Can I get my Green Card through Marriage?

One of the top questions that clients ask me in a consult is “What Happens if I Marry a U.S. Citizen…Can I get my Green Card?” Many immigrants have been in the United States for years and are in a long term or even a new relationship with a United States Citizen or a Legal Permanent Resident. The answer to the question as well as the length of time the process will take depends on various factors discussed below. However, the truth is that the process will likely not be as easy as television and movies or even the stories from friends and family make it out to be.

One of the most important factors in determining if and how a person may obtain a green card through marriage is their manner of entry. If a person is engaged or married to a United States Citizen and they entered the United States with a valid visa they may be able to adjust their status in the United States. There are certain exceptions to this such as those that entered with a C-1 visa or certain types of J-1 visa entrants. TPS and DACA beneficiaries that have traveled with advance parole and others that have been paroled into the United States might be eligible to adjust status in the United States if married to a United States Citizen. Those with a spouse or child who is serving or has previously served in the Armed Forces as well.

If the spouse or fiancé is a Legal Permanent Resident then the person may have accumulated unlawful presence and likely will not be able to adjust status in the United States. This does not necessarily mean they will not be able to obtain a green card. They will likely have to go through the same process as someone that entered without inspection outlined below. It is also important to note that the process for spouses of Legal Permanent Residents will likely take significantly longer than for those of United States Citizens.

Even if the person entered the United States without inspection they may still be able to obtain a green card. However, they will need to file what is known as a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver once the family petition is approved. This will waive the unlawful presence they have accumulated in the United States and allow them to obtain an immigrant visa. These persons will need to travel to their home country and be interviewed at the consulate before obtaining their immigrant visa. This will not occur until after their waiver is approved. However, the inception of the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver has allowed for the beneficiary to await the majority of the process in the United States and spend significantly less time away from their family.

The above examples pertain to situations where the intending immigrant is residing in the United States. If the couple has married abroad and the intending immigrant is residing abroad the United States Citizen or Legal Permanent Resident spouse may petition for them. The intending immigrant will be interviewed at the consulate and if their case is approved be allowed to enter with an immigrant visa. If the couple has not yet married a United States Citizen fiancé may also petition for the intending immigrant to enter with a fiancé visa. The couple must then marry within ninety (90) days of the intending immigrant entering the United States.

The processes discussed above may seem fairly straight forward. However, there is often more than meets the eye in these cases. Various issues may come up that the person applying may not even realize. The possible  issues that may arise too extensive to be covered in today’s Blog Post. However, one example is that a person who entered the United States without inspection multiple times may be subject to what is known as the permanent bar. This person must remain outside of the United States for ten (10) years or more and there is no waiver for this bar. This will likely be an issue if a person applies for the Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver and leaves the United States without knowing they are subject to the permanent bar.

As I have previously stressed it is vital to be informed before embarking on any immigration process. If you or a loved one is considering submitting an application though their spouse it is important to consult with an experienced Immigration Attorney and have them guide you through the process. The world of immigration law is becoming more complex each day. However, the right immigration practitioner can help ensure the process goes as smoothly as possible.

Dominguez Law Firm, PLLC is always here to help answer any of your Immigration Questions!


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