A foreign-born person who enters into a bona fide marriage with a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative" for the purpose of obtaining a green card to live and work in the U.S. This frees them from quota restrictions and, if they entered the U.S. lawfully (even if they overstayed their visa), allows them to adjust their status to permanent resident without having to leave the U.S.
Carl Shusterman , a former INS Attorney (1976-82), whose law firm has assisted thousands of immigrants across the U.S. in getting a green card through marriage, explains the basics of the process.
Our aim is to make the immigration process as smooth as possible. Should you have a religious ceremony or elope to Las Vegas? Who should attend your wedding? Does the bride need to change her name? What if you don’t live together? What should you wear to green card interview? What kind of questions will the examiner ask you? Do you need to hire an attorney? When will you get a work permit? Will you be able to go abroad for your honeymoon? How long will your green card be valid?
Green cards through marriage is sometimes referred to as the “fast track” to lawful permanent residence. The spouse of a U.S. citizen is deemed an “immediate relative” under the law meaning that there are no quota restrictions on the number of people who can obtain green cards through marriage to U.S. citizens. The U.S. citizen starts the process by submitting a form I-130 visa petition on behalf of their foreign-born spouse. If the spouse entered the U.S. lawfully, he/she can file for adjustment of status (I-485 packet) without having to leave the U.S.
Generally, the spouse receives an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) within 90 days, and may also be eligible for an Advance Parole document to travel abroad. If the foreign-born spouse entered the U.S. without inspection, he/she may have to apply for a green card through marriage in his home country. He may, however, be eligible to apply for a I-601A provisional waiver in the United States.
To obtain a green card through marriage, your marriage must be bona fide. This is a lot easier to prove if there is a wedding reception where the US citizen spouse’s relatives are present, where the couple has joint property and files joint income tax returns and especially if the couple has a child together.
If the marriage is less than two years old when the green card is granted, it will have a two-year time limit. The couple must submit form I-751 during the 90-day prior before the expiration of the green card in order for the foreign-born spouse to obtain a ten-year green card. If the couple divorces before the end of the two-year period, the foreign-born spouse must apply for an I-751 good faith marriage waiver of the joint petition requirement.
We hope that our video answers many of your questions about the process.