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The Complete Guide to Green Card Marriage

Foreigners who marry U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can immediately apply for a green card to become lawful permanent residents of the United States. The process requires several steps, but it’s one of the most common paths to citizenship – so here’s how it works.

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Ruby Kaur is a great attorney. She is professional and she knows what she is doing. Because of her, my husband got a green card and citizenship approved on the same day today! She really worked hard and professionally with him. I really appreciate that and god bless her.
 
Meelad E. – Google Review

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Residency Through Your Spouse: The Guide to Green Card Marriage

When you marry a United States citizen, he or she can petition the U.S. government on your behalf so that you can get a green card. (You can’t petition for yourself, but more on that later.)

You and your spouse must have a bona fide relationship; what that means is that you’re engaged in a real, genuine relationship and intend to stay married. It’s illegal to marry for an immigration benefit – and if the U.S. government finds out that you’ve done something like that, you can be deported from the United States and prevented from ever coming back. You can even be barred from coming back if you have a family – including children – living in the United States.

What is a Marriage Green Card?

A marriage-based green card is one of the most common pathways to American citizenship. Essentially, it’s a way for the spouse of a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident to become a lawful permanent resident of the U.S.

If you have a marriage-based green card (or a green card for any other reason), you can:

  • Travel outside the country (provided that you only stay out of the country for a specific period of time)
  • Work anywhere you want in the United States
  • Live anywhere you want in the United States

Unlike visas, which grant you permission to work at a specific company for a specific period of time, a green card gives you the freedom to quit your job, find a new job, move across the state or even across the country. You don’t need work authorization or anything else to work in the U.S. if you have a green card.

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What is a Conditional Green Card Through Marriage?

If you and your spouse have been married for less than two years, your green card will be conditional. That means you can only keep it if you remain married to your spouse and your circumstances don’t change in a way that would make you ineligible for a green card.

If you divorce your spouse, there’s a chance that you’ll lose your green card. However, there are some special circumstances that may allow you to keep your lawful permanent resident status. (If you’re in danger of losing your green card, you should talk to an immigration attorney for help.)

You cannot renew a conditional green card, but you can ask the U.S. government to remove the conditions attached to it after you and your spouse have been married for more than two years.

In fact, you’re supposed to petition to remove your conditions within 90 days of your conditional green card’s expiration date.

It’s very important that you take this step – if you fail to petition to remove conditions, you are no longer a lawful permanent resident of the United States, which makes you deportable. Your immigration attorney can help you petition to remove the conditions when you’ve been married long enough.

Can You Apply for Your Own Green Card Because You’re Married to a U.S. Citizen?

You can’t apply for your own green card through marriage. Your spouse has to petition the government for you. He or she will be your sponsor, and you will be the beneficiary.

Is Green Card Marriage Legal?

Green card marriage is completely legal, but there’s one catch: You cannot marry someone just to obtain an immigration benefit. You must be in a genuine relationship and intend to stay married as you build a future together.

If you only marry someone to obtain a green card, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will most likely find out. A fraudulent marriage is a crime, and you can be deported from the U.S. and barred from reentry, even if you have family here.

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How Long Does it Take the U.S. Government to Process a Green Card Application for the Spouse of a Citizen?

It can take between 10 and 80 months for the U.S. government to process a marriage-based green card application. The processing time depends on whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (another green card holder), as well as where you currently live. Some locations take longer than others do to process applications.

Pro Tip: If USCIS asks you or your spouse to provide supporting documentation for your petition, you should do so as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the longer your petition will take to be approved.

What Documents Do You Need to Support Your Petition in a Green Card Marriage?

USCIS will ask you to provide supporting documentation when you apply for a green card based on marriage. 

Some of the documents you’re most likely to need include:

  • Bank statements
  • Birth certificate
  • Divorce decrees or death certificates from previous marriages, if applicable
  • Marriage certificate
  • Medical examination results
  • Military records, if applicable
  • Police clearance certificate, if it applies to your situation
  • Proof of sponsor’s citizenship or lawful permanent residence
  • Proof of the beneficiary’s legal entry to the United States, if applicable
  • Tax returns
  • Other supporting documentation that the officer handling your case requires

In some cases, USCIS will want additional assurance that you and your spouse are in a bona fide marriage. 

If that happens, you may need to provide more documentation, such as:

  • A lease that shows both of your names
  • Bank statements for accounts you share jointly
  • Joint utility bills
  • Photos of you together as a couple
  • Proof that you and your spouse own property together
  • Proof that you’ve taken trips together, such as receipts for hotel rooms and photographs
  • Tax returns that show you filed jointly
  • Wedding information, such as invitations, guestbooks or photos from your wedding

Don't Wait Until It's Too Late. Request A Consultation Today!

Do You Have to Go to an Immigration Interview?

The last step in obtaining a green card based on your marriage is an immigration interview. You’ll spend time with an immigration official who will ask you questions about your relationship. You and your spouse may have to answer these questions. 

The interviewer may ask things like:

  • Where and how did you meet?
  • Where was your first date?
  • When did you meet each other’s parents?
  • Who were your bridesmaids and groomsmen?
  • Where was your honeymoon?
  • Who takes care of the finances in your family?
  • Do you plan on having children?
  • Have you ever been on a vacation together?
  • When was the last time you saw your spouse’s family?
  • How many brothers and sisters does your spouse have, and what are their names?

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Green Card Marriage?

If you’re a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident married to a foreigner, you may need to talk to an attorney about obtaining a green card for your spouse. You can start the process as soon as you marry (although we understand if you wait until you’re back from your honeymoon!).

Call our office today to schedule your free consultation on green card marriage. We’ll be happy to answer your questions and get your spouse on the path to lawful permanent residency in the United States.

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