Probably the most asked about U.S. immigration status is permanent residency through marriage. Spouse of both U.S. citizens and permanent residence (green card holders) can apply for a green card through marriage. Due to a high level of people arranging fraudulent marriages the USCIS scrutinizes these application very closely to ensure that it is a genuine relationship.
A spouse of a US citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) has a relatively easy access to permanent residence (green card) as opposed to other forms of immigration benefits. Depending on whether you spouse is in United States or abroad and whether you are yourself a US citizen or a permanent resident (green card holder) the process varies so it is importation to speak to a knowledgeable attorney prior to filling any applications.
The process for getting a family based green card is as follows:
Petition for Alien Relative USCIS Form I-130 is the first step in the process of obtaining permanent residence (green card) through marriage. Form I-130 is used to establish the relationship between your spouse (wife or husband) and yourself (US citizen or green card holder). There are additional forms that are submitted to provide USCIS with your and your spouse's biographical information. Remember that is it up to you to prove that you are in a valid marriage. There is a myriad of documents and evidence that can and should be submitted with your application.
For spouses of US citizens there is no wait time between the approval of Petition for Alien Relative USCIS Form I-130 and so spouses of US citizen can submit their application for an adjustment of status (green card application)(Form I-485) at the same time as Form I-130. Please remember that there may be other details of your case that would prevent you from being able to file Form I-130 and Form I-485 concurrently.
Spouses of permanent residence (green card holders) usually have a wait time between the time that their Petition for Alien Relative is Approved and the time that they can obtain permanent residency (green card) this is due to the fact that number of applicants exceed the number of available visa for spouse of permanent residents (green card holders). A spouse of a permanent resident can obtain their green card in US but they would have to maintain lawful status the entire time they are in US. So if there is a two year waiting period for the visa to become available the spouse must be in a valid immigration status the entire 2 year period before they can apply for an adjustment of status (green card) in United States.
Consular processing is a process of arranging for your spouse to attend an interview for an immigrant visa at a US Consulate abroad usually their country of citizenship. Before an interview is schedule the person intending to immigrate to United States will have to electronically fill our and submit form DS-260 and pay all of processing fees. Then the person submits a long list of personal documents to the National Visa Center and once all of that is reviewed the case gets scheduled for an interview at an Embassy.
Couples that have been married for less than two years at the time that they have begun this process are granted what is called a "conditional green card". Conditional green card is typically issued for 2 years and will require that the couple take additional steps prior to the spouse receiving a 10 year green card. This process is called removal of conditions of residency. It requires that the couple show that their marriage was genuine and valid at the time that the conditional green card was granted. As always for those individuals who have divorced, separated or who became victims of abuse at the hands of their US citizen spouse have other options available to them for the removal of conditions of residence.
Please remember that there are additional considerations during this application process including Affidavit of Support requirement, admissibility requirements, medical documents and others. For more information you can schedule a consultation with our office here