Getting a Green Card through MARRIAGE 
INTRODUCTION  Yes, it's true. Getting married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident can allow you to get a green card, but you must satisfy the requirements that the marriage is a bonafide marriage, one in which you love each other and share your lives together.  The marriage must not be a "sham" or one that was entered into specifically to get an immigration benefit.  And, it must be a legal marriage which means that both parties are free to marry, all prior divorces were legal, and the marriage formalities are recognized as legal in the jurisdiction where the marriage occurred.   General Procedures
Marriage in the U.S.
Marriage Abroad
Fiancée Visa
K and V Visas 
Divorce
Spousal Abuse
Widow(er)
CSPA
It makes a big difference if you marry in the U.S. or marry abroad. But all marriages are subject to the grant of only a two-year conditional residency [unless you have already been married for two years before you apply for permanent residence.] In marriage cases, the alien generally gets Conditional Residency for two years, at the end of which, the couple must take an affirmative action to remove the condition.  Removal of  Conditional Residency
 

GENERAL PROCEDURES  --- There are three stages to applying for family-based permanent residency:

(1) the U.S. citizen or permanent resident must file a Form I-130 petition requesting that the INS classify the foreign relative as a specific kind of immigrant, such as an "immediate relative", or in the case of the spouse of a lawful permanent resident, a "2A Preference Alien". this process varies in time for processing, but generally, it is taking about 1-2 months for an approval. In some cases, if the alien is eligible to Adjust his or her status, he can file the I-130 concurrently with the application for the green card.  Also, some foreign consulates allow you to file a combined processing of the visa petition and the application for permanent residence at the same time.

(2) After the INS approves the Form I-130 application, the foreign relative may file:

(A) a Form I-485 application to adjust his or her nonimmigrant status to that of permanent resident if he or she is already in the United States s.

OR

(B) an application for an immigrant  visa with the U.S. Consulate in his or her home country.  After the immigrant visa is issued, the applicant enters the United States, whereupon he or she holds permanent residency. 

In either case, the applicant cannot file the application until an immigrant visa s available for the applicant. Only certain numbers of visas may be issued each year, depending on the Preference category and the applicant's nationality. Substantial backlogs exist for most of the Preference categories, and for many nationalities. Consequently, many years may pass before the applicant is even eligible to file an application to adjust status or consular process an immigrant visa.  (This is not true if the spouse is married to a U.S. citizen because there is a visa immediately available for that alien.)

(3) Once the CIS officer interviews the couple and determines that the alien is admissible and that the marriage is bonafide, the alien will receive an Alien Registration Card (also called a greencard). Back to Top

MARRIAGE inside the U.S.   If you marry your spouse inside the U.S., there are several issues that need to be looked into to determine if the alien can remain inside the U.S. to adjust his/her status. If the alien is “in status”, he/she can adjust his/her status to that of lawful permanent residence.  If not in status, the alien must return to his/her home country to proceed with consular processing except in two cases:  (1) if the alien entered into the U.S. with inspection and is now married to a U.S. citizen, the alien can remain in the U.S. to adjust.  (2) If the alien is the beneficiary of an I-130 visa petition that was filed before April 30, 2001, the alien can stay in the U.S. to adjust, but must pay a penalty under 245i of $1,000. 

The documents you will need to file to adjust your status in the U.S. are:

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with all required documentation
  • A copy of the birth certificates for both spouses
  • A copy of the passport and I-94 card showing valid entry  
  • If you are a citizen and were not born in the United States, a copy of either your Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or your U.S. passport
  • If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR), a copy of your alien registration receipt card
  • Two completed and signed G-325A’s (one for you and one for your spouse)
  • A copy of your civil marriage certificate
  • A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees that would show that any previous marriage entered into by you or your spouse was ended legally
  • A color photo of the petitioner and two of the alien, passport style, front facing
  • Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence
  • Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
  •  Form I-864, Affidavit of Support with three years of income taxes and w-2 forms
  • Form I-864A, Affidavit of co-Sponsor, if any, with tax information
  • Form I-485A, If $1,000 penalty is required
  • Form I-693, Medical Examination by certified civil surgeon in sealed envelop      Back to Top

