Did you know that it is possible to get a green card through marriage? These are our pathways for non-citizens to obtain permanent residency through marriage: using an existing marriage, getting married to a United States citizen (USC), being married to a U.S. permanent resident, or getting a K-1 visa, also known as the fiance visa. This article gives an overview of these four main ways to get legal. 

Before we begin, understand that none of these can guarantee approval of your green card application, as that will depend on how you meet the requirements set by USCIS. As your application can get complicated, and approval of applications take time, it is highly recommended that you work with a trusted immigration attorney who can honestly evaluate your case. 

#1 Existing Marriage outside of the U.S.

Did you get married to a U.S. citizen outside of the United States? It is not uncommon to hear about couples meeting outside of their home countries and getting married. The complication comes when citizens want to return with their spouses.

The good news is that already married couples get the ‘fastest lane’ for approval. You will need to prepare copies of your marriage certificate, a certification that the sponsor and beneficiary are eligible, and a document proving the legitimacy of the union. The application will vary for sponsors that are permanent residents versus citizen sponsors. You can also ask a green card lawyer to discuss which type of visa applies to you or your spouse. 

#2 Marriage to a U.S. Citizen 

marriage visaIf you are a U.S. citizen or a naturalized citizen, you can petition for your spouse to enter the country through the USCIS Form I-485, also called the “Application to Register Your Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”. Once the beneficiary gets approval, he or she may now work with an immigration attorney to become a green cardholder. 

The same thing applies to other immediate relatives such as unmarried children under 21 years of age and parents of the US citizen. Those applying for an immigration visa outside the U.S. need to visit the U.S. Consulate and accomplish the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130). Once this is done, the U.S. Citizen can already file Form I-485. If the visa is approved, this will be your entry ticket to the United States. 

If you already reside in the United States but under a different type of visa, what you need is an adjustment of status. This means you are applying to be a permanent resident and you don’t intend to leave the U.S. anytime soon. U.S. immigration lawyers can help you prepare the needed documents for change of status requests. They can also check if you are eligible for an immigrant visa. 

However, this doesn’t apply to unlawful entrants, who cannot apply for status adjustments. The danger in being undocumented is that when you leave the country, you will be inadmissible for re-entry for a certain number of years and the only way to avoid this issue is if you have a provisional waiver.

#3 Marriage to a Permanent U.S. Resident

Faking a marriage, also called marriage fraud, is considered a federal crime that is punishable by a prison term and hefty fines. If your future spouse is not a U.S. citizen, you can still obtain a green card if your partner is a legal permanent resident. 

Permanent residents can petition for their spouses to obtain permanent residency. However, compared to method number 2, this typically has a longer processing time. The sponsor will need to regularly check the State Department’s visa bulletin to check if their visa application number is already available. The issuance of visa numbers depends on the date of your application. This means that earlier applicants get higher priority. 

Dependents (unmarried children) of a permanent U.S. resident may also qualify for a green card as long as there is proof of familial relationship with the current green cardholder.

#4 The K-1 Fiancé Visa

If your foreign fiance or fiancee is outside of the United States, you can get a K-1 visa so that he or she can enter the country for the purpose of marriage. After the marriage, as soon as your partner becomes qualified for permanent residency, you will simply request for an adjustment of status. K-1 visas apply to couples regardless of their gender or sexual orientation.

If this is your preferred route, you will need to file Form I-129F (Petition for Alien Fiance/e) and get married within 90 days of your fiance or fiancee’s arrival in the U.S. You can only petition for this visa category if are a U.S. citizen who is free to legally marry and if you met your fiance or fiancee in person within the two years preceding the date of your filing (unless the physical meeting was barred due to customs, traditions, or extreme hardship). If there are children involved, only those under 21, who are not yet married, can be included in the petition.  

Contact our immigration attorneys at Diener Law today to check your immigration eligibility. Our North Carolina immigration lawyers can discuss your situation and help you find the best pathway to getting a green card for permanent residency. Let us help you with the citizenship and immigration processes. Contact our immigration law office today!