Obtaining a green card through marriage is a popular means for becoming a lawful permanent resident of the United States. The spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative” by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, with the highest immigration priority. This means that a spouse will not have to wait for a green card that is only available in a limited number; spousal green cards are available all the time. If you are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you can apply for U.S. lawful permanent residence, otherwise known as a marriage-based immigrant visa or green card. JCS Immigration and Visa in Los Angeles helps immigrants navigate the U.S. immigration system. We handle all aspects of immigration, but our special focus is helping people stay in the U.S. immediately, and addressing urgent problems such as deportation, asylum, waivers and special visas. If you have any questions on becoming a U.S. citizen through a marriage based green card, call or email us for a free initial consultation.
For more information on whether your partner is legally your spouse, please visit our section on spouses.
I am in a same-sex marriage, can I obtain a Green Card through my U.S. citizen spouse?
U.S. immigration law now allows same sex couples to apply for marriage based green cards as well! For more information on same sex marriage based green cards, please read more here. Our gay Los Angeles immigration lawyer is ready to help you obtain your marriage based green card! Contact our immigration lawyers at (213) 738-8700.
How can I obtain a United States Green Card for my spouse?
For your spouse to immigrate to the United States, you must file a Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with the Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
To be eligible under U.S. immigration law, you and your spouse must show that you are:
in a bona fide marriage that is not solely for the purposes of obtaining a green card;
married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, and;
that neither you nor your spouse are married to anyone else.
For more information on the relationship requirements for a marriage based green card, please visit our section here.
Read our section on who is defined as a spouse under U.S. immigration law.
Additionally, anyone who immigrates to the United States through a petition filed by a family member must be able to prove that he or she has financial support from the family member in the U.S. The financial sponsor must file an affidavit of support. USCIS will not allow anyone to immigrate if they do not have financial means to live in the U.S. and will reject anyone who will become or is currently a “public charge.” For more information, please refer to our sections on the affidavit of support and public charge.
Immigration law can be complex and intimidating, especially if you or your loved one is living in fear of deportation. Whether you are hoping to adjust your status in the United States or fighting to legalize your residence, you need expert legal representation. Call or email our experienced Los Angeles immigration and green card attorneys today.
The Paths to a Marriage Based Green Card from USCIS
There are two paths to apply for a marriage based green card. Which path is right for you depends on your circumstances. The two methods are:
If you are outside of the United States, then you can apply through a consular process and have your interview at the U.S. consulate in your county.
If you are currently in the United States, then you can apply to adjust status from within the U.S. and you will have the interview in the U.S.
If you are in the United States at the time of applying, USCIS will review your application based on if you came into the U.S. with an inspection or entered the U.S. without an inspection. If you have fallen out of lawful status but you entered the U.S. legally, and had an inspection by an immigration official, you can generally obtain your green card from within the U.S.
If you are in the U.S. without lawful status, then you cannot change your status from within the U.S. You will have to return to your home country to proceed through a consular process unless you qualify for an exception to this general rule as the spouse of a U.S. citizen. For more information, please see our section on inadmissibility and illegal entrants for information on spouses who have entered without inspection.
For more information on the most common reasons that a heterosexual (straight) marriage based green card might be rejected, please read more here.
For information on the most common reasons that a same-sex (gay) marriage based green card application may be rejected, please visit our section here.
Immigration law is very complicated and errors or problems with your petition for a green card can ruin the chances for success now and in the future. For expert legal counsel regarding your marriage based green card, contact our immigration and green card attorneys.
How do I determine if my spouse or I are admissible to the U.S. for a green card application?
Admission means the lawful entry into the U.S. after inspection and authorization by an immigration officer. U.S. Immigration law generally deems a person as seeking admission when:
An individual present at the border or port of entry seeks permission to enter the U.S.;
An individual is physically present in the U.S. but entered without inspection;
An individual applies for an adjustment of status to become a lawful permanent resident, such as through a marriage green card;
In some instances, a lawfully admitted individual travels abroad after being convicted of a crime and then returns to the U.S.
If you are considering petitioning for your spouse to obtain a green card, let us help you so that you can avoid being separated from your loved one and can maintain your family unity. We know the separation is difficult for you. Our immigration attorneys have helped hundreds of people to secure the right family visas to allow them to unite with their spouses and family members. Call or email our experienced Los Angeles immigration and green card attorneys.
For more information on inadmissibility, please visit our section that discusses it in more detail.
