Obtaining Permanent U.S. Residence Through Marriage
When a United States Citizen (USC) or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) marries a resident of another country, the foreign spouse can typically receive a Green Card, granting him or her permanent U.S. residence. In order for the foreign spouse to receive LPR status, the couple must follow the proper procedures, and the foreign spouse must meet certain qualifications. Obtaining a visa and LPR status through marriage has great advantages, one being the absence of statutory limitations (or caps) on the number of these visas that will be issued to immediate relatives each year. Immediate relatives are the spouses, parents and unmarried children under the age of 21 of U.S. citizens. A spouse of a LPR and any unmarried children under the age of 21 are subject to the annual visa cap and may qualify for a Green Card once a visa becomes available to them in the family-based second preference group.
Valid Marriages for Obtaining LPR Status
A couple may marry within the United States or abroad, so long as the marriage is legal and valid where it occurred, and is a type of marriage that U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will recognize. Ultimately, the couple will need to demonstrate theirs is a bona fide marriage; not one entered into for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits. The application process varies depending on whether the foreign spouse is already in the U.S. or needs a visa in order to travel here. In either scenario the USC or LPR must begin the process by filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS.
Generally approval of the I-130 requires the petitioning USC or LPR spouse to provide by a “preponderance of the evidence” indications of a valid marriage, including (but not limited to) proof that:
- The petitioner is a U.S. citizen or qualifying LPR;
- Any previous marriages of petitioner and beneficiary (foreign spouse) have been legally dissolved; AND
- Any and all evidence tending to demonstrate the marriage is bona fide and valid, including items such as: the marriage certificate, leases or bank accounts held jointly by the couple, affidavits of friends and family members attesting to the validity of the marriage, photos and evidence of a typical marital relationship, etc.