Getting married can be an amazing time in someone’s life. Everything can feel like it’s brand new again, as you embark on the rest of your life as a couple, rather than an individual. But if you’re a foreign-born person, you may be wondering how this changes your ability to become a lawful permanent resident in the United States and what you should do.
Who is eligible?
Getting married can shortcut the process for obtaining lawful permanent resident status, but there’s still much that needs to be done. First, you must be eligible. You need to have entered the United States legally – adjusting your status likely won’t work if you have no status to begin with. Your new spouse must be a U.S. citizen and the marriage must be legally valid in the state in which you were married. Additionally, it cannot be a sham marriage, taking place only for the purpose of obtaining a green card.
One benefit of a marriage-based status adjustment is if you’ve overstayed your visa. Under most circumstances, this would present a problem – but when you get married, the marriage essentially cancels out the overstay issue, allowing you to proceed with the status adjustment.
The adjustment process
You’ll need to fill out and submit Form I-485, using your marriage certificate as proof that you’re eligible for the adjustment. If your spouse already submitted Form I-130, declaring you an alien relative, the marriage certificate has likely already been provided.
Once your application has been received and processed, you may be asked to do an interview. If so, the interview may be of both you and your spouse. You may be asked for more detail about your marriage or for additional documentation proving your marriage was legitimate and not for the purpose of obtaining a green card. Immigration law and the adjustment process can be daunting, so don’t hesitate to get the help of a qualified immigration professional to help you navigate it.