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HOW DO I GET MY GREEN CARD IF I MARRY A U.S. CITIZEN?

Under present law, a person who came to this country on a valid visa can apply for permanent residency if they marry a US citizen. The laws are complicated but here’s a basic introduction:

• K-1 visa or Fiancée visa. If the person came to the US on a fiancée visa, they must marry within 90 days to the person who sponsored their visa in order to qualify for adjustment of status to permanent residence in this country.

• Adjustment of Status for immigrants with a visa. All other persons can apply for adjustment of status to permanent resident in this country based upon marriage to a U.S. citizen, as long as they entered the United States on a valid visa and have not committed a crime or some other act which makes them ineligible. Of course, the marriage must be a valid and bona fide one.

• 245i law. Also persons who qualify for a special law called Section 245i can also file for a green card here in the U.S. based on marriage – even if they came here without a visa. You only qualify for Section 245i if you had a family member or employer file to sponsor you for permanent residence before April 30, 2001. Many persons who have been sponsored by parents or siblings and have been waiting many years for their case to be “current” can file instead through a U.S citizen spouse under Section 245i. (However, it is very important to get good legal advice before filing to make sure you are eligible.)

• I601A Pardons or Waivers of Inadmissibility. For those not eligible for adjustment of status, there may be a waiver and a consular process available.

Adjustment of Status (I485) process.

If one is eligible to proceed to apply for a green card in the U.S., here’s a few basic facts about the process and the requirements.

• There are many necessary forms and documents necessary to submit with the marriage petition, including photos, birth and marriage records and other immigration forms.

• It generally takes only 9-15 months to finish the adjustment of status process. There is an interview at the end of the application process, which both spouses must attend.

What documentation supports the Adjustment of Status Process.

In order to prove that the marriage is valid at the interview, it is necessary to provide certain documentation to support AOS. This includes but is not limited to the following:

• financial records such as leases with both spouses names,

• joint bank account statements,

• joint credit cards,

• utility bills and other evidence that the couple is living together.

It is also helpful to bring photographs of the couple together, including photos of the wedding.

Other personal documents support the I485 application such as correspondence before marriage or even personal mementos can be helpful to show the immigration officer.

The I485 Adjustment of Status Interviews.

The AOS interviews at USCIS generally last approximately one hour or less and are intended to determine whether the marriage is legitimate or not.

If there is any significant doubt about whether the marriage is real, the applicants are required to come for a second, more intensive interview. In these second interviews, the spouses are separated and questioned at greater length by trained officers.

If the officer is satisfied the marriage is bona fide, and all other requirements for permanent residence are met, the adjustment of status application is approved.

How long is my green card valid?

If the marriage is less than two years old, the immigrant is given conditional permanent residence. This status gives the immigrant all the same rights as a permanent resident except that it expires after 24 months.

Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (I751)

Two years after the granting of conditional permanent residence, a new application must be submitted to the immigration service, documenting that the marriage still exists.

I-601A Pardons of Inadmissibility.

For those persons who came here without a visa and do not qualify to change their status here under 245i, there may be a possibility to apply at the U.S. Consulate in your home country, and request a pardon of the penalty for being here illegally. One should definitely seek legal advice before applying in this manner for a pardon.

More Information:

  • Naturalization for Spouses of U.S. Citizens (USCIS)
  • Immigrant Visa for a Spouse or Fiancé(e) of a U.S. Citizen (US Department of State)
  • I-601A Provisional Waiver of Inadmissibility (Kerosky, Purves & Bogue LLP)