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5 Things You Should Know About a Marriage Based Green Card

The foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply for a marriage based green card as an immediate relative of the U.S. citizen spouse. The immigrant spouse can petition for legal residency on this basis whether he or she is currently in the United States or is abroad, although the process is different for those outside the country. Here are five things you need to know if you are considering applying for a green card as the husband or wife of a U.S. citizen, or are a U.S. citizen hoping to bring your spouse to the United States.

  1. Spouses, as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, have special immigration priority. That means unlimited visas are available for immigrants in this visa category, and the immigrant spouse will not have to wait for a visa number to become available. This is significant because some of the other visa categories have backlogs of more than ten years.

  2. In a marriage-based immigration case, the legitimacy of the marriage will be scrutinized. One core issue in a marriage-based immigration case is whether the marriage is “bona fide,” or, in other words, not fake. Documentation that the sponsor and immigrant spouse have a true husband and wife relationship often includes financial records, such as joint bank account statements and joint mortgages. However, the inquiry may involve more personal information, as well. Some examples include proof of the couple’s living arrangements and birth certificates for any children they may have together.

  3. Approval is not a sure thing, even in the case of a marriage based green card. Even after proving the legitimacy of the marriage, the case may still be denied if the spouse of a U.S. citizen is otherwise found inadmissible. For example, if the spouse seeking entry into the United States has been convicted of a disqualifying crime, his or her case can still be denied despite the citizenship and sponsorship of his or her spouse. Similarly, if the U.S. citizen has been convicted of certain types of crimes, he or she may not be able to sponsor a spouse for a green card.
  4. Divorce does not necessarily impact spousal immigration status. Early in the process, a divorce from the U.S. citizen may end the marriage-based immigration process. However, once the immigrant spouse holds a green card, divorce does not necessarily change his or her immigration status. It is important to note, though, that divorce may raise questions regarding the legitimacy of the marriage and trigger further investigation.
  5. The immigrant spouse of a U.S. citizen can apply for citizenship sooner than other permanent legal residents. Although most green card holders must wait a full five years to begin the naturalization process, the spouse of a U.S. citizen may apply for citizenship only three years after marrying the U.S. citizen, if certain other requirements are met.

Petitioning for legal residency on the basis of marriage to a U.S. citizen offers advantages. However, the process is still complex and requires carefully assembled petitions and supporting documentation.

If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen currently in the United States or a U.S. citizen hoping to bring your spouse to the United States, an experienced immigration lawyer can be your best resource. Contact us today to learn more about your rights and options.