Immigration Lawyers LA (Los Angeles): Immigration Questions: How to Get a Green Card through Marriage.

Many couples consist of a U.S. citizen and a foreign-born person. When such couples want to live together in the U.S., they need to apply to get a green card residency through marriage. Since the process can be complex and may take months, it is helpful to get an idea of the steps to follow for a green card marriage.

Getting Married Inside the U.S

Citizens of the U.S. who get engaged outside of the country need to file a Petition for Alien FiancÚ so that the couple can legally enter the U.S. together prior to the marriage. To do this, though, citizens have to prove a few details, as otherwise getting a green card by marriage will not be possible.

Before considering a green card by marriage, the couple has to be free to marry, meaning that neither person is already married to someone else. Once both people meet this requirement for green card marriage, they need to provide evidence that they will get married within 90 days of returning to this country. This means that couples who wish to have a long engagement may need to stay outside of the country until they are within three months of their wedding date.

An additional requirement is that the U.S. citizen and foreign fiancÚ need to have met in-person one or more times within two years before filing the petition for green card marriage. Some couples are exempt from this requirement, such as if meeting in-person long before getting married would cause extreme hardship. In addition, if following this rule would violate cultural customs, this requirement may be waived.

Once all of the necessary requirements are met, and the Petition for Alien FiancÚ has been filled out and sent to the USCIS, couples need to wait for it to be approved. Once it is accepted, the U.S. consulate that is closest to the foreign fiancÚ's current residence should ask him or her to apply for a fiancÚ visa.

For the fiancÚ to complete the process, he or she will have to pass a medical exam, as well as one or more interviews. He or she will also have to complete more paperwork, at which time the U.S. citizen will need to show proof of the couple's financial stability prior to marriage. If all of these requirements are met and the fiancÚ's visa is in fact approved, the couple can come to the U.S. and go through with the marriage.

The next step is for the couple to get married within 90 days. If the wedding does not occur, the foreign fiancÚ has to leave. Otherwise, he or she can be deported and may have trouble ever returning to the country legally, so it is crucial that the couple get married within 90 days of entering the U.S.

Once the couple is married, the foreign spouse needs to file Form I-485 for permanent residency. If approved, he or she can get a conditional permanent resident card, which will be good for two years. Once the end of the two year period is near, he or she can file Form I-751 to remove the conditions of the green card. If approved, the foreign spouse will get a permanent residency.

Getting a Green Card after Getting Married

Some couples prefer to simply get married in another country, after which the U.S. citizen is allowed to file a petition for a relative, since spouses are considered relatives. If this petition is approved by the USCIS, it will be sent to the National Visa Center. Then, the consulate that is located closest to the foreign spouse's house will ask him or her to apply to get an immigrant visa.

Once the application is received, the foreign spouse will need to show up for an interview at the consulate, after which he or she may get a visa in order to come to the U.S.

Documents Needed To Get a Green Card Through Marriage

No matter which method is chosen to get a green card, there are certain documents that must be presented during the process. They include the following:
  • Forms G-325, which need to include biographical information and photos
  • The petitioner's proof of citizenship, such as a passport or certified birth certificate
  • Certified marriage certificate when getting a green card after the wedding
  • Proof that any previous marriages are over
  • Filing fees, which usually exceed $1000

Special Circumstances

There are some laws that exist to address certain legal issues that may come up before or during the marriage. For example, if the foreign spouse has a child who is under 21 and not married, he or she can usually come to the U.S. with the parent. The name of the child has to be included on the Petition for Alien FiancÚ, though.

If a foreign spouse is battered by the U.S. citizen, he or she can file for an immigrant visa without the citizen spouse knowing. This allows battered spouses to get out of the marriage, obtain a green card, get some independence, and live on their own without being trapped by an abusive spouse who takes advantage of the immigration laws.

Once all the required documents have been filed to get a green card through marriage, the foreign fiancÚ can apply to be able to work in this country by filing an Application for Employment Authorization. This way, he or she can earn some money while waiting for the green card to officially be given.

Last reviewed on: 06/24/2012
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