Douglas M. Lightman, Esq. is the founder and principal attorney of Lightman Law Firm. Mr. Lightman has extensive experience in immigration law and international matters through both work and personal experience. On the personal end, Mr. Lightman is a proud citizen of both the United States and Canada. He is the son of green card holders, and is also the loving fiancé of a non-immigrant visa holder. Drawing upon his legal and personal experience, Mr. Lightman shares what a foreigner needs to know about obtaining a green card for marriage to a U.S. citizen:
One of the great perks of marrying a U.S. citizen is having the ability to apply for a green card based on marriage to your U.S. citizen husband or wife. As many are aware, applying for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen (aka “marriage green card”) is one of the quickest ways for a foreign individual obtain a green card (legal permanent residency).
Unlike many other immigration benefits, you can apply for a green card through marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse even if you have unlawful presence in the U.S. or you have overstayed a visa. However, there are limited circumstances where it’s not possible, for example, if you entered the country illegally, i.e. without being inspected by a customs officer, or entered as a crew member.
The marriage green card process entails numerous forms, legal issues, filings, receipts, supporting materials, government correspondence, and finally an interview. The process can be lengthy, not just in terms of applying and waiting for notices and an interview, but also in terms of preparing the forms and supporting materials.
Some supporting documents that may be necessary are passports, birth certificates, a medical exam, tax returns, job letter, pay stubs, marriage certificate, divorce decree, and criminal records, if any.
Some additional items to consider in connection with the process:
• Is my marriage a real marriage? Marriage fraud is a serious offense and is punishable by deportation, 10 years in jail, and/or up to a $250,000 fine.
• Unless you obtain advance parole or you have an H-1B or L-1 visa, you cannot travel outside of the U.S. while the green card application is pending without abandoning the application.
• The foreign spouse needs to have a medical exam conducted.
• An affidavit of support will have to be completed by the U.S. citizen spouse contracting him/her to support the foreign spouse for a certain period of time and under certain conditions. If the U.S. citizen spouse doesn’t meet the income requirements, a joint sponsor will be necessary.
• You and your spouse will have to go to an interview together to prove the validity of your marriage and that the foreign spouse qualifies for a green card.
• “Bona fides” proving the validity of your marriage will be very important for the interview (photos, joint bank account, joint lease or deed, joint credit card, info indicating that you reside at the same address, etc.)
• USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services) filing fees for the entire application total $1,365 to date.
Every green card through marriage application is different and therefore it is strongly advised to work with competent legal counsel experienced in immigration matters throughout all parts of the process. A green card is a highly sought after U.S. immigration benefit and something that should be pursued with great care.
If you have any additional questions regarding obtaining a marriage green card, I am happy to answer them in the comment section below.