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Immigration Law

Assistance with Immigration Services Including Visas & Green Cards

Marriage through Green Card Holder

A Pathway to Lawful Permanent Residency

Marriage to a green card holder (lawful permanent resident) is another pathway through which a non-citizen can obtain a green card and eventually become a U.S. citizen. The process for a non-citizen spouse to obtain permanent residency through marriage to a green card holder involves several steps and typically takes longer than the process for those married to U.S. citizens. Here is a detailed explanation:

  1. Marriage to a Green Card Holder

The first step is to legally marry a green card holder. The marriage must be legally recognized in the country or state where it took place.

  1. Filing the Petition

The green card holder must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form establishes the relationship between the green card holder and the non-citizen spouse.

  1. Waiting for Visa Availability

Unlike the immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, spouses of green card holders are subject to annual numerical limits on visas. This means there is a waiting period for visa availability in the family-based second preference category (F2A). The waiting time varies and is determined by the visa bulletin published monthly by the U.S. Department of State.

  1. Priority Date

When USCIS receives the I-130 petition, a priority date is assigned. This date determines the spouse’s place in line for a visa. The non-citizen spouse can check the visa bulletin to see when their priority date becomes current, indicating that a visa is available.

  1. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

Once the priority date becomes current, the next steps depend on whether the non-citizen spouse is in the United States or abroad:

  • If in the U.S.: The non-citizen spouse can apply for Adjustment of Status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, if they are in the U.S. legally and have maintained lawful status.
  • If abroad: The non-citizen spouse will go through consular processing. Once the I-130 is approved and the priority date is current, the case is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC) and then to the U.S. embassy or consulate in the spouse’s home country for an immigrant visa interview.
  1. Proving the Marriage is Genuine

The couple must provide evidence that their marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration purposes. This can include:

  • Joint financial documents (bank accounts, insurance policies, leases)
  • Photos of the couple together
  • Affidavits from friends and family
  • Correspondence between the couple
  1. Interview

An interview is conducted to assess the validity of the marriage. For those adjusting status in the U.S., this interview takes place at a local USCIS office. For those abroad, it occurs at a U.S. consulate.

  1. Receiving the Green Card

If the application is approved, the non-citizen spouse receives a conditional green card if the marriage is less than two years old. This conditional status lasts for two years.

  1. Removing Conditions on Residence

To remove the conditions on residence, the couple must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within the 90-day period before the conditional green card expires. Evidence of the ongoing genuine marriage must be submitted.

  1. Citizenship

After five years as a green card holder, the non-citizen spouse can apply for U.S. citizenship, provided they meet other eligibility requirements such as continuous residence and good moral character. If they remain married to the U.S. citizen spouse, they may be eligible for citizenship after three years.

Key Points to Remember

  • Visa Waiting Period: There is a waiting period for visa availability for spouses of green card holders, which can take several years.
  • Genuine Relationship: USCIS focuses on the authenticity of the marriage to prevent immigration fraud.
  • Documentation: Comprehensive documentation is crucial throughout the process.
  • Deadlines: Adhering to filing deadlines and interview appointments is critical to avoid delays or denials.

Marriage to a green card holder offers a pathway to permanent residency and citizenship, though it involves navigating through waiting periods and proving the legitimacy of the marital relationship.

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