Each year, over 160,000 citizens
of the United States marry foreign-born
persons and petition for them to obtain permanent residence
in the U.S.
Spouses of U.S. citizens are considered "immediate relatives"
immigration laws, and are exempt from all numerical quota limitations.
words, marriage to a U.S. citizen is the fast lane to a green
It is also possible to obtain a
temporary fiancee visa and get married once
your fiancee arrives in the U.S.
IF THE MARRIAGE OCCURS IN THE U.S.
Procedurally, the process works
like this. The U.S. citizen must submit a visa
petition (form I-130) to appropriate INS Service Center to prove
marriage is bona fide, that is, entered into for love rather
than simply for the
foreign-born spouse to obtain a green card. Attached to the
visa petition are
the following items: (1) Biographical forms (forms G-325A) for
husband and the wife with photos attached; (2) Proof of the
of the petitioner. This can take the form of a U.S. Passport,
a Certificate of
Naturalization or Citizenship or a certified copy of the citizen's
certificate; (3) A certified copy of the marriage certificate;
(4) Certified copies
of the documents that terminated any previous marriages of the
wife, including final divorce decrees, and certificates of annulment
Simultaneously, the foreign-born
spouse should submit an application for
adjustment of status (form I-485) which is an application for
a green card.
Items which may accompany the green card application include
photographs, an application for employment authorization, an
application for a
travel permit (known in INS jargon as "advanced parole")
and numerous other
And don't forget the INS filing
fees. Include a single check which includes the
filing fee for the visa petition ($110), the application for
adjustment of status
($220), the application for work authorization ($100), the application
travel permit ($95) and for fingerprints ($25).
The INS will accept the applications,
cash your check, and schedule an
interview somewhere between a few months (if you live in Cleveland)
months (if you live in Los Angeles). If the wait for the interview
days, chances are that the work card and the travel permit will
be issued in a
matter of weeks or months.
IF THE MARRIAGE OCCURS OUTSIDE
The process is roughly the same
except that the foreign-born spouse usually
must remain in his or her country until he or she obtains a
green card. The
U.S. State Department offers advice on its web page to citizens
foreign-born persons abroad. This advice may be accessed by
The process begins when the citizen
spouse submits a visa petition to either
the INS office which has jurisdiction over his residence or
directly to the U.S.
Embassy or Consulate in the country where the foreign-born spouse
The citizen spouse must attach the same items with the visa
petition which are
listed above including the $110 filing fee.
Once the visa petition is approved,
the foreign-born spouse will receive a
packet from the National Visa Center (NVC) located in Portsmouth,
Hampshire. The packet informs the foreign-born spouse of the
documents which must be presented at the immigrant visa interview
(e.g., passport, police clearances, results of medical examinations,
packet includes certain documents requesting biographic data
which must be
completed, signed and forwarded to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate
Usually, the foreign-born spouse
is interviewed and granted an immigrant visa
within three to six months. The State Department charges a fee
of $325 for an
Sometimes, in order to avoid a
lengthy separation, the spouses return to the
U.S. after the marriage and proceed to file the necessary applications
they are both in the U.S. Usually, INS takes a dim view of this
practice. It is
not uncommon for the INS to stop the foreign-born spouse at
the border and
exclude him or her from the U.S. as an intending immigrant.
However, if the
foreign-born spouse is able to enter the U.S., INS will not
deny his or her
application for a green card simply because he or she entered
the U.S. on a
temporary visa when their real intent was to remain permanently
in the U.S.
If the marriage is less than two
years old when the foreign-born spouse
becomes a permanent resident, the green card will expire after
period. Both spouses must submit a joint petition (form I-751)
to remove the
two-year condition within the 90-day period immediately preceding
the end of
the two year period.
If the marriage has terminated
by reason of divorce, death of the citizen
spouse or spousal abuse, the foreign-born spouse may apply for
a waiver of
the joint petition requirement.