An alien may become eligible for the Green Card (Legal Permanent Residency) through marriage to a U.S. Citizen. Prior to making an application, it is important to evaluate one's individual situation with a qualified attorney to make sure all legal requirements are met. The alien's past immigration history must be reviewed to make sure that she/he is eligible.
The following is a general overview of the process.
An "Immediate Relative" petition must be approved to qualify the alien on the basis of the marriage. This petition is filed by the U.S. Citizen relative (sponsor) with appropriate documents, such as the Marriage Certificate. If the alien already resides in the United States, and meets all other requirements, a concurrent application for "Adjustment of Status" may be filed. It is usually filed along with the Immediate Relative Petition at the local office of the Immigration and Naturalization Service. When filed in the United States, special benefits, such as employment authorization are available. In addition, special limitations apply. For example, if the alien needs the ability to travel abroad during the time the case is pending, she/he must apply for "Advance Parole", since departure from the U.S. without advance permission to return is considered abandonment of the case. In certain cases, travel abroad may be problematic, based upon the alien's past immigration history.
As such, consultation with counsel is essential. If the alien resides outside the U.S., the case may be processed through filing the appropriate forms and documents at the U.S. Consulate where the alien resides. Prior to approval of an immediate relative case, an interview will be held. The purpose of the interview is not only to make sure that all technical documentary requirements have been met, but also to determine that the marriage was entered into in good faith. The examiner may ask questions separately to the U.S. Citizen and the alien spouse relating to the validity of the marriage, and videotape the interview. Finally, if the marriage is less than two years old when the foreign national spouse is granted lawful permanent resident status, she/he will receive such status on a "conditional basis". In general, both spouses must then apply jointly to remove the conditions on the residence within 90 days before the second anniversary as a conditional resident.
This article contains only general information and does not substitute for legal advice in a particular case. For more information in your specific case you should consult an attorney practicing in the area of immigration law.
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*The author, Ellen von Geyso, J.D., LL.M., is Attorney-at-Law admitted in Germany and Florida. Article published in Florida World 4/2001 p. 36