As believed by many, the most easiest way for a foreign national to become a permanent resident of the United States, is through marriage to a US citizen. In order to promote family unity, United States permits US citizens to sponsor their spouses and other immediate relatives for US Green Cards. If you are a foreign national and if you marry a US citizen, you will become eligible for a US Green Card and this applies to the individuals who marry inside America and abroad. However, to qualify, you need to establish that you and your US citizen or permanent resident spouse, are legally married and that your marriage is genuine. Similarly, you also need to prove that you and your spouse are not married to anyone else. Your marriage must not be a sham marriage and you must not have entered into marriage for immigration purposes. US citizens can get married to foreign nationals in the United States and abroad. But people who get married to US citizens would initially be granted two year Green Cards with conditions and when those cards are about to expire, conditional residents along with their US citizen spouses, must jointly file applications to get the conditions removed and they must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence, to get permanent resident cards valid for ten years.
Application Filing Process
If you are married to a US citizen, your US citizen spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, for you, to sponsor you. USCIS generally takes around 2 months to process immigrant petitions filed by US citizens on behalf of their immediate relatives. After the USCIS approves Form I-130 filed by your US citizen spouse, you may file a petition for an immigrant visa in your home country. After your petition is approved and after you get an immigrant visa, you can travel to the United States as a permanent resident. Immigrant visas will immediately be made available to the immediate relatives of US citizens and you will not be put on a waiting list. Hence, you will be issued a visa soon after your petition is approved. If you are in the United States when your US citizen spouse files Form I-130 for you, you may concurrently file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, for adjustment of status and become a permanent resident.
Getting Married Inside the United States
If you get married to a US citizen, while you are in America on a non-immigrant visa, you can adjust your status to permanent resident status by filing Form I-485, when your US citizen spouse files Form I-130 for you. In this case, you need not return to your home country to file an application for an immigrant visa and you need not go through Consular Processing. After your petition is approved, you will be issued a Green Card valid for two years, with conditions.
Forms that must be submitted along with Form I-130 and Form I-485
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
Form I-693, Medical Examination by certified civil surgeon
Along with these USCIS forms, you need to submit
copies of your birth certificate and that of your spouse
copies of your passport
copies of your spouse’s US citizenship certificate, naturalization certificate or US passport
Form G-325A (one for you and one for your US citizen spouse)
copies of your marriage certificate
copies of divorce certificates (if any)
Getting Married Abroad
If you get married to a US citizen in a foreign country, your US citizen spouse must first file Form I-130 for you. You cannot enter into America until you get an immigrant visa. But you can immediately apply for an immigrant visa after Form I-130 filed by your US citizen spouse is approved by the USCIS. After Form I-130 filed by your US citizen spouse is approved by the USCIS, the petition will be forwarded to the US Consulate or Embassy in your home country. You will have the to visit the particular embassy or consulate and file an application for an immigrant visa.
You need not wait for a long time to obtain a visa as the immediate relatives of US citizens will not be put on a waiting list and so you will be granted a visa soon after your petition is approved. You will have to pay the required fees and submit the above mentioned supporting documents along with your petition. After the approval of your petition for an immigrant visa, you will be notified by the National Visa Center and you will be required to appear for a medical examination and for fingerprinting. You will then be interviewed and issued an immigrant visa. With this visa, you can travel to America and get a Green Card. Remember that, you will only be issued a two year Green Card with conditions, if your marriage is not more than two year old.
Removal of Conditions
Remember that, a Green Card with conditions will be valid only for a two year period and you cannot renew a conditional Green Card. By the end of the two year period, you will have to submit a petition to remove conditions on your card and to remove conditions on your card, you will have to file Form I-751, along with your US citizen spouse. If you fail to file this form, prior to the expiration of your conditional status, you will lose your status in America and you will be removed from the country.
After you file this petition, you will be required to appear of an interview along with our spouse, in order to make sure that you are still living in marital union with your US citizen spouse. If the immigration officers determine that your marriage is genuine, they will approve your petition and grant you an unconditional Green Card valid for ten years. At the time of filing Form I-751, you will have to submit copies of your conditional Green Card and documentary evidence to establish that you did not get married for immigration purposes such as joint bank accounts, insurance documents, birth certificates of your children, joint utility bills or other relevant documents to prove your marriage is bonafide.