One of the most common paths to obtaining Legal Permanent Residence, also known as a “Green Card”, is through marriage to a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident.
If you entered the United States legally with a passport and visa, even if you have overstayed your time of admission, you can still apply for a Green Card if you marry a U.S. citizen. The process of obtaining the “Marriage Green Card” is simple if you get appropriate legal counsel which is recommended in all immigration matters.
By contacting us, we can determine if you qualify for a “U.S. Marriage Green Card” and will then send you a package via email of what you need to prepare for filing and then for a successful interview, usually 6-8 months after filing, though periodic delays have been common. Lately we are seeing some interviews take over a year. There are also other temporary benefits you will receive before your case is approved, including an Employment Authorization Document, allowing you to apply for a Social Security Number (which you will need to get your Driver’s License) and Temporary Travel Permission. Both benefits are issued on one “combo card” that you will use to re-enter the U.S. after brief travels abroad. However, be very careful to get legal advice on whether you should travel while your application is pending, even if you have your “Advance Parole” (travel permit). Just because the government grants you permission to travel does not mean you are guaranteed re-entry.
There are situations where you can obtain your travel permit sooner than the normal processing times. If you have a medical emergency, a life or death situation with an immediate family member abroad or an urgent business need to travel abroad we might be able to obtain an “emergency advance parole” which is issued on a one-time basis for travel abroad before your combo card is received. Requirements and approval rates vary from Immigration District to District around the country with some officers being stricter than others.
What happens if you entered “illegally” – without a passport and visa- and now are married to a U.S. Citizen? You might still qualify for a green card but the process is much more complicated. One option would be to check if you qualify under the “245i” rule that allows you to apply if you can show that you were in the U.S. in December 2000 and filed an application for permanent residence prior to April 30, 2001, even if that application did not reach completion. You might qualify under this law if you were the minor child of a parent who was sponsored at the time, whether through a family petition or employment application, even if the application wasn’t ultimately approved or finalized. Our offices determine if you might qualify under this law and then, even if you entered the U.S. illegally, you may still be able to obtain your green card through your U.S. Citizen spouse.
One final option might be available to you if you entered illegally but don’t qualify under the 245i laws. If you can show that your U.S. Citizen spouse would suffer extreme hardship if you were not allowed to stay in the U.S., you could apply for a Provisional Waiver and, once approved, leave the U.S. to apply for your green card in the U.S. consulate or embassy in your country of origin. This is quite a complicated process and subject to many factors that must be considered but we will review all your possible outcomes when we meet to discuss your options.
While marriage to a Permanent Resident can also allow you to apply for a Green Card, the backlog will be much longer, and once you contact us, we can check on the current processing times. These processing times are posted on the Immigration and State Department websites and change monthly.
All these applications can also be done when the immigrating spouse is outside the U.S. In that case, the U.S. Citizen will start the process with an application to U.S.C.I.S. (U.S. Immigration Dept.) and once that application is approved, which could take 6-8 months if not more, the process will then work its way to through the National Visa Center, where more documents will be submitted, until finally the application is sent to the U.S. embassy where the immigrating spouse lives for an interview. While an attorney can always accompany you to an interview in the U.S., attorneys are still not allowed during interviews at U.S. consular posts abroad.
Contact us for more information and what you need to begin your path to Legal Residence in the U.S. today. We will typically email you a checklist of items you need to collect and information we need to complete your applications. Costs vary among these different applications and we will provide you will all the government and attorney fees so you can consider your choices.