Marriage Abroad  If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and you marry an alien abroad, you must first get the I-130 Visa Petition approved by the CIS in the U.S. This form with its supporting documents is filed at the Service Center having jurisdiction over your residence and is adjudicated when there is a visa available.  In the case of a U.S. citizen’s petition for spouse, there is always a visa available, so the petition is adjudicated immediately.

Once the petition is approved, the Service Center will send the file to the National Visa Center in Portsmouth, NH for the opening of a consular file.  A Fee Bill is sent to the petitioner after which the forms needed for the consular processing are sent.  Once the NVC has all the fees and documents needed, it will send the file to the appropriate American Consulate abroad for processing.

To file the I-130, submit the following documents and appropriate fee ($185) to the Service Center in your jurisdiction:

  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with all required documentation
  • A copy of the birth certificates for both spouses
  • A copy of the passport and I-94 card showing valid entry  
  • If you are a citizen and were not born in the United States, a copy of either your Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or your U.S. passport
  • If you are a lawful permanent resident (LPR), a copy of your alien registration receipt card
  • Two completed and signed G-325A’s (one for you and one for your spouse)
  • A copy of your civil marriage certificate
  • A copy of any divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees that would show that any previous marriage entered into by you or your spouse was ended legally
  • A color photo of the petitioner and two of the alien, passport style, front facing

Once you receive the approval notice, it will indicate that the file has been sent to the NVC which will contact you in turn. Once the file is completed at the NVC and sent to the Consulate Abroad, the alien will be notified to appear for a medical examination and fingerprinting, after which the alien will be interviewed to determine admissibility and the bonafides of the marriage.    Back to Top

FIANCEE - The K VISA is issued to a fiancée/fiancé of a U.S. citizen.  It permits the alien to enter the U.S. to get married, a ceremony which must take place within 90 days of entry. Once the immigrant gets married, he or she must go to the local Immigration office to apply for Adjustment of Status to get the green card. A relative of a U.S. citizen who is the beneficiary of an approved I-130 Relative Petition can get a K-3 or K-4 to join their relative in the U.S. to avoid long processing times.

After the petition is approved by the Service Center having jurisdiction over the residence of the U.S. citizen, the fiancé(e) must obtain a visa at a U.S. Embassy or consulate abroad.   If the marriage does not take place within 90 days or your fiancé(e) marries someone other than the U.S. citizen filing the petition, the alien will be required to leave the United States.  A fiancé(e) may not obtain an extension of the 90-day original nonimmigrant admission.  Your fiancé(e) may enter the United States only one time with a fiancé(e) visa. If your fiancé(e) leaves the country before you are married, your fiancé(e) may not be allowed back into the United States without a new visa

As with all marriage cases, the fiancé(e) will initially receive conditional permanent residence status for two years. Conditional permanent residency is granted when the marriage creating the relationship is less than two years old at the time of adjustment to permanent residence status

In order to qualify for this type of visa, both the U.S. citizen and the fiancé(e) must be free to marry. This means that both of you are unmarried, or that any previous marriages have ended through divorce, annulment or death. You must also have met with your fiancé(e) in person within the last two years before filing for the fiancé(e) visa. This requirement can be waived only if meeting your fiancé(e) in person would violate long-established customs, or if meeting your fiancé(e) would create extreme hardship for you. You and your fiancé(e) must marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States .

You may also apply to bring your fiancé(e)'s unmarried children, who are under age 21, to the United States.  
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REMOVAL of CONDITIONAL RESIDENCY

When you receive your conditional residency, you must notice that the green card will have an expiration date of two years.  The CIS does not send a second reminder to conditional residents to petition for removal of conditions. During the 90 days before the second anniversary of the date you obtained conditional resident status you and your spouse (if still married) must file to remove the condition. You must file a form I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence). All petitions should be sent to the Service Center that serves the area where you live. Failure to file will result in loss of your resident status. Late filings are permitted with sufficient explanation of the reason(s) for being late in filing.

