The Basics of Marriage and Lawful Permanent Residence Status

US citizens can sponsor certain family members to become lawful permanent residents in America if the relative is:

  • A spouse
  • A child under 21 years of age
  • A parent of a US citizen

American citizens can also arrange for a foreign national who wants to marry the American citizen to obtain a fiancé visa. If the marriage takes place within 90 days of entry into the US, the new spouse is given permanent resident status and can apply for a US citizenship after three years from the date of marriage.

Marriage and lawful permanent residency requirements

In order to be obtain a “marriage green card,” so to speak, the following three requirements must be met:

  • The marriage relationship status must be established. This step is called a “Petition for Alien Relative,” and requires Form I-130. The petition request is made to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The American citizen or current US green card holder acts as the sponsor for the foreign spouse (or the person who wishes to become a spouse). The basic requirements include:
    • Proof that the sponsor is a US citizen or a permanent resident.
    • Proof that the couple is married. A marriage certificate is the basic proof. It should show the date and place of marriage.
    • Proof the prior marriages were ended – typically, through a divorce decree
    • Proof that the marriage isn’t based on fraud. Joint accounts and joint documents are usually supplied.
    • Payment of the filing fee.

In some cases, the USCIS may ask for more information. Decisions can take a year, give or take a few months.

  • The citizen or the spouse must apply for a green card. This step varies depending on whether the spouse is in America or not.
    • Spouse is in the US already. Form I-485 – the Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This step requires
      • Additional filing fees which run over $1,000
      • Proof of the nationality of the spouse seeking the green card – usually through a birth certificate and a passport photo
      • Proof of legal entry into the US – through a prior visa or a proper travel record
      • Passing a medical examination given by a physician approved by the USCIS
      • Proof that the sponsoring spouse can financially support the spouse who is applying for the green card.

It may be possible to combine the I-130 form and the I-485 form.

  • Spouse is not in the US. Here, the foreign spouse must file an application with the National Visa Center which reviews if an interview should be granted based on:
    • Payment of the filing fees
    • Completing Form DS-260 – the green card application.
    • Proof of the ability of the sponsor to provide financial support
    • Proof of nationality
    • A certificate showing clearance by the police
  • The spouse must attend a green card interview. The goal of the interview is to determine if the marriage is authentic and not a sham. The interviewer will normally ask questions about their relationship, their daily actions, future plans, and other matters.
    • If the spouse lives in the US, the interview takes place at a local USCIS office.
    • If the spouse lives outside of the US, the interview takes place at a US embassy or a consulate where the spouse lives.

Once these three requirements are met, the spouse still needs to wait for approval for the green card.

For spouses who have been married for less than two years, the USCIS may impose conditions that must be met in order to obtain the lawful permanent residence status. The authenticity of the marriage will then be examined again. For spouses married more than two years, the spouse filing is typically given a green card that is valid for 10 years – but must be renewed every 10 years – unless the spouse obtains US citizenship.

The US Government has different income standards that the sponsoring spouse must meet based on the size of the family and where they live.

At LaFevor & Slaughter, our immigration lawyers understanding how much Knoxville residents want their family members to be with them. We are dedicated to helping your spouse, prospective spouse, children, and parents be with you in accordance with the federal immigration laws. To learn what your options are and what the requirements for obtaining lawful permanent resident status are, call us at 865-637-6258 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation. We fight for families in who live in Knoxville and the surrounding locations.