“Green Card” Marriages

The foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen has a clear legal path to obtaining lawful permanent resident status. Lawful permanent residents (LPRs) are foreign-born individuals who are authorized to live in the United States for an indefinite time. However, LPRs are considered the lawful citizens of their home country and are not citizens of the United States. Thus, LPRs who seek to travel abroad do not have a U.S. passport and must, therefore, possess a Permanent Residence Card—also known as a “green card.”

Immigration for spouses of U.S. citizens involves fewer hoops to jump through than other immigration methods. As a result, some people decide to get married primarily for obtaining permanent residence within the United States. Such marriages are commonly known as “green card marriages.”

While the immigration process is relatively simple for spouses when compared to other immigration methods, the immigration process for foreign spouses of U.S. citizens is not necessarily a cakewalk. Foreign spouses of U.S. citizens must meet several requirements regarding the validity of their marriage to successfully immigrate to the U.S. and attain LPR status.

Immigrating spouses must provide clear and convincing evidence that their marriage and subsequent immigration to the U.S. was not entered into “for the purposes of evading the immigration laws.” Such marriages are invalid for immigration purposes and will result in the denial of an LPR petition.

Relevant evidence proving the validity of a marriage for immigration purposes include:

  • Documentation of jointly owned property
  • Records demonstrating merged financial assets
  • Birth certifications of children born to the immigrating spouse and the sponsoring spouse
  • Sworn statements from friends, family, and other parties regarding the authenticity of the marriage

Importantly, the requirements for a valid marriage under federal immigration law are distinct from state requirements for a valid marriage. State law governs legal matters of matrimony and domestic relations. Therefore, failing to demonstrate a valid marriage in accordance with U.S. immigration law does not necessarily invalidate the couple’s marriage under state law.

Conditional Residency

Although U.S. immigration law gives preferential visa status to spouses of U.S. citizens, they may be placed under “conditional residency” status if they married less than 24 months before being admitted into the country due to their marriage.

The conditional residency period lasts for two years, during which the couple must prove that their marriage was not entered into to evade U.S. immigration laws. The couple can only remove conditional status by jointly filing a petition with the U.S. Attorney during the final 90 days of the two-year conditional residency period.

If the couple divorces before the two-year conditional residency period elapses, the immigrating former spouse may nevertheless remove their conditional residency status if they can demonstrate that they entered into their previous marriage in good faith and that removal from the country would result in extreme hardship.

Spousal Support Affidavit

Significantly, the sponsoring citizen-spouse is required to sign an affidavit of support (Form I-864) which obligates them to provide financial support to their spouse at a minimum of 125% of the federal poverty level. Not only does this obligation persist after divorce, but it also supersedes the terms of a premarital agreement or divorce settlement.

International Adoptions

The children of U.S. citizens not only have preferential visa treatment for immigrating to America but also have a clear path toward citizenship. U.S. citizens who seek to adopt a child from a foreign nation must also go through a lengthy and involved process to bring them to the United States.

The immigration process for international adoptions is largely governed by the Hague Adoption Convention—an international treaty establishing uniform standards and procedures for international adoptions to prevent human trafficking. The Hague Process applies to adoptions involving children from countries who are part of the Hague Adoption Convention. Immigration procedures for children adopted from countries to which the Hague Adoption Convention does not apply are governed by the “orphan process” under U.S. immigration law.

Moshtael Family Law is Ready to Help

If you have questions about how immigration issues affect your marriage or adoption, consult an experienced attorney from Moshtael Family Law for quality legal advice. We take pride in helping families find effective legal solutions to protect their rights and facilitate their best interests.

To schedule a consultation, call us at (714) 909-2561 or contact us online today.

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