The most common form of obtaining lawful permanent residency is through marriage to a U.S. citizen or a Green Card Holder. The alien spouse can obtain the Immigrant Visa (“Green Card “) while in the United States or from an Embassy abroad. In addition, it is not necessary that the marriage be performed or registered in the United States. A marriage ceremony per the rules and regulations of the foreign country is also acceptable.
The elements necessary to qualify as a “spouse”:
- The marriage must have been valid at the time it was performed
- The marriage must still be in existence
- The marriage must not have been entered into for the sole purpose of obtaining permanent residence
Even spouses of deceased U.S. citizens may qualify and be eligible for a Green Card. In order to qualify the foreign national must meet the following requirements:
- Must have been the spouse of the deceased citizen for at least two years
- Must have not been legally separated at the time of the citizen’s death
- Must file an immigration visa petition within two years after the date of the death
- Must still be unmarried at the time of filing
To be granted a Green Card as the spouse of a U.S. citizen or Permanent Resident the marriage must be in good faith. If the marriage is entered into for the sole purpose of conferring an immigration benefit for the foreign national, the application will be denied. In addition, there are severe penalties for entering into a sham marriage.
When the marriage was entered into within two years of the Green Card approval, the spouse is granted conditional residency. The conditional resident may apply for a permanent Green Card within 90 days prior to the card’s expiration date. The procedures for obtaining a permanent Green Card may vary and the Attorneys at Law Group International are available for a free consultation.
The Violence Against Women Act (VAWA)
In 1994, Congress passed the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), creating special routes to immigration status for certain battered noncitizens. Men are also eligible to obtain a green card through VAWA. Among the basic requirements for eligibility, a battered noncitizen must be the spouse or child of an abusive U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Through a self-petitioning process, the battered spouse/child may apply for immigration status without the knowledge or involvement of the abuser. Derivative status is available to certain children and parents of the principal immigrant.
The requirements for approval of an abused spouse petition are:
- The intending self-petitioner must prove that s/he is a spouse, child (unmarried and under age 21) , or parent who was physically battered and/or subjected to “extreme cruelty” by a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, parent, or adult child. Such evidence of abuse may include:
a) physical abuse, violent acts or threats of violence, sexual abuse or exploitation, verbal abuse and degradation, emotional abuse, isolation, intimidation, economic abuse, coercion or threats to take away children or have one deported
It is not a requirement to have a police report. Many victims are fearful of calling the police and this does not preclude them for filing a VAWA self-petition.
- Abused spouses must additionally prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith, that the abuse occurred during the marriage, and that the marriage is still valid or was terminated less than two years prior to self-petitioning.
- The abuse must have occurred in the United States, and the victim must have lived with the abuser.
- The self-petitioner must provide evidence of his/her “good moral character.” This usually refers to a review of the self-petitioner’s criminal record or other immigration transgressions. Certain arrests or transgressions may be waived if the self-petitioner can show such actions were connected to the abuse s/he suffered
The Attorneys at Law Group International are experienced with obtaining Green Cards for abused spouses and are prepared to assist you. Please contact our office at 703-549-5445 to schedule a free consultation.
The Fiancé Petition
A U.S. citizen may also apply for his/her fiancé to arrive to the United States on a K-1 non-immigrant visa. As a requirement of the visa, the couple must marry within 90 days after admission and apply for a Green Card.
Fiancé petition Eligibility Requirements:
- You (the petitioner) are a U.S. citizen.
- You intend to marry within 90 days of your fiancé(e) entering the United States.
- You and your fiancé(e) are both free to marry. Any previous marriages must have been legally terminated by divorce, death, or annulment.
- You met each other in person, at least once, within 2 years of filing your petition. There are two exceptions to the meeting requirement:
a. If the requirement to meet would violate strict and long-established customs of your fiancé(e)’s foreign culture or social practice.
b. If you prove that the requirement to meet would result in extreme hardship to you.
After the Fiancé(e) Visa is Issued
Once issued, the fiancé(e) visa (or K-1 nonimmigrant visa) allows your fiancé(e) to enter the United States for 90 days so that your marriage ceremony can take place. Once you marry, your spouse may apply for conditional residence and remain in the United States while the USCIS processes the application.
A fiancé who does not marry the Petitioner after arrival to the United States will be barred from adjusting status through any other marriage. The fiancé will have to leave the United States and receive the Immigrant Visa from a U.S. consulate abroad.
The process of applying for a Green Card may be complicated and time consuming. The Attorneys at Law Group International are prepared to assist you with the entire immigration process. You may contact our offices 703-549-5445 to schedule a free consultation.