A green card marriage is a marriage arrangement between a U.S. citizen and a non-citizen for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card for the non-citizen. The foreign national may be granted a “Conditional Permanent Resident” status, which may later be dropped and replaced with Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) status. LPR status allows them to legally and permanently work and live in the United States.

Marriages of this sort may occur in the U.S. or abroad. If the couple is currently in the U.S., the citizen can apply for an Adjustment of Status for their spouse, with the USCIS. Typically, the couple must submit proof of the marriage, in addition to proof showing it wasn’t entered into fraudulently or for the purpose of deceiving immigration officials. Lastly, the non-citizen must have a clean criminal record, and be in the U.S. with a valid visa.

How are Green Card Marriages Validated?

Immigration laws are strict to prevent marriage fraud, but so long as fraud isn’t an issue, the process is fairly streamlined. For people applying for a marriage-based visa, they must be able to validate the marriage, and may be required to provide some of the following items:

  • Shared bank account statements
  • Marriage certificate
  • Tax returns
  • Photos and video of the couple together
  • Travel documentation
  • Witness testimony on the couple’s marriage status
  • Any other information immigration services may request

Before a non-citizen is granted full permanent resident status, the marriage must be validated. Validation and issuance of LPR usually occurs two years after the individual entered the U.S. under their marriage-based visa. In the time leading up to two years, the person will be issued a conditional permanent resident status.

What if My Spouse is Only a Permanent Resident?

Permanent residents are able to petition persons for a green card marriage, but they may need to marry before becoming eligible for the visa. It’s important to note that waiting lists are common with this type of arrangement.

If the permanent resident entered the U.S. on a separate marriage visa, the new green card may be denied if the prior marriage occurred within the last 5 years, unless the marriage ended in death.

Are There Quotas for Green Cards Issued Through Marriage?

No, yearly quotas for green cards through marriage do not exist, but the timeline for green card approval varies for each case. Some cases may be processed in a matter of a few months, whereas others may take much longer.

What Types of Documents Must Be Submitted for Marriage Green Cards?

After obtaining a marriage certificate, the following USCIS documents need to be filed:

  • “Petition for Alien Relative” (Form I-130);
  • “Application to Register Permanent Residence” (Form I-485);
  • Biographical Information (Form G-325A);
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864);
  • Results of Medical Examinations (Form I-693); and
  • Filing fee and any other supporting documentation.

What Happens After the Immigration Documents are Filed?

After filing the aforementioned documents, the following steps must be completed before a non-citizen is grated Conditional Permanent Resident status:

  1. Fingerprinting/Biometrics
  2. Work authorization and travel permits will be issued by USCIS roughly 90 days post-filing
  3. A marriage interview usually takes place from 6 to 9 months after the initial filing
  4. Upon successful completion of the interview, the foreign national spouse will receive Conditional Permanent Resident status.
  5. Green cards are usually mailed 4-8 weeks after the successful interview

Conditional Permanent Resident status may be removed 2 years after it was granted, by filing Form I-751, Removal of Conditional Status. This must be submitted within 3 months prior to the 2 year date.

What is Green Card Marriage Fraud?

Green card marriage fraud occurs when a marriage is entered solely for the purpose of a non-citizen obtaining a green card. Marriage-based visas commonly have a shorter wait period than other types of visas, thus are frequently entered into fraudulently.

How is Green Card Marriage Fraud Proven?

Immigration authorities may use the following methods to detect green card marriage fraud:

  • Interviews: In-person interviews to determine how familiar the couple is with one another.
  • Evidence: Documentation that the couple has spent time together. For instance, photos, receipts, travel stubs, shared checking account, etc.
  • Witness Testimony: If witness testimony contradicts any claims of the couple, the marriage will be debunked.

If any evidence was falsified to deceive immigration personnel, legal consequences may follow. For instance, a written contract may exist for some marriages that are arranged by a third party that specializes in the arrangement of false marriages. Charges may be filed for everyone involved in defrauding the government.

Are There Any Legal Consequences for Violating Green Card Marriage Laws?

Green card marriage laws are extensive and strictly enforced. Legal ramifications can be severe, particularly if a violation involves a fraudulent marriage. Consequences may include:

  • Revocation of green card;
  • Denial of permanent resident status;
  • Deportation to person’s country of origin;
  • Temporary or permanent ban on re-entry into the United States; and/or
  • The citizen spouse may face criminal charges for willful violations, especially if they are harboring a criminal immigrant.

Consulting an immigration attorney is highly recommended in order to prevent any suspicion of green card marriage fraud.

Are There Any Other Legal Issues I Should Consider?

In addition to the issue of fraudulent marriages, is children. If the couple has children in another country, they may face additional immigration concerns, though not with the green card itself. If you have children or other relatives you wish to petition, contact an immigration lawyer.

Do I Need an Immigration Lawyer for Marriage-Based Green Cards?

Green card marriage laws are strict and require numerous legal documents and forms; any mistakes can result in permanent consequences. An immigration lawyer can assist you in preparation for the interview process, ensuring the fulfillment of all requirements, and they can also represent you during formal immigration court proceedings.