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Do you get a green card when you marry a U.S. Citizen?

Immigration is a very complex topic. It can be hard to know where to start, but don't worry! This website will answer the question "Do you get a green card if you marry a US Citizen?" We will also discuss the process of getting that green card so it's not as confusing and intimidating as it may seem.

Can I Get A Green Card By Marrying a US Citizen?

The answer to this question is yes. However, people often have the misconception that it happens automatically. The opposite is true. Once the couple marries they then have to begin a long and complicated process of forms, evidence, and an interview. As soon as a person gets married and files the proper evidence and paperwork, they become what is known as Prima Facie eligible for permanent residence (green card) along with all its benefits. This includes work authorization, access to social security programs, educational assistance, etc., but it does not include voting rights or eligibility to run for public office. Prima Facie is just an old Latin legal term meaning "at first sight".

This process starts by filing I-130 for a spouse, which is the petition for a family member. This will allow them to receive what is called "immediate relative" status before they even apply for their green card. In many cases, the I-130 petition and the actual application for residency are filed at the same time. " Immediate relatives" of US Citizens have preference over all other immigrant categories and can be sponsored without any limits on the numbers of residencies granted in that category.

An I-130 petition is a form that the US Citizen's spouse needs to file in order for them to be eligible for residency. The process of getting a green card is not automatic, and it may take a year or more before they are able to get their permanent residence (green) cards. They will need to attend an interview with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) where they will need to prove that their marriage is not a sham.

Once the application for residency is properly filed, there may be a temporary work permit available for them while their application is being processed. This way they can start working in the United States without having to wait any longer.

What is the process for getting a green card if I have already entered the US legally or have been paroled in and marry a citizen?

In most cases, if you entered with a visa or on a visa waiver program and were inspected and admitted by an immigration officer upon entering the U.S. you are usually able to complete your entire green card process here in the United States. This saves you the time, stress, and money of having to return to your home country in order to complete your residency case. The same is true if you were paroled into the United States by an Immigration officer. Parole means that you are allowed to enter the country for a specific period of time. The Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to exercise discretion to temporarily allow certain noncitizens to physically enter the United States if they are applying for admission but either inadmissible or do not have a legal basis for being admitted. The DHS can only parole someone if the person has an urgent humanitarian or significant public benefit reason to be in the US and a favorable exercise of discretion is warranted. Grants of parole are granted for a limited time and to accomplish a specific purpose.

The process for completing all the steps for your green card entirely in the U.S. are as follows:

The I-130 petition must have either been approved at an earlier date or must be filed concurrently with the rest of what is known as the Adjustment of Status package. The package usually includes:

The I-485, Application for Permanent Residence (green card) This package also includes any additional supporting documentation needed by USCIS in order to process the case. Exactly what is needed varies on a case by case basis but the most common items include:

Check, money order or credit card payment for the filing fee

Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status

Supporting documents for Form I-485

Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

Supporting documents for Form I-130

Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary

Supporting documents for Form I-130A

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Supporting documents for Form I-864

Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization

Supporting documents for Form I-765

Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record

What is the process for getting a green card if I am outside the U.S. or entered without proper papers?

If you are either outside of the United States or if you are ineligible to seek adjustment of status for some reason, that means that you would file only the I-130 and I-130A along with their supporting evidence. This evidence (for a case based upon marriage to a US citizen) usually includes:

Evidence of U.S. citizenship, lawful permanent residence, or U.S. national status:

A copy of your birth certificate, issued by a civil registrar, vital statistics office, or other civil authority showing you were born in the United States; 

A copy of your naturalization or citizenship certificate issued by USCIS or the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS); 

A copy of Form FS-240, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), issued by a U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulate; 

 A copy of your unexpired U.S. passport; 

An original statement from a U.S. consular officer verifying you are a U.S. citizen with a valid passport; or

Evidence of the marital relationship 

Spouse: A copy of your marriage certificate

Evidence you or your spouse terminated any prior marriages (if applicable)

Evidence of the bona fides of the marriage:

Documentation showing joint ownership of property;

A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence, meaning you both live at the same address together;

Documentation showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial resources;

Birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse together;

Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship. Each affidavit must contain the full name and address of the person making the affidavit; date and place of birth of the person making the affidavit; and complete information and details explaining how the person acquired their knowledge of your marriage; and

 Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union.

Proof of legal name change (if applicable); and 

Two passport-style photographs (if applicable).

Many people are interested in the process of getting a green card through marriage but don't know where to start. It's confusing and intimidating because it seems like a lot of paperwork, forms, and interviews that can take years.

It is crucial that you have an experienced immigration attorney to guide and protect you during this extremely confusing and stressful process.

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