Green Card through Marriage

One of the most common and fastest ways of obtaining legal permanent residence is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. The reason why this process is known as perhaps one of the “easiest” and “fastest” methods of getting a green card is because the spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative” by law and therefore there is no limit on the amount of individuals who can obtain green cards through such a marriage.

The entire process starts with the submission of a I-130 visa petition for the foreign-born spouse. If the spouse entered the U.S. lawfully can avoid having to leave the United States and simply submit an I-485 package for adjustment of status, in which case the spouse receives a work permit (Employment Authorization Document) within 90 days and potentially qualify for an Advance Parole document which would allow the foreign-born spouse to travel abroad. However, if the spouse entered the United States unlawfully, or without inspection, then he or she may be obligated to apply from abroad, but they can try to obtain a provisional waiver, to avoid a long separation.

To successfully obtain a green card for the foreign-born spouse, the marriage must be bona fide. In other words, the marriage should not be a fraud or a mere arrangement between two unattached individuals to obtain a green card. In order to prove that the marriage is legitimate, the couple might want to have a wedding reception where the U.S. citizen’s parent’s and other family members are present. In addition, proving the legitimacy of the marriage can be easier if the couple has joint property, files joint income tax returns, and has a child.

In cases where the marriage is less than two years old when legal permanent residency is granted, the green card for the foreign-born spouse has a two-year time limit. Within the 90-day period previous to the expiration of the green card, the couple should file form I-751 to obtain the 10-year green card for the foreign-born spouse.

If the situation arises where the marriage is terminated before the two-year period is reached, the foreign-spouse is obligated to submit the I-751 to apply for a “good faith marriage waiver”of the joint petition requirement.




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