Marriage-Based Green Cards

Marriage-based green cards can be straightforward, with few surprises, or they can be incredibly complex. The one general benefit of marriage-based green card processes is that you can typically see trouble coming and sidestep it or easily address it before the initial filing.

One may pursue a marriage-based green card if the intending immigrant is in the U.S. (depending on the method of entry) or if the immigrant still resides abroad. Not all immigrants are eligible to obtain a green card simply by marrying a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident, and careful review of the facts and immigrant’s entry and exit history, as well as criminal history, are critical to determining eligibility. This section is intended as a general overview of how immigrants obtain green cards through marriage, and is not a compendium on the nuanced legal issues that plague this area of the law.

I entered the U.S. with a visa. Can I adjust my status in the U.S. based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen?

Maybe. Many individuals who marry a U.S. citizen after being inspected and admitted or paroled into the United States (and who are otherwise eligible for permanent residence) may apply in the U.S. for a green card. This includes those who have fallen out of status, that is, those who entered lawfully but who have expired authorized periods of entry. On the other hand, certain visa entrants, like crewman or certain J visas, cannot adjust status based on marriage even if the immigrant marries a U.S. Citizen. For this reason, it’s critical to have an immigration attorney screen the facts of your case before filing.

I entered the U.S. without inspection. Can I adjust my status based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen?

Generally, those who enter the U.S. unlawfully cannot adjust their status to lawful permanent residence based on marriage. There are only a few exceptions.

I entered the U.S. unlawfully and am now married to a U.S. Citizen. What can I do to obtain permanent residence?

A U.S. citizen married to someone who entered the U.S. unlawfully may still pursue a green card for the foreign national spouse through the petition, provisional waiver and consular processing process. This process involves three discrete steps. First, the U.S. Citizen spouse files a petition to demonstrate the marriage’s validity. After that petition is approved, the couple submits evidence of hardship, most often to the U.S. Citizen spouse. During these first two steps, the foreign national spouse remains in the U.S. Only after the provisional waiver is approved does the foreign national spouse travel abroad to seek re-entry to the U.S. through consular processing.

One cautionary note: every couple seeking this option should have a seasoned immigration attorney review the immigrant spouse’s entry and exit history to be sure that no bars apply that prevent the spouse’s re-entry to the U.S.

Do I need an attorney to assist me with adjustment of status based on marriage?

Eligibility for adjustment of status based on marriage, however easy it may seem, involves a nuanced legal determination not only as to basic adjustment eligibility and admissibility but also to demonstrate the marriage’s validity. You hire a lawyer to assist you with a marriage-based green card for one of several reasons:

  • You want the benefit of an experienced immigration lawyer because you fear that you may create unnecessary delays in processing;
  • You don’t want to deal with the headache or time commitment involved with navigating an immigration process that’s second nature to a seasoned immigration attorney and her staff; or
  • You have a problem with your case that creates inadmissibility or a bar on your fiancé’s admission to the U.S.

Most clients find it helpful to have an attorney assist them with the process of preparing the USCIS petitions and compiling supporting proof of eligibility.

Working with Poarch Law on Adjustment of Status through Marriage

Poarch Law has extensive experience working on marriage-based cases, including fiancé visas, one-step marriage based adjustment, and provisional waivers. We will meet with you as a couple to determine eligibility prior to filing, manage all aspects of the filing process with USCIS, and prepare you for your final interview with USCIS. These cases are all handled on a reasonable, flat-fee basis, excluding expenses and filing fees. Poarch Law consults on these cases nationally. Contact us now to arrange a consultation online, over the phone, or in person.


Complication: Divorce and Immigration

Related Issue: Provisional Waivers

Next Step: Removal of Conditions on Permanent Residence