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.
In today's climate even being married to a U.S. Citizen does not protect you from ICE detention. Can I get arrested if I file for a marriage based green card? The answer is yes. Knowing that everything you submit to immigration is significant, representation is more important than ever.
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 and her team of attorneys can work toward a solution for you.
From initial determination of your best strategy through to marriage-based green card interview, Kathryn and her team help couples to stay together.
Kathryn and her team can also review your case if you have received a denial of your marriage-based green card case.
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.
Can I Apply for a Marriage-Based Green Card in the US?
Whether you and your spouse can file your case in the United States and stay together throughout the entire process or you will have to leave the country at some point depends on the specifics of your situation. It’s very important to know what you qualify to do. There are people who don’t qualify to file for a marriage-based green card in the U.S. If you're asking yourself, can I apply for a marriage-based green card in the US, be very careful and seek help from a board certified attorney.
I Need to Bring my Spouse to the USA
If you are thinking, I need to bring my spouse to the USA, the process involves a few steps. Here they are in general terms:
- File a marriage-based petition for your spouse using Form I-130 and supporting documentation
- Case Processing at the National Visa Center
- Immigrant Visa interview at the local Embassy or Consulate
We recommend that you contact us and read our article to answer your questions here.
What is a Sham Marriage?
Sham marriages are a way some people avoid complying with immigration laws. They don’t always end up with the two people falling in love. And they don’t always have a happy ending, where everyone can just move on with their lives.
People seek out a sham marriage for an immigration benefit, not to have a life together. Two people can enter into a legal agreement such as a marriage, and get a marriage certificate or other document, but if they do this just to be able to apply for a green card, they’re breaking federal law. Applying for or getting an immigration benefit based on a sham marriage is illegal.
If the immigration services catches a couple in a sham marriage, there are severe penalties for both people in the marriage. Some of these penalties may include incarceration, denial of the immigration application, denial of all future petitions for the person, or even deportation. Please read our article, What is a Sham Marriage, to read more about examples of sham marriages and immigration officials and marriage fraud.
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.