Getting a Green Card Through Marriage

Getting a Green Card, otherwise known as becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States, is important in that it grants a host of benefits, most notably the ability to permanently live and work in the United States. As your Green Card attorney and immigration lawyer can explain, it can also serve as a major step toward becoming a US citizen. If nothing else, it is the means to keep or maintain a family and life in America.

Despite what you might think, marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident does not automatically result in a Green Card. Instead, marriage is a significant first step that can make the overall process a little easier and quicker. However, know this. Marrying someone for immigration purposes is against the law and is considered marriage fraud. If the relevant government agency determines a marriage fraud exists, whether it is a District Attorney or United States Attorney, there can be severe immigration consequences and even criminal penalties. Discuss all of these ramifications with both an experienced criminal lawyer and immigration attorney.

The Green Card Application Process Will Depend on Who You Married

The exact process for a “marriage Green Card” will depend on whether you have married a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. If you married a U.S. citizen, you will be considered an “immediate relative.” This will allow for a much faster path to permanent resident status than if your spouse was a permanent resident.

If you married a permanent resident, you will be considered a “preference relative,” also known as category “2A.” This means it can easily take several years before you actually get your Green Card. You will be placed on a waiting list before you can start the Green Card application process. Again, this is something you should address with your immigration lawyer.

Establishing Marital Relationship to Immigration Authorities

Regardless of whether your spouse is a US citizen or permanent resident, the first step will be for your spouse to complete Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This purpose of this form is for your spouse to establish his or her relationship to you. After Form I-130 is approved what happens next will generally depend on whether you married a US citizen or permanent resident.

Applying for a Green Card While Married to a US Citizen

If you married a U.S. citizen, you will be eligible to apply for permanent residency as soon as Form I-130 is approved. This usually means you are residing in the United States when you are able to begin applying for a Green Card. If this is the case, your first step will be to complete Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. You will also need to provide additional paperwork, biometric information and attend a personal interview at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. Your spouse, husband or wife, will also need to attend this interview, where immigration authorities will confirm your marriage is real and not a sham for getting a Green Card. Because immigration authorities are routinely seeking out fraud, even if you marriage is 100% legitimate yo should discuss your application and prepare for the interview with your immigration attorney. Assuming everything has been completed properly, the USCIS should issue you your Green Card right after the interview or shortly after it has been completed. Again, it is not merely recommended, but beyond encouraged that you prepare for this process with your immigration attorney and counsel.

Applying for a Green Card While Married to a Permanent Resident

If you married a permanent resident, your Green Card lawyer will explain how process is more involved and will take much longer. This is because even if you were legally in the United States when you were married, by the time you are allowed to apply for your Green Card, you visa will likely have expired. This will require you to return to your home country, where you will have to wait outside the United States until your name nears the top of the visa waiting list. When it does, you will rely on consular processing to obtain your Green Card and enter the United States.

When your name is finally off the waiting list, the National Visa Center (NVC) will notify you and your spouse. You can also check your place on the waiting list at any time by reviewing the Visa Bulletin, which is published by the US State Department.

You, through your immigration attorney, will then complete the necessary paperwork and forms and go to the appropriate consular office for an interview. At this consular interview, you will submit a variety of documents, including a Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (Form I-693) and Affidavit of Support (Form I-864). If you have provided all necessary documents and the US consular officer deems you to be eligible for a Green Card, you will then be allowed to enter the United States as a permanent resident.

  • Immigration Form I-693: The Importance of Accurately Completing Immigration Forms
  • Immigration Form I-864: The Importance of Accurately Completing Immigration Forms
The Conditional Green Card and the Two Year Requirement

If a foreign national obtains a Green Card within two years of getting married, he or she will be issued a conditional Green Card. A conditional Green Card is permanent resident status that is good for two years. This means that before the end of the two years, you must take steps to remove the conditional status on your Green Card or you risk having to leave the United States. There are four primary situations in which you may remove these conditions:

  1. You remain married after the two years have passed;
  2. You are a widow or widower, but became married in good faith;
  3. You divorced your spouse, but became married in good faith; or
  4. You remain married after the two years have passed, but you or your children are the victim of domestic abuse or extreme hardship caused by your spouse.

If you are still married after two years have passed, you and your spouse must jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence within the 90 days before the two year deadline arrives. In addition to Form I-751, you and your spouse will need to submit proof that you have lived as a married couple. This will basically be the same type of documents and information you submitted when you applied for your Green Card. It’s also possible you and your spouse will need to attend another personal interview.

  • Immigration Form I-751: The Importance of Accurately Completing Immigration Forms

If you are not married after two years have passed, or are the victim of domestic abuse or extreme hardship as a result of the actions of your spouse, you will still need to file Form I-751. But since you obviously can’t file it jointly with your spouse, you’ll also need to request a waiver of this joint filing requirement.

Can I Get a Green Card Through Same-Sex Marriage?

Yes. As of July 1, 2013, as long as the marriage is valid and legally recognized in the US state or country where it took place, US immigration authorities will treat same-sex marriages the same way it would treat opposite-sex marriages.

Secure Your Green Card Through Marriage Now

There is nothing easy about the immigration process in the United States. In fact, it is quite difficult and the procedure can be filled with irreversible pitfalls. Do not make the mistakes that can result in the delay or denial of the Green Card that can keep you working and living with your friends and family in your forever home.

Call the New York immigration lawyers and former New York City prosecutors at (212) 312-7129 or contact us online today.

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