A U.S. Citizen may sponsor his or her spouse for a Green Card. Any immigration benefits based on marriage will require a legal marriage. Common law marriage is not recognized as a “legal marriage” in the U.S. There are usually a few different filing options to obtain a marriage based Green Card, depending on where the applicant is located. Each of the filing processes has different timelines, fees and benefits associated.
If the foreign national spouse is inside the U.S., he or she may qualify for “Adjustment of Status.” This process requires the filing of specific documentation, application forms and evidence with USCIS. As part of the application process, both spouses will be required to attend an in-person interview at their local USCIS office. During the interview, the Officer will review the contents of the application, ask the couple questions about their relationship and review evidence/documentation of the marital relationship. The interview is a very important step in the case as the Officer will determine whether the couple has presented adequate evidence to prove the relationship and marriage is genuine. In most cases, the Officer will made a decision on the case at the end of the interview.
If the foreign national spouse is located outside of the U.S., the U.S. citizen spouse would first file an Immigrant Petition with USCIS. Upon its approval, the foreign national spouse would then process for an Immigrant Visa at the U.S. Consulate in their home country. After the foreign national spouse enters the U.S. using the Immigrant Visa, the Green Card is mailed to their U.S. address.
If you’re married for less than 2 years at the time of Green Card approval, you will receive a “Conditional Green Card” that is valid for 2 years. Prior to the expiration of the Conditional Green Card, you will need to file an I-751 Removal of Conditions application. In general, this requires you to submit evidence to prove to USCIS: 1) You’re still married to your U.S. citizen spouse, or 2) If you’re no longer married, that your marriage was valid at the time you applied for the Green Card.
If you’re married for longer than 2 years at the time of Green Card approval, you will receive a Green Card that is valid for 10 years. As long as you are maintaining your permanent residence and admissibility to the U.S., you may be eligible to renew your Green Card indefinitely. However, we always recommend clients to consider applying for U.S. citizenship through the Naturalization process.