The Guide to Getting a Green Card Through Marriage
If you marry a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible for a green card. A green card is proof that you are a lawful permanent resident of the U.S., and as such, you are eligible to live and work anywhere you wish within the country.
But how do you get a green card through marriage? This guide explains everything you need to know about getting a green card through marriage, including the types of documentation you need to provide to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, what happens at a green card interview, and how long your green card will be valid.
What is a Green Card Through Marriage?
A foreigner who marries a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is eligible to ask the United States government for a green card.
There is a specific process you must follow, but if USCIS approves your petition, you will become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. As a lawful permanent resident, you are entitled to live and work anywhere you wish, and you may later apply for U.S. citizenship.
How Can You Get a Green Card by Marrying a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident?
In order to get a green card by marrying a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident, your spouse must sponsor you. If you are already in the United States, you’ll need to adjust your status. If you’re outside of the U.S., you’ll need to apply for consular processing.
Many people choose to work with an attorney to apply for a green card; that’s because U.S. immigration law is often complicated, and it’s always subject to change. An attorney can fill out and file your paperwork for you, as well as ensure that the entire process runs smoothly.
Applying for a Marriage-Based Green Card: Documentation, the Interview and Issuance
In order to apply for a marriage based green card, you need to provide USCIS with several types of documentation that prove you are eligible.
You also need to go through a green card interview, wait for the government to issue your green card, and remove the conditions attached to it before it expires (more on that in the later section, “What is a Conditional Green Card?”).
What Documents Do You Need for a Marriage Green Card?
The documents you provide with your green card application will show the government that you are eligible to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States. At a minimum, you need:
- Your marriage certificate
- Your and your spouse’s birth certificate
- Financial documents
- Proof of your sponsor’s citizenship or lawful permanent resident status
- A police clearance certificate from your home country
- Proof that you have terminated any prior marriages
- Court and police records, if applicable
- Military records, if applicable
- Current or expired U.S. visas
- A medical examination document
You may also need additional documentation, and your attorney can walk you through what’s necessary to prove your eligibility and supplement your application.
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The Marriage Green Card Interview
When you apply for a green card based on your marriage to a citizen or permanent resident, you’ll have to participate in an interview. During this interview, you’ll sit down with a USCIS officer who will attempt to determine whether you are in a bona fide marriage. The officer may ask you several personal questions, such as what side of the bed you sleep on, how your chores are divided around the house, who chooses where you dine out, and other things that couples would commonly know.
If the USCIS officer suspects that you are not telling the truth, they may separate you from your spouse and conduct individual interviews. Then, the officer will compare your answers.
Your attorney will let you know that you shouldn’t lie during this interview. It is far better to admit that you don’t know the answer to a question than it is to make something up. If the USCIS official conducting your interview determines that you lied about something, your green card petition could be denied and you could be removed from the United States.
What is a Bona Fide Marriage?
The United States government wants to ensure that people don’t simply marry each other to gain US immigration benefits. For that reason, USCIS will require you to prove that you are engaged in a bona fide marriage. That means you’ll most likely need to provide proof that shows you and your spouse married each other for valid reasons – not simply for an immigration benefit – during your green card interview. Your attorney will most likely encourage you to come up with some of the following documentation:
- Mortgage or loan documents that show both of your names
- A lease agreement with both of your names on it
- Driver’s licenses or other identification cards that show the same address for both of you
- Bank statements that show you share money
- Health or life insurance statements
- Correspondence, such as letters or emails, from your friends and family that show you are a couple
- Children’s birth certificates or adoption certificates
- Utility bills showing both of your names
- Tax returns that you filed as a married couple
- Other documents that show you both share ownership in property, cars or investments
- Wedding photos, pictures of your vacations together, and other evidence that you share family dinners, holidays and special occasions
- Receipts for gifts you have purchased for each other
- Travel itineraries from trips you were both on
- Social media records, which may include screenshots of your social media pages where you share photos and statuses with one another
When Will You Get Your Green Card ThroughMarriage?
After USCIS makes a decision on your green card application, the agency will mail you a copy of your green card. It can take anywhere between 9 and 36 months for you to receive your green card.
What is a Conditional Green Card?
If you have been married to your spouse for fewer than two years, your green card will come with conditions attached. The condition is that you remain married to your U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse – the person who sponsored you for your green card in the first place.
Your conditional green card expires two years after it is issued, and within the 90 days preceding your green cards expiration, you must file a petition with USCIS to remove the conditions. It may take longer than 90 days for USCIS to remove the conditions from your green card. That’s okay, because USCIS will send you a notification that says the agency received your petition. You won’t be deported during this time.
After USCIS approves your petition to remove the conditions from your green card, you will receive a permanent green card. Your permanent green card is valid for 10 years, and with it, you are eligible to apply for United States citizenship if you would like to.
However, if you fail to apply to remove the conditions from your green card in time (or at all), your conditional green card will expire. After it expires, you can be deported from the United states.
Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Getting a Green Card Through Marriage?
Because U.S. immigration law can be very complicated, and because a simple paperwork error can cause significant delays in your case, many people choose to work with an immigration attorney to obtain a green card through marriage. If you have questions about getting a green card through marriage, or if you need help with the process, call our office or get in touch with us online today. We are always here to assist you.
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