Immigrating To The United States Through Marriage
At the Wilson Law Group in Minneapolis, we help reunite families. Our immigration law attorneys file petitions on behalf of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (green card holders) to help reunite them with their foreign national spouses.
Marriage To A U.S. Citizen
Marriage to a U.S. citizen can bring about important immigration options, including permanent residency through an application in the U.S. or outside the U.S. depending on your situation. There are numerous factors that come into play in determining someone’s eligibility for permanent residency and the appropriate application process. The Wilson Law Group has extensive experience with marriage-based petitions, and stands ready to evaluate your particular situation to determine the right strategy for you.
The Immigration and Nationality Act classifies spouses of U.S. citizens as “immediate relatives.” This means that spouses of U.S. citizens are not subject to the family preference system which can often mean lengthy waits of years and years.
The permanent residency process for marriage-based foreign nationals who were lawfully inspected and admitted into the U.S.:
If the foreign national entered the U.S. with inspection, or otherwise qualifies to adjust status in the United States, the foreign national may generally apply for permanent residency from within the United States. The couple submits what is commonly called a “one-step” application for adjustment of status, which is the simultaneous filing of the immigrant visa petition and permanent residency application with US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS will usually interview the couple at a local field office. The couple must establish that they have a legitimate marriage entered into in good faith and the foreign national is eligible for permanent residency. Same-sex couples are eligible as long as their marriage is legally valid and recognized by the state or country in which they were married.
There are various requirements to eligibility, including being admissible to the United States. An applicant who is inadmissible is ineligible to adjust status unless the ground(s) of inadmissibility is waived, if a waiver is available. This area of law can be extremely complicated. It is important to consult with an experienced immigration attorney. Our immigration attorneys at the Wilson Law Group can evaluate your particular situation and assess whether any grounds of inadmissibility may apply.
If USCIS grants the immigrant visa and residency applications, the foreign national spouse will be admitted as either a conditional resident or lawful permanent resident of the United States, depending on the length of marriage at the time of the approval.
The permanent residency process for foreign nationals who are not in the U.S. or otherwise eligible to adjust status in the U.S.:
In this situation, the immigrant visa petition and residency application are filed separately. The U.S. citizen spouse files the I-130 immigrant visa petition with USCIS. Once approved, the foreign national may proceed with the next steps of pursuing an immigrant visa abroad from the U.S. Consulate or Embassy. This process can be complex, and requires careful analysis by an immigration attorney to evaluate eligibility and whether any waivers of inadmissibility are necessary for the foreign national.
If the US Embassy ultimately grants the immigrant visa, similar to the adjustment of status process, the foreign national will be admitted to the United States as a conditional or lawful permanent resident (depending on the length of marriage at the time of approval).
Marriage To A Lawful Permanent Resident
Marriage to a lawful permanent resident means that you are subject to the family-sponsored preference system, which entails needing to ascertain whether an immigrant visa number is available to you before proceeding with an application for permanent residency in the United States. Each month, the U.S. Department of State publishes a Visa Bulletin on its website that indicates the availability of immigrant visa numbers for the particular category. The category for spouses of permanent residents is “F-2A.”
Visa numbers are only available for applicants whose priority date is earlier (before) the cut-off date listed in the particular F-2 category in the visa bulletin.
Fortunately, the family preference category for the F-2A category is not as backlogged as other categories (e.g. sons/daughters of US citizens) at the present time. However, the visa bulletin and immigration process for spouses of permanent residents can be complex. Further, there may be advantages to your permanent resident spouse obtaining U.S. citizenship through naturalization prior to submitting a visa petition on your behalf.
Conditional Residency Waivers
A foreign national who is married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years at the time his or her residency application is granted attains conditional residency (instead of permanent residency). Conditional residency status is valid for two years from the date of approval. Conditional residents must apply to remove the conditions on residence.
How Does A Couple Remove The Condition From A Spouse’s Status?
To remove the conditions on residency, the couple must jointly file a petition (Form I-751) to remove the conditional status within the 90-day period before the expiration of the conditional status. To support a petition to jointly remove conditional status, the couple must submit sufficient evidence that they continually resided together, remain lawfully married, and that the marriage is bona fide.
Are There Exceptions To The Joint Filing Requirements?
Yes, a foreign national may apply for a waiver in the following circumstances:
- The marriage was entered into in good faith, but your citizen spouse passed away.
- The marriage was entered into in good faith, but the marriage was terminated due to divorce or annulment.
- The marriage was entered into in good faith, but you have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by your US citizen spouse.
- The termination of your status and removal would result in extreme hardship.
The I-751 removal of conditions can be a complex process that requires the skilled navigation of an immigration attorney who is acutely familiar with the requirements and nuances. Our immigration lawyers have extensive experience with both I-751 joint and complicated waiver filings.
Schedule A Free Consultation With An Immigration Lawyer
Our immigration attorneys have extensive experience and knowledge of marriage-based immigration options. Our firm offers a free, initial consultation appointment to evaluate your particular situation and determine a strategy that best suits you and your loved one. To schedule your free appointment, contact our office by calling 612-430-8022 or send us an inquiry through our online form.