Green Card Applications for Spouses in the United States who Entered the United States Legally
If you entered the United States legally, you probably came to this country with a valid non-immigrant visa, such as a student visa, tourist visa, or temporary work visa. You may have been allowed into the U.S. on a visa waiver or with a special pass at the border. You would have been inspected by an immigration official at your point of entry and allowed to pass. In such cases, you can file for an Adjustment of Status in the U.S. and your U.S. citizen spouse can file a Petition for Alien Relative to apply for your green card.
Even if you are now staying in the U.S. past the date of your authorized stay, and are “out of status” or here illegally, you are still eligible for a marriage based green card. If you have overstayed by six months or more since April 1, 1997 you may still apply but would need a waiver, as discussed below. If you leave the country, you would be barred from returning for three or ten years, depending on the length of your unauthorized stay.
Green Card Applications for Spouses in the United States who have Entered Without Inspection
All noncitizens entering the U.S. are required to present themselves to a USCIS immigration officer for inspection, and they must demonstrate the right to enter the country based on approval obtained prior to entry in the U.S. If you have entered without inspection (EWI) and without the proper documentation, there are a limited number of legal immigration options available to you. If you or your spouse EWI, you cannot file to change or adjust your status, as you do not have a legal immigration status. It is not possible to adjust status even if you marry a U.S. citizen or have U.S. citizen parents or children that will petition for them. However, there are a few exceptions that might allow an adjustment of status. The two most common are the LIFE Act and a waiver implemented in new immigration law as of 2012.
Immigration law is highly complex and full of technicalities. You need dedicated professionals on your side to help ensure your opportunity, family and hope are safeguarded. It is important to find an immigration lawyer who has both skill in immigration law and genuinely cares about their clients. At JCS Immigration and Visa Services, we are committed to helping you. To find out which options are best for your particular situation, please contact our experienced Los Angeles immigration attorneys.
What is a LIFE Act 245(i) exception? What qualifications are needed for my adjustment of status?
The first exception is for noncitizen spouses who are eligible under section 245(i) of the LIFE Act. This act allows many people who have either never had valid immigration status in the U.S. or who have fallen out of valid status to pay a penalty fee and apply for adjustment of status in the U.S. Without this type of waiver, many people who do not have valid status in the U.S. would be required to seek their immigrant visa in their home country. Due to the status violation, they would be barred from reentering the U.S. for at least three years, but in many cases, they may be banned for ten years.
Am I eligible for the 245(i) waiver?
For eligibility under this form of waiver, you must:
have been present in the U.S. before December 18, 2000, and
have either filed a family or employment based residency petition on or before April 30, 2001, or you must have been the derivative beneficiary of such a petition.
Even if your initial petition was not successful, but was filed on or before April 30, 2001, you may still be eligible for the 245(i) waiver. Under certain circumstances you may apply again for residency through another family petition. Immigration law is very complex and you should consult an attorney to make this determination. At JCS Immigration and Visa Services, we have focused exclusively on immigration law to provide the most comprehensive and up-to-date legal counsel available. For help in determining if you are eligible for this exception, please contact our experienced Los Angeles immigration attorneys.
What is an “Extreme Hardship” I-601 Waiver of the Three Year or Ten Year Bar? Does it apply to my green card application?
Following new immigration law, spouses, parents and minor children of U.S. citizens who entered the country without inspection may be eligible to apply for Green Cards without having to leave the country and face a prolonged separation from their family.
Am I eligible for an I-601 waiver?
For eligibility under this form of waiver, you must:
You must have a spouse or parent who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. It is not sufficient to have children who are U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents.
You must establish that the relative will suffer extreme hardship if you cannot immigrate.
For more information, please visit our section on proving extreme hardship.
I am a permanent resident, how do I bring my spouse and child to the U.S.?
A legal permanent resident of the United is a certain foreign national allowed to live in the United States indefinitely. Permanent residency also entitles a foreign national to work in the United States and to travel in and out of the United States without seeking additional visas or permissions. The status is “permanent” in the sense that the status does not expire and can only be taken away through a formal process, based on certain types of affirmative misconduct such as immigration fraud or serious criminal convictions.
A permanent resident can also petition for a foreign spouse to be granted permanent residency through a green card.
If you are a Green Card holder/permanent resident and would like more information on how to petition your spouse and/or children for Green Cards, please read more here.
If you have an interview scheduled for your marriage based green card, be sure to read our section on documents to bring to the marriage based green card interview and our section on question hints for the interview.
Please contact our Los Angeles immigration lawyer for a free consultation now (213) 738-8700!