Thailand, US Immigration and Divorce

by admin on June 9, 2010

Getting married can be stressful enough. However, few experiences can be more trying than getting divorced. So making the right choices and understanding the system before tying the knot can save great aggravation later on.

Marriages between US and Thai citizens are becoming more common and, once hitched, couples often plan on living in America. To do this, unfortunately, requires a great deal of bureaucratic paper work.  Usually, as long as the marriage is genuine and there are no pre-existing barriers to immigration, the Thai spouse can usually stay in the US, and even if things end badly, they may still be allowed to remain.

Various US Visa Thailand Choices

For any Thai spouses of US citizens thinking of immigrating to the US, there are two main visa options: the K1 Fiancée Visa Thailand and the K3 Marriage Visa Thailand. Both have pros and cons:

  • K1visa Thailand: Pros are it’s faster to obtain and allows a trial period in the USA. 
  • K3 visa Thailand: It’s cheaper, depends on marriage in Thailand and allows for easier travel.

Getting either the k1 or k3 visa means a Thai partner will be allowed entry to the USA. But what if the marriage fails: do they have to go straight back home? Not necessarily.

If the marriage has lasted long enough (usually two years) and officials are convinced the relationship is legitimate, then the Thai partner may, under certain conditions, be able to remain in the US.

Conditional Residency

The first thing a Thai spouse on a K3 visa receives when they enter the US is ‘conditional’ permanent residence, assuming the marriage happened within the previous two years. The important part here is ‘conditional’.

Several things can happen that could lead to the spouse being deported. Should immigration officials feel the Thai spouse is in America fraudulently, or the marriage is a sham, the permission to stay may be challenged. Any child of the foreign spouse on a K4 visa could also suffer US immigration law consequences.

Does divorce = deportation?

Divorce within the two-year window will also usually end the conditional status of the Thai partner. If this unfortunate circumstance happens it’s important to talk to an US immigration lawyer. Several factors may facilitate evidence to support a Thai spouse to remaining in the US, for example:

–  If the foreign partner can show the marriage was genuine

–  If the marriage produced a child

–  If the couple own property together

–  If the Thai spouse was physically abused during the marriage

–  If deportation would mean facing ‘extreme hardship’

Once the two-year wait is up, for a foreign spouse of a US citizen, it’s possible to get permanent residence status, and then citizenship within three years (usually you have to wait five years).  There are other conditions, however, that must also need to be met. 

Fraud and Abuse

If a US citizen thinks they’ve been duped into marriage so that their Thai fiancée/fiancé can gain a K3 visa in Thailand, and then a Green Card through marriage, there are steps that can be taken. The flip-side is that the US citizen could theoretically also face criminal charges if they knew the marriage was a sham.  This is a serious offense and prosecutions can and do occur on a regular basis. 

If a Thai partner has been beaten while being married, she may qualify for special treatment in the US thanks to the Battered Immigrant Women Protection Act (2000).

Divorce in America doesn’t automatically mean the Thai spouse has to pack their bags – but it does mean they need to know their rights.

Related Articles:

Marriage and Divorce in Thailand: When Love Turns Deadly

Bringing the Children of a Thai Spouse to America: K2 and K4 Visas

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