A citizen of United States marrying foreign-born persons and petitioning for them to obtain permanent residence in the U.S is very common. Per immigration laws, spouses of U.S. citizens are considered “immediate relatives” and therefore are exempt from all numerical quota limitations. Getting a green card through marriage to a US citizen is considered the fastest way to getting a green card.
Battered spouses and children of US citizens or lawful permanent residents get special benefits under US immigration laws. A US citizen can also get a temporary visa for a fiancée and get married once he/she arrives in the US.
Marriage in the US:
To get a green card through marriage, the US citizen has to submit a visa petition (Form I-130). The following have to be attached to the visa petition:
- Forms G-325 (Biographical forms) for both the husband and wife.
- Proof that the petitioner is a citizen (US Passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen’s birth certificate)
- Certified copy of the marriage certificate
- Certified copies of the documents if previous marriages were terminated including final divorce decrees, and certificates of annulment or death.
The foreign-born spouse has to submit an application for adjustment of status (Form I-485). On receiving and reviewing your application, the USCIS will schedule an interview within a few months.
Marriage outside the US:
Earlier, the foreign-born spouse had to remain in his/her country until he/she got a green card. However things changed post August 14, 2001 as temporary K-3 and K-4 visas became available and this permitted the spouse and children of US citizens to get temporary visas to come to the US and process the paperwork in the US.
The US citizen spouse has to submit a visa petition to either the USCIS office which has jurisdiction over his residence or directly to the US Embassy or Consulate in the country where the foreign-born spouse resides. Once the visa petition is approved, the foreign-born spouse will receive a package from the National Visa Center (NVC). The package will detail the foreign-born spouse of the documents that has to be presented at the immigrant visa interview abroad (passport, police clearances, medical examination results, etc.). The package will also have certain documents requesting biographic data that has to be completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad.
Normally, the foreign-born spouse will be interviewed and issued an immigrant visa within three to six months. The State Department charges a fee to issue an immigrant visa.
The conditional resident card is valid for two years. Both spouses must submit a joint petition (Form I-751) to remove the two-year condition within the 90-day period before the end of the two year period.
If the marriage was terminated due to divorce, death of the citizen spouse or spousal abuse, the foreign-born spouse may apply for a waiver of the joint petition requirement at any time before the end of the two-year period. Once approved, a permanent resident card with ten year validity will be issued.