Green Card through Marriage
Marrying an American citizen is the easiest and fastest way to acquire the US permanent resident card (commonly referred to as Green Card) to permanently live and reside in the United States.
While other preference immigrant categories (such as, for instance, brother and sisters or U.S. citizens, children of U.S. citizen over 21 y.o., spouses of green card holders, etc.) are subject to annual quota, the green card for immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen (such as the spouse) has no quota limitation and can be processed immediately.
Green Card Forms
To obtain a U.S. green card through marriage a number of forms should be filed, among which:
Petition for alien relative
The petitioner – or principal applicant – in this case is the U.S. citizen who desires that a foreign individual – his / her spouse in this case – be admitted as permanent resident in the United States. The main purpose of this form is to establish and prove the existence of a lawful marriage between the principal applicant and the beneficiary.
In addition, petitioner should prove that the marriage with the beneficiary is genuine and authentic and not contracted for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card for the beneficiary.
Application for Travel Document & Employment Authorization
Beneficiary may request authorization to travel and work in the United States while the Green Card application is pending. Typically, after three months, the beneficiary will receive the EAD card, a temporary document which will include both travel and working permits.
Adjustment of status
If the beneficiary of the green card application is already in the United States at the time of the filing, he / she may file for adjustment of status. This means that the beneficiary requests to the USCIS that his / her nonimmigrant status be changed to that of a permanent resident.
Besides a few exceptions, basically anybody who is in the United States could apply for adjustment of status. The most common situation is when someone is already in the United States on a non-immigrant visa, such as B-1/2, L, H1B visa etc.
If the beneficiary has entered the US through a Visa Waiver Program (ESTA) and seeks to obtain permanent residence through marriage, he/she can also apply for adjustment of status, but pursuing this avenue has been highly controversial in the past. Now, following a recent advisory opinion applying for adjustment of status after entering the US on ESTA has become common practice. In this case the application should be filed right after the expiration of the 90 day period allowed by ESTA.
If Petitioner is a Green Card holder (and not a U.S. citizen), adjustment of status from ESTA will not be permitted.
Affidavit of Support
Through this form, petitioner submits evidence that he / she has the means to financially support the beneficiary, so that the same will not become a public charge for the United States Government in the future. The petitioner, by submitting past tax returns, needs to show that his / her income is sufficient for this purpose.
When to file
All of the above forms can and should be filed at the same time if you are applying for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. If petitioner is a green card holder, simultaneous filing may be or not be allowed depending on the priority date.
Coming to the US through K-1 Visa
The safest way to come to the U.S. to get married and to apply for a green card, is to first apply for a K-1 visa, commonly referred to as Fiancé Visa. The K-1 visa must be applied for by the US citizen when the beneficiary (future spouse) is still residing outside the United States. After submission of the petition, the next phase of the process will take place in the foreign country of the beneficiary via the local U.S. consulate. Once the K-1 visa has been obtained, the beneficiary shall be allowed to travel to US and get married within 3 months of his / her arrival. This visa is available only to fiancés of U.S. citizens, not just green card holders.
Green Card interview
Absent other issues (such as, for example, a Request for Evidence), USCIS will schedule your interview at a local field office. The interview is the last step of your green card process and will take place at yours and your spouse presence. The officer may interview both you and your spouse simultaneously or, if any issue arises, may conduct separate interviews. If everything goes well, you will receive the Green Card within the following 15 days.
Removing conditions on residence
Unless you have been married for 2 years or longer prior to applying (in which case you will receive directly a 10 year-green card), you will get a conditional Green Card with an initial duration of two years. Before the end of such 2 year period, you should apply to remove the conditions on your residence filing form I-751. Basically, USCIS will want to see that your marriage is still ongoing and it’s real. If the evidence that you provide will be satisfactory an interview may not even be scheduled.
If the beneficiary gets divorced after obtaining the initial temporary green card, but still can provide evidence that the marriage was real until it lasted, he / she may still apply to remove the conditions filing form I-751 asking to waive the joint filing. Even in this case an interview may or may not be scheduled.
Applying for a green card is a delicate and complicated process and should be handled by an experienced immigration attorney. Do not attempt to do it yourself, it may lead to delays and disapproval. Contact Bardazzi Law today to schedule a free consultation.