certificate may also be obtained from the above sources.

If the divorce paper is not in English, you must submit its original language copy and its certified English translation. A certification by translator shall be attached to the translation.

5. What if a copy of divorce paper is not available?

If a copy of divorce paper is not available to you upon exhausted efforts, USCIS allows you to submit alternative evidence to prove the existence of a divorce. Such alternative evidence including:

If you can’t obtain a certified statement from the civil authority, you must instead provide at least two additional notarized affidavits from other people, such as one of your parents who are living. In the affidavit, they must attest to having personal knowledge of your divorce in detail.

6. Is it possible that my divorce not recognized by USCIS?

As described in item 2 above, USCIS will not recognize a divorce if the divorce is not recognized by the State where the following marriage takes place. Accordingly, it is very important to figure out the immigration status of the divorcing parties, their residence when divorcing and where the later marriage takes place. Honestly, it is complicated and you’d better consult an immigration attorney to help you figure out if you are not sure whether your divorce or marriage will be recognized by USCIS.

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