Most immigrants know that there is a legal process to obtain legal permanent residency in the U.S. based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or another legal permanent resident. This “green card” process is one of the most common methods for immigrating to the U.S. and can be done either abroad or within the U.S. This sounds fairly easy, but it really is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many more considerations and questions we receive from our clients and followers that we thought it should be the subject of this week’s article. Below are four common questions we receive about the immigration process relating to marriage.
The first question is how soon after marriage can a petition be filed. There is a lot of bad information out there that tries to answer this question. The most common misconception is that an immigrant must wait two years before filing their application. This is positively incorrect. There is no waiting period in place for a marriage-based green card request. There is, however, a two-year requirement in place for certain marriage green card processes. This requirement, however, applies not to the eligibility of the applicant to file or even receive a green card, but to certain applicants who are granted “conditional residency” by filing their petition within the first 2 years of their marriage. All that is required to remove this condition and to receive a full 10-year green card is for the couple to prove they are still legitimately married after the first 2 years of residency.
The second question we receive is whether the children of the new spouse can be sponsored for a green card from their new step-parent. This is a tricky question to answer since it depends on both the length of the relationships involved as well as the age of the children. First, the child must be under 21 years of age to be eligible for sponsorship immediately with their parent. If the child is not included in the initial process (maybe they decided to stay in their home country rather than relocate with their parent), the U.S. sponsor can file the paperwork later to sponsor the child, but will need to provide information about the relationship between the child and the step-parent.
If the child is over 21 or it is not possible to prove any true relationship with the U.S. sponsor, the child will need to wait for their parent to become a legal permanent resident first and then for that parent to sponsor their child directly. The advantage of this process is that there are no issues qualifying for the green card since the relationship between parent and child is easy to prove, usually with a birth certificate.
We are asked regularly if a fiancée can get married while on a tourist visa. This is also a very tricky situation since immigration has very clear rules eligibility for green cards and they are very harsh if people break those rules. Although there is no restriction to get married while on a tourist visa, there are very clear restrictions on coming to the U.S. on a tourist visa with the intention of getting married and filing for a green card. Many probably have heard of the 90-day rule for tourist visa holders. Basically, the law will assume you had fraudulent intentions if you enter the U.S. and file for a green card within the first 90 days of entry. If this is the case, immigration could not only deny your green card request, but could also cancel your exiting visa. If this happens, it will be very difficult to fix your immigration status in the future.
Another question we receive from time-to-time is whether a US citizen can sponsor a fiancée for residency if the sponsor has a criminal past. Like with most immigration cases, the answer depends on the facts of the case, specifically, what crime was committed. Typically, a conviction of domestic violence will make a person ineligible to sponsor someone for the residency process. Clearly this law is intended to prevent bad people from targeting and preying upon an unsuspecting individual overseas for abuse or exploitation.
If you have any questions about sponsoring a family member for immigration, please contact our office today to schedule an appointment at 616-805-3435.