Marriage and Immigration
One of the goals of U.S. immigration laws is to unite families. Provisions in the law make sure that people who are married or engaged can be together in the United States. However, there are some misconceptions about marriage and immigration. Some people believe that marriage to a U.S. citizen results in automatic citizenship for the spouse.
Nothing is automatic in a marriage-based immigration case. Instead, the marriage triggers certain possibilities in the legal immigration process, and you must seek those results.
Houston Lawyer for Marriage-Related Visas
Kathryn Karam is a board-certified Houston immigration lawyer who can assist you with issues relating to ensuring you and your spouse can be together in the United States. You may seek for you or your spouse to become a lawful permanent resident, or you make seek a fiancée visa if you are engaged. Whatever the issue, Kathryn Karam is a skilled attorney who can work toward a solution for you.
Kathryn Karam represents people throughout the Houston area, including Cinco Ranch, Sugar Land, Pearland, Clear Lake, League City, Pasadena, Kingwood and Tomball.
Overview of Marriage and Immigration
- Green Cards and Citizenship for Spouses
- Conditions on Green Cards Through Marriage
- Same-Sex Marriage and Immigration
- Fiancée Visas
If a person who is not a citizen or a lawful permanent resident marries a citizen, he or she has the same legal status as before. However, that person then becomes eligible to immediately seek to become a lawful permanent resident. As a permanent resident, that person will have most of the rights and privileges of a U.S. citizen, and will be eligible for naturalization after five years.
There are an unlimited number of immigrant visas ("green cards") available to the spouses of U.S. citizens, meaning there is no wait time to apply for permanent residence. An attorney can assist a spouse in completing all necessary steps to either register as a permanent resident or adjust his or her status if he or she is in the Houston area pursuant to a lawful entry. If a spouse is seeking permanent residence from outside the United States, he/she may apply for and receive an immigrant visa, which will allow them to become a permanent resident upon entering the country.
If a person who is not a citizen or permanent resident marries a lawful permanent resident, then the permanent resident can sponsor the spouse for a green card. Spouses of lawful permanent residents must have entered the United States legally and maintain lawful nonimmigrant status through the date of filing their application for residence. There are a limited number of visas available for these people, however, and the wait may be months or even years, depending on what country the spouse is coming from and the current processing times for their particular category.
If, however, the permanent resident spouse becomes a citizen, then the spouse is eligible for one of the unlimited visas.
If a person receive lawful permanent resident status through a marriage that has existed for less than two years, the green card will be valid for only two years and will be called a Conditional Permanent Resident card. This is to avoid "sham marriages."
We often get the question, "How do I show my marriage is real in a marriage based immigration petition?" You may find the answers to many of your marriage based immigration questions in our recent blog post linked above.
A person with conditional resident status may seek to have the conditions removed three months prior to the expiration of the conditional resident card. If the couple is still married, they must file a Joint Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence and provide proof that they have resided together since the conditional resident card was granted. If the couple is now divorced or separated, a waiver of the joint petition to remove conditions on residence may be filed. The waiver requires that the applicant for permanent residence show that he or she entered the marriage in good faith, that abuse or domestic violence occurred in the marriage, or that he/she will experience hardship if the conditions on his/her residence are not removed.
Texas does not yet recognize same-sex marriage. However, the immigration system is federal, and federal law recognizes same-sex marriages performed in jurisdictions with marriage equality.
If a U.S. citizen or permanent resident marries a person of the same sex in a country or state that recognizes marriage equality, the citizen or permanent resident may petition for his/her spouse. The spouse is eligible to apply for permanent resident status based on the marriage-based petition.
Same-sex couples in the Houston area do not have to travel to states with marriage equality to have their marriages recognized for immigration purposes. If married in a state or country that celebrates same-sex marriages, they may apply for immigration benefits in Houston.
People who are engaged to be married to U.S. citizens are not yet eligible to be sponsored for a green card. However, they are eligible to receive a nonimmigrant K-1 visa that will allow them to remain in the United States, commonly called a "fiancée visa."
To be eligible for a fiancée visa, both parties must presently be eligible to be married. If one party is still legally married or is not of legal age in the United States, for instance, the visa would be denied. They must also show that they have met in person at least one time in the previous year before filing the K-1 petition. The K-1 visa will have to be processed through the US consulate in the area where the fiancée resides.
Attorney Assisting People in the Houston Area with Immigration and Marriage
If you are a spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, or a citizen or permanent resident who is seeking to sponsor a spouse, contact a skilled Houston immigration lawyer. Kathryn Karam can help you in any immigration matter seeking to unite married couples. Call (832) 582-0620 today to schedule a consultation.