The I-751 can be filed regardless of whether you are physically present in the United States at the time that you file. However you must return to the United States with your spouse and your children in order to comply with the interview requirement.

You and your spouse might need to appear for a personal interview at the district office that serves that area where you live. However, the director of the regional service center where you file your petition has the discretion to waive the interview requirement. The director will review the petition to determine whether an interview is required. If the director is satisfied based on the written petition that your marriage was not entered into in order to obtain immigration benefits, he or she may waive the interview requirement and approve the petition. If the director is not satisfied of the validity of your marriage based on the petition, he or she will forward the petition to the district office to conduct an interview.

If you are filing a joint application with your spouse to remove the conditions on your permanent residence, you must submit the following:

  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence signed by both you and your spouse
  • Copy of the Green Card
  • Evidence that you did not get married to evade the immigration laws of the United States . Examples of such evidence includes, but is not limited to jointly filed Income Taxes, joint bank accounts, insurance documents, leases showing that you and your spouse live in the same place, grant deeds of property purchased together, birth certificates of your children, travel documents of trips together, joint utility bills, or any other type of document to prove your marriage is still existing and bonafide.           Back to Top

WIDOW:  If you are a widow or a widower, you must submit the following:

  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence
  • Copy of Green Card
  • Similar evidence as stated above with a copy of your spouse's death certificate.

SPOUSAL ABUSE:   The Violence Against Women Act allows some spouses and children to self-petition in they are abused.  If you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme mental cruelty by your spouse, you must submit the following:

  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence
  • Copy of the Green Card  
  • Similar evidence as stated above that you entered in the marriage in good faith, and not to evade the immigration laws of the United States including expert testimony proving that you or your child were battered or subjected to extreme mental cruelty. Examples of such testimony includes, but is not limited to:
      • Copies of police and medical records detailing evidence of physical abuse
      • Evaluations by clinical social workers and psychologists showing evidence of mental cruelty
      • Copy of your divorce decree if your marriage was terminated because of physical abuse or mental cruelty.
    • Evidence that you were not at fault in failing to file the petition on time, if applicable.
    • Evidence that the termination of your conditional resident status and your removal from the country will cause you extreme hardship*, includes but is not limited to the following:
      • Evidence that your deportation would cause greater hardship than the hardships created when other aliens are removed from the United States .

*However you should note that in evaluating the claim that your removal from the United States will cause you extreme hardship, the Service will only consider factors which arose after the date you obtained your conditional permanent residence.

If your marriage was terminated other than by the death of your spouse, you must submit the following:

  • Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions on Residence
  • Copy of the Green Card
  • Similar evidence as stated above that you entered in the marriage in good faith, and not to evade the immigration laws of the United States including a copy of your divorce or annulment decree AND evidence that you were not at fault in failing to file the petition on time, if applicable.   Back to Top

WAIVER:  If you are unable to apply with your spouse to remove the conditions on your residence, you may request a waiver of the joint filing requirement by filing a Form I-751. You may request that the Service consider more than one basis for a waiver at the same time. If the waiver is approved the conditions on your conditional residence will be removed.

You may request a waiver of the joint petitioning requirements if:

  • Your deportation or removal would result in extreme hardship
  • You entered into your marriage in good faith, and not to evade immigration laws, but the marriage ended by annulment or divorce, and you were not at fault in failing to file a timely petition.
  • You entered into your marriage in good faith, and not to evade immigration laws, but during the marriage you were battered by, or subjected to extreme cruelty committed by your U.S. citizen of lawful permanent resident spouse, and you were not at fault in failing to file a joint petition.    Back to Top