We all used to “know” that marrying a US citizen made you eligible to become a US citizen yourself virtually on the way back down the aisle. However true that was or wasn’t in the past, it is certainly not true now.
To become a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) based on marriage, you must apply for a marriage-based green card. A marriage green card allows the spouse of a US citizen to live and work anywhere in the United States with permanent resident status unless and until they decide to seek US citizenship. The foreign spouse is eligible to apply for citizenship after three years of achieving LPR status.
Your spouse will need to sponsor you for immigration. They must demonstrate their ability to support you and submit an Affidavit or Support, a legal contract stating that they will support you if you cannot find work in the US.
Although there are no caps or imposed wait times for spousal green cards, it is still not an overnight process. Even with all the moving to the head of the line given to spouses, you will still wait months and perhaps even years for approval of your application. Working with an immigration lawyer can help speed this process along as the experienced professional will assist you in avoiding many common mistakes.
Basically, you will get married in the States or offshore. If you get married in the States, you will go through the Adjustment of Status process – which can take a very long time. If you marry overseas, so long as the civil marriage is recognized in the US, you then apply for a spouse’s green card. You will need to be careful of the 90-day rule and avoid applying for a green card within 90 days of entering the US. You will file for a green card, and your spouse will file your sponsorship simultaneously. This process of submitting forms goes through the USCIS and can take months.
When you marry outside the US, you file through consular processing. In this case, you have to file the forms, take a medical exam, and have an interview at an embassy or consulate. Though the process is slow, you will have your green card as soon as you come to the US.
There is also a K-1 fiancé’s visa which allows foreign finance to come to the country for a US wedding and then follow the adjustment of status process. It is often the slowest of all.
Wherever you marry, you need to be sure that there is nothing fraudulent about your marriage. You may not use marriage to jump through immigration. Instead, once you receive your marriage green card, you will have to renew it within two years to prove that the marriage remains valid.
No immigration attorney can, of course, guarantee the speed or success of your marriage-based immigration application. However, the complexities of immigration law and regulation mean that using an attorney significantly increases your likelihood of success. If you are considering marriage-based immigration, contact us to schedule an initial consultation and review your matter. Learn more about how we can assist you in handling your upcoming international marriage.
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