Marriage Green Cards For U.S. Permanent Residency
For U.S. citizens who marry a foreign national and want to live permanently together in the United States, a marriage green card will be necessary. A U.S. green card provides lawful permanent residency enabling the holder to live and work freely anywhere in the United States.
It is important to note that the U.S. does not allow for de-facto partnerships to be considered for spouse immigration benefits. For those who are not yet married but are intending to do so, a K-1 fiancé(e) visa may be an option for consideration.
Green Cards for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Living Abroad
Spouses of U.S. citizens are generally eligible to apply for lawful permanent residency commonly known as a Green Card as an immediate family immigrant. Generally, an immediate family immigrant case usually has four steps for an immigrant visa (IR-1/CR-1).
- An I-130 Petition for Alien Relative is filed generally with USCIS by the US citizen spouse.
- Upon approval of the I-130 Petition, the case is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for the initial processing of the immigration visa.
- An immigrant visa interview is held at a U.S. consulate abroad. This interview includes a final review of required documents, bona fides of the relationship and a public charge review.
- After an immigrant visa is approved, the family member enters the U.S. on the visa, becoming a lawful permanent resident upon entry.
Sometimes an immigrant visa for a spouse (IR-1/CR-1 visa) is discussed as a K-3 visa on the internet. A K-3 visa is a distinct separate visa for a spouse of a U.S. citizen.
The K-3 visa was created historically to shorten the physical separation between the foreign-citizen and U.S.-citizen spouses by having the option to obtain a nonimmigrant K-3 visa overseas and then enter the U.S. to await approval of the immigrant visa petition. This was done in conjunction with the above I-130 petition, then upon approval of the I-130 generally followed by an Adjustment of Status.
For most couples, the K-3 visa is no longer a viable option to make things proceed more quickly. In the recent past, USCIS and NVC processing of I-130 petitions have generally made the K-3 visa process obsolete. For example, in the fiscal year 2019, only five K-3 visas were issued. Whereas for spouses in the fiscal year 2019, 83,554 IR-1/CR-1 visas were issued.
For current U.S. citizen ex-pats living overseas, it is important to discuss if you may qualify for faster processing of an I-130 Petition with a U.S. consulate abroad under exceptional circumstances. Exceptional circumstances could include a short notice job transfer or job offer for the U.S .citizen, potential medical emergencies, or other humanitarian considerations.
Green Cards for Spouses of U.S. Citizens Living in the U.S.
If you live in the U.S. and have a U.S. citizen spouse you may be able to apply for a green card or lawful permanent residency through a filing of an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and I-485 Adjustment of Status.
A planned filing of an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and I-485 Adjustment of Status for a foreign spouse likely will take significant time to process, so advanced planning is important, especially for those with current employment in the U.S.
Generally, remember that an immediate family immigrant case usually has multiple steps for an adjustment of status (IR-1/CR-1) for foreign nationals currently present after lawful admission to the U.S.
- An I-130 petition for Alien Relative is filed generally with USCIS by the U.S. citizen spouse.
- An I-485, Adjustment of Status application is either filed with the I-130 petition or an I-130 was already filed for visa processing with evidence of that I-130 petition.
- Once initial processing on the I-485 and I-130 is completed then there is generally an interview at a local USCIS field office including a final review of required documents, public charge review, and bona fides of the relationship.
- After the I-130 and I-485 are approved the family member becomes a lawful permanent resident and a permanent resident card (green card) is mailed out.
Important Information for Marriage Green Card Applicants
It is important to remember that entering the U.S. by misrepresenting or hiding the purpose of travel to live permanently in the U.S. with a U.S. citizen relative as a visitor has potentially serious immigration consequences.
The use of the visa waiver program (ESTA) or a B1/B2 visa entry to stay and adjust your status could lead to a denial of your case. However, note that a spouse of a U.S. citizen may visit the United States to spend time with a U.S. citizen spouse or partner.
As of February 24 2020, there have been significant changes to the adjudication of public charge. Public charge is an important hurdle in these cases where the totality of circumstances is reviewed to determine if the foreign national relative is likely to become dependent on the government in the future. This is a reason an immigrant visa can be refused for a foreign national spouse and is now an even more important part of planning for the immigration of a foreign national spouse.
We’re here to help!
Our dedicated team of U.S. immigration lawyers are here to help sort through the anxiety and stress of figuring out how to get a green card for your foreign national spouse in the U.S. Whether they are living abroad or are currently living as an Australian non-immigrant student, worker, or investor in the U.S. we have the expertise and experience to ensure ease in the Green Card application process.
If you would like further information regarding your eligibility, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us.
About The Author
Melissa Vincenty is a US attorney, an Australian migration agent and the founder and managing director of Worldwide Migration Partners. Melissa has over 20 years of experience in migration law, including practising at the world’s largest US immigration firm and more than 15 years as a Country Specialist (China and Tibet) for Amnesty International USA.
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