Congratulations! A marriage is the start of an exciting journey for couples! Be sure to consider these aspects of the green card process if you plan to marry a U.S. citizen.
The start of the green card application process is determined by where a married couple resides. Does the couple already reside together in the United States? Or does one spouse reside in his or her home country?
- If the couple already lives in the United States, the entire green card process happens in the United States. The couple visits their local immigration office for an interview. If their paperwork is in order, the application is approved.
- If the foreign national spouse lives outside the United States while the U.S. citizen spouse lives in the United States, then the U.S. citizen begins the application process in the United States, and the foreign national spouse completes the process, including an interview, at the U.S. Consulate in his or her home country. If everything is in order, the immigrant visa is approved at the consulate, and the beneficiary may enter the United States and receive the green card after entering the United States.
The purpose of the interview, whether it is conducted in the United States with both spouses present or at a U.S. Consulate with only one spouse, is to ensure the couple has not married solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card.
To prove their marriage is not fraudulent, the couple must submit evidence showing they live together (if they are both in the United States) and are building a life together.
Concerns that arise during the background check or medical exam will also be discussed during the interview.
As part of the green card process, the U.S. citizen spouse must also show he or she can provide financially for their spouse. The goal of this requirement is to ensure the beneficiary does not enter the United States and then apply for and receive means-tested government aid. If the beneficiary does receive means-tested aid, the U.S. citizen spouse can be made to repay those benefits to the federal government—an obligation that survives divorce.
Proving Legality of Marriage and Prior Divorces
The U.S. government will only recognize marriages that were legal in the country where they took place. If the country or location where the couple was married does not recognize the marriage, then the United States will not either. This effects LGBTQ couples who had marriage or commitment ceremonies in countries where their union is not legally recognized by their governments.
This rule can also affect couples who had ceremonial or religious marriages that were not also processed by local courts. While couples consider themselves married following these types of ceremonies, the United States does not consider these legal marriages.
Proving the legality of marriage can delay the green card application process.
In addition to proving their current marriage is legal, if either spouse has been previously married, he or she must prove those unions were legally dissolved in divorce.
Married for only two years?
If a beneficiary’s green card is approved within two years of the couple getting married, the beneficiary receives “Conditional Permanent Residence.” When this happens the physical green card and status are valid for only two years. Near the end of that two-year period, the beneficiary needs to apply to “remove the conditions” and transition from conditional permanent residence to permanent residence. At that point, the couple must show evidence of an ongoing marriage.
Once permanent resident status is issued, a beneficiary’s green card is valid for ten years at a time. He or she will need to re-apply for a new physical card every ten years. However, the beneficiary’s permanent resident status is indefinite and does not expire.
Married for more than two years?
If a green card application is approved after a couple has been married for two years, then the beneficiary will receive a green card valid for ten years and permanent resident status. While the beneficiary’s permanent resident status is indefinite and will not expire, he or she will need to re-apply for a green card every ten year
Whether you are a company, an employee, or an individual seeking assistance with immigration law, we will make the process as pain free as possible for you while providing you with effective legal counsel. Feel free to contact us by phone, by email, or using our online form.