One of the quickest ways to become a U.S. permanent resident (Green Card holder) is through marriage to a U.S. citizen. The process of obtaining a green card through marriage depends on whether the foreign national spouse is currently within the United States or in their home country. This article gives a high level explanation of how to file a green card petition for a foreign spouse within the United States.
If the foreign national spouse is within the United States, the U.S. citizen petitioner should file the following Forms with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Report
It is important that each Form be completed with particularity, attention to detail and exactness. Failure to do so can result in a rejection or even a denial. In addition to filing properly completed Forms, the petitioner must show by a preponderance of the evidence (>50%) that the marriage was entered into for love and not for purposes of obtaining immigration benefits. Some examples of evidence that can be submitted as proof of a valid marriage are:
- Joint property ownership
- Lease or rental agreement in the names of both spouses
- Bank statements in the names of both spouses
- Utility bills in the names of both spouses
- Birth certificates of child(ren) born to the couple
- Evidence of trips taken together
- Any other evidence that supports the validity of the marriage
USCIS will also review Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, to verify that the U.S. citizen spouse is able to financially support the foreign spouse. The requirement is that spouse can show income at or above 125% of the Poverty Line (100% if the Petitioner is active duty military). If the petitioner cannot show proof of ability to financially support their spouse, they can rely on assets or obtain a co-sponsor.
As part of the green card process the couple will be interviewed by a USCIS Officer. During this interview the Officer will make a final determination as to the validity of the marriage. The Officer will review the evidence submitted with the initial petition and ask a range of questions of the couple. Questions can be asked of the couple together or separately. Such questions can include:
- Which side of the bed do you sleep on?
- What is your spouse’s favorite music genre?
- Who does the laundry?
- Where did you meet your spouse?
- What are the names of your in-laws?
- Questions about employment
- Questions about intimacy
- Any other question relevant to determine the validity of the marriage
After satisfactory completion of the interview, a green card is issued. If the marriage is less than two (2) years old a conditional green card valid for two (2) years will be issued. If the marriage is over two (2) years old, a green card valid for ten (10) years will be issued. In cases where a conditional green card is issued, the card expires after two (2) years. During the last 90 days of conditional status it is necessary to file to remove the conditions of the green card through Form I-751. Failure to remove conditions will result in the foreign spouse falling out of legal status. In either case, the foreign spouse will become eligible to file for U.S. Citizenship through naturalization after three (3) years as a U.S. permanent resident.
The process of filing for U.S. permanent residence for a foreign spouse can be complex and overwhelming. It is best to engage the services of an experienced immigration lawyer licensed to practice law within the United States to avoid potential delays or denials. Contact us today for a free assessment of your case.