Getting a Green Card by Marrying a U.S. Citizen
Marrying a U.S. citizen is one of
the fastest routes to a green card (U.S. lawful permanent residence) for
foreign nationals who are in the United States. If you are eligible, you may be
able to get a green card through Adjustment of Status through Marriage (AOS).
When you marry a U.S. citizen,
your visa application is prioritized as that of an “immediate relative”.
Instead taking years to get a visa as it would for other categories of relatives your visa may be granted
as soon as you complete the forms, interview and fulfill the rest of the
application process. You should know:
- The marriage should be real, not a convenient marriage solely for the sake of obtaining a green card.
- If you have overstayed your visa, you are still eligible. Your marriage to a U.S. citizen will negate overstay issues.
- You may not have entered the United States with the intention of marrying a U.S. citizen and applying for Adjustment of Status through Marriage. Such action is considered visa fraud and can result in denial of a green card. This legal requirement is not immediately apparent to many people and is a good example of why it’s always a good idea to consult with an experienced U.S. immigration attorney when applying for Adjustment of Status. The
For example, in one case, in
trying to establish the validity of their U.S. marriage, a couple told the U.S.
Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) officer in their AOS interview
that they had participated in an informal wedding ceremony (not legally
registered) in the husband’s home country before he entered the U.S. on a
tourist visa. They were then married in the United States in a ceremony planned
before he arrived. The couple did not realize that the husband should have
entered under a fiancé or spouse visa rather than a tourist visa. In trying to
show their devotion to each other, they had undercut the husband’s application
for Adjustment of Status.
Application for Adjustment of Status through Marriage
There are a number of forms you
must file, but usually the spouse who is a U.S. citizen starts by filing
I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on behalf of their foreign-born
spouse. Once that is approved, you would then file a Form I-485,
Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. It’s
also possible to submit these forms at the same time but we highly recommend
that you seek the advice of an experienced immigration attorney as each case is
different from the other.
You will need to submit supporting
documents as well as proof that your marriage is bona fide, that is, that it’s
not a “green card marriage”. In addition to your required marriage certificate,
possible proof includes
- Photos of the two of you in various situations such as enjoying a holiday together, celebrating with friends and posing at home and at your wedding
- Letters you have written to each other
- Holiday cards you have sent to each other, jointly to other people or received jointly from other people
- Joint bank account statements
- Joint tax filings
- Joint utility bills
- Joint lease or a mortgage in both of your names
- Birth certificates of any children you have had together
- Signed affidavits from family and friends that speak to the genuineness of your marriage
In addition to all this, the U.S.
citizen spouse will need to file a Form I-864, Affidavit of Support for their
immigrant spouse. If your U.S. citizen spouse's income does not meet the
required guidelines, you may need to obtain a co-sponsor to proceed.
The immigrant spouse is required
to undergo an immigration medical exam conducted by a physician
designated by USCIS.
Application Support Center Biometrics Appointment
After you submit your Form I-485,
you will be receive a notice to go to a biometrics services appointment at a
local Application Support Center (ASC) to provide your fingerprints, photograph
and signature in order to verify your identity and so the government can a
conduct a background check.
The Adjustment of Status through Marriage Interview
After your AOS application is
processed and you have attended your biometrics appointment, both spouses must
attend an AOS interview with the USCIS. Bring along any documentation of the
authenticity of your marriage, such as your original marriage certificate,
(including any you may have already submitted) such as the photos, letters,
leases, etc. mentioned above. If the reviewing officer believes your marriage
is genuine, they may grant your AOS right on the spot. More commonly, this will
be done at some point in the next 30 days or so, and you will receive your Lawful
Permanent Resident Card (green card) in the mail. It is also possible that the
USCIS will send you a request for additional evidence.
You are permitted to have your
immigration attorney present with you at the Adjustment of Status interview.
Your Green Card
If you have been married more than
two years before your AOS is granted, you will be given a green card with no
conditions. You may apply for U.S. citizenship within three years if you are
still married. Otherwise, you must renew your green card every 10 years.
If you have been married less than
two years, you will be issued a conditional green card and required to prove
that your marriage is bona fide yet again in two years by filing Form I-751,
Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. This must be done at
least 90 days before your green card expires.
Call Ghazi Law Group for Help with
Adjustment of Status through Marriage
When you are applying to adjust your status through marriage, it is important that you follow all immigration laws carefully, fill out forms completely and provide evidence of the authenticity of your marriage that is convincing to the USCIS. While anyone can fill out a form, it is important to understand the legal consequences of checking or not checking a box on an application and understanding what information and documentation must be provided. Failure to disclose or misinformation provided to USCIS can result in a denial of your application. Your family and your future depend on it.
The experienced U.S. immigration attorneys in Sherman Oaks - Studio City area at Ghazi Law Group are happy to meet you for a consultation to discuss how to get a green card through marriage. Call us at (818) 839-6644 or email us firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a consult. Ghazi Law Group represents people across the country and the world who want to immigrate to the United States. We are located in Sherman Oaks, California, close to Encino, Woodland Hills, Studio City, and other areas of Los Angeles County.