A popular song confirms, “You love who you love.” This is a sentiment that many people can relate to. People meet under all kinds of circumstances, fall in love, and marry. The road to wedded bliss, however, can hit some bumps when one member of the couple is not a U.S. citizen and the other one is. If the foreign national is not already located in the U.S., the couple can either marry abroad or the individual can apply for a K visa with the assistance of an experienced DC immigration lawyer. If approved, a K visa will allow the foreign national entry to this country and the couple can marry here in the U.S.
Once the couple are married, then the foreign national may apply for lawful permanent resident (LPR), also referred to as a green card. But it is important to understand that green cards aren’t issued upon request. In fact, it usually takes two years before a permanent green card is issued and only if all required criteria are met. Working with an experienced DC green card lawyer from The Federal Practice Group can help to ensure that an applicant’s request for LPR status is successful, whenever possible. During the waiting period, the foreign spouse may only be granted a conditional green card.
The reason for this two-year waiting period originates with concerns the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) has when it comes to marriage fraud. There are couples who will come to some type of agreement to marry for the explicit purpose of only obtaining that permanent green card and not because they are actually planning a life together.
During this two-year period, the USCIS will investigate the foreign spouse’s background, as well as investigate the marriage. Conditions are only removed after the two years have passed and only if the couple applies to have them removed. Failure to apply will only result in the conditional green card expiring. Issuing a permanent green card is not automatic after the two years. Working with a DC green card lawyer will help to ensure that a green card application is complete and compelling. The application must contain include all the required documentation, as well as the required documentation from the spouse who is the U.S. citizen. If it is approved, a permanent green card is valid for 10 years.
If the marriage ends before those two years, there may be a way to get the joint filing requirement waived. If this request is denied, the foreign spouse may still be able to file for an immigrant visa if they suffered abuse by the U.S. citizen spouse. This type of application is covered by the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA).
Note that if the USCIS suspects the marriage is a sham and only took place to obtain a green card, those involved could face criminal charges with penalties that could include fines, jail sentences, and deportation for the foreign spouse. If the foreign spouse receives jail time as part of their sentence, then deportation would take place once that sentence has been completed.
The process of applying for a marriage-related green card is complex and happens in phases. Consider speaking with an experienced DC green card lawyer from The Federal Practice Group about this process if you plan to marry in the U.S. and you are not yet a lawful permanent resident.
Connect with us in our D.C., Oklahoma, or California offices by calling the office number below. We'll provide you with the guidance and representation you need.