Those U.S. citizens or permanent residents who are married to an illegal immigrant might be looking for ways to assist them in getting a green card and settling into their new lives here. However, you might face some complications.
In any case, there is good news as well as bad news. Although you (the immigrant) may meet the basic requirements for lawful permanent residence in the United States, you might face several obstacles, including:
- You are unlikely to be able to use the U.S.-based adjustment of status application procedure if you entered the country illegally, which is important for the reasons listed below.
- It is unlikely that you will be able to adjust your status even if you enter the U.S. with a visa unless you marry a U.S. citizen (not a permanent resident). You will need to prove that you weren’t using the visa for a secret (fraudulent) reason to get married and apply for a green card.
- It is your only option if you cannot adjust your status to go through consular processing, which involves leaving the U.S. to attend your final visa interview in your own country, but if you stay in the U.S. longer than 180 days, the consular officer could bar you from returning for three or ten years.
Some couples find it difficult to apply for lawful permanent residency in the United States because of this risk. Here, we will discuss all those concerns in greater detail, including waivers and other options that may ultimately lead to your permanent residency application.
Eligibility for Lawful Permanent Residence Through Marriage
Marriage between U.S. citizens or permanent residents is one of the eligibility criteria for U.S. green cards under U.S. immigration law.
If the immigrant is married to a U.S. citizen, the immigrant is classified as an “immediate relative” and can achieve permanent residency without being placed on a waiting list. In addition, adjusting your status is easier.
If the immigrant is married to a lawful permanent resident, they will fall under preference category 2A, which means there are a limited number of visas available every year, and the immigrant will be placed on a waiting list. But the wait time is shorter than in some other categories (typically between two and five years).
It is likely you can, at any point, be asked to provide evidence of lack of criminal record or “certificate of good conduct”. Find out more about getting a police clearance letter in the U.S.