3 Different Ways to Permanent Residence Based on Marriage

Many of my clients are persons who are either engaged to be married, or are already married.  Usually, one of the persons is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States, and the other person is a citizen of another country and would like to obtain lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

For many persons, there are generally 3 different ways to move forward in the process of obtaining permanent resident status.

Fiance/Fiancee Visa:  For persons who are not yet married, one option is an application for a fiance/fiancee visa.  Please note that only U.S. citizens may file a fiance/fiancee visa petition.  The fiance will attend a visa interview at the U.S. Consulate in the home country or in a country where the fiance has permission to reside.  Upon approval, the fiance travels to the United States, and then must marry the U.S. citizen petitioner within 90 days of entering the United States.  If they do not marry, then the fiance must depart the United States.  As soon as they marry, then the fiance may apply for permanent resident (green card) status.

Immigrant Visa:  Another option is for the persons to legally marry, either in the United States or in any country in which the marriage may be legally performed.  After the legal marriage, the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse files a petition for his/her spouse.  The spouse will attend a visa nterview at the U.S. Consulate in the home country or in a country where the fiance has permission to reside.  Upon approval, the spouse travels to the United States and enters with the immigrant visa.  The date that the spouse enters the United States is the date that the person becomes a lawful permanent resident (green card status).

Adjustment of Status:  A third option, for certain persons who are present in the United States, is for a married couple to apply for adjustment of status in the United States.  “Adjustment of status” is a term that means that the applicant is applying to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States while the person is in the United States.  This procedure, if successful, means that the applicant does not need to attend an interview at a U.S. Consulate outside the United States.

Each of these three options has certain advantages and disadvantages.  Moreover, each of these options is only available to certain persons who meet the requirements and for whom the option is beneficial to them.

I have considerable experience with each of these 3 pathways to lawful permanent resident status.  I would be glad to communicate with you about these options.

USCIS to review visa petitions by same-sex spouses

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano has directed USCIS to “review immigration visa petitions filed on behalf of a same-sex spouse in the same manner as those filed on behalf of an opposite-sex spouse.”

In light of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) as unconstitutional, Napolitano ordered USCIS to implement the ruling “swiftly and smoothly.”

If you are a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident, and you were lawfully married to a person of the same sex in a jurisdiction that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, then you may file and I-130 Petition to begin the green-card process for your same-sex spouse.  USCIS will review your petition and will make a decision using the same procedures and rules that are used to review petitions filed for opposite-sex spouses.

If you and your same-sex spouse were lawfully married in a place that legally recognizes same-sex marriage, but you now live in a  state that does not recognize same-sex marriage, USCIS will still review your petition.  With very few exceptions, USCIS will look the law of the place where you married, and not to the law of the place where you are currently living, to determine whether your marriage is valid for purposes of immigration law.

Please note that, as with all marriage-based petitions, USCIS will review each petition to determine not only whether the marriage is legally valid, but also to determine the good-faith nature of the marriage.  USCIS looks to the circumstances of the marriage relationship, including, but not limited to, issues such as whether the couple live together, share financial burdens and benefits, and have a history of being in communication with one another over time.

If you are considering filing a marriage-based petition, it is a good idea to consult with an immigration attorney in order to have the best chance of success and to avoid problems with the petition.

Filing an immigration petition for a family member

For a person who wishes to become a permanent resident based on a relationship with a family member, the first step is the filing of a “Petition for Alien Relative.”

Under the “Resources” section of our website, we have some brief documents that outline various aspects of Immigration Law.

We have provided some basic information about the Petition process.  Please take a look.