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Permanent Residence through Marriage to a US Citizen

In the case of marriage to a US citizen, when the alien spouse is in the United States, an application must be filed with the USCIS lock box facility specifically designated for this type of filing.  Usually, this is a one-step filing, meaning that one applies for petition approval, adjustment of status, and work authorization all at the same time. The CIS will issue an employment authorization document (EAD), usually within 90 days of applying.


The USCIS then arranges marriage interviews for the couple. This may take from three tp 8 months, depending on the CIS jurisdiction. The USCIS will examine documents and question the applicants to determine the bona fides of the marriage. Documents one should be prepared to produce include: wedding photographs, tax returns, joint bills, joint leases or deeds, joint bank accounts, insurance documents naming each spouse as beneficiaries. If the immigration officer suspects that the marriage was entered into solely for immigration purposes, USCIS may investigate at the candidate's home and place of work. If the marriage is less than 2 years old at the time of approval, then the green card will be issued as conditional, and it will expire in 2 years. The applicant and spouse must file papers to have the conditions removed within the 90 day period prior to the expiration of the green card.

Frequently asked family-based immigration questions:
  1. My relative/spouse entered the US illegally: When an alien enters without inspection (EWI), or with fraudulent documentation, they are ineligible to adjust under current immigration law.  

  2. My spouse/relative overstayed his/her authorized period of stay I-94 card: For spouses of US citizens and other immediate relative filings, one may still adjust status in the US even if you have overstayed your visa. However, for the other family preference categories, an alien cannot adjust status if he/she has overstayed their visa. In fact, if one overstays a visa by 180 days or more, one is barred from adjusting or reentering for 3 years. Furthermore, if one overstays for 365 days or more, one is barred from adjusting or reentering for 10 years.  

  3. Do I make enough money to sponsor my relative? All sponsors must submit form I-864, Affidavit of Support, which assures the government that you are financially capable of bringing an immigrant relative to the United States. Most sponsors must earn 125% of the poverty income level-please see form I-864P for the current guidelines (see the current poverty level guidelines).
    All sponsors must submit the following documentation with their I-864.

    • Proof of current employment or self employment

    • Your individual Federal income tax returns for the most recent 3 tax years, or an explanation if fewer than 3 are submitted. Your W-2s or 1099 forms may also be required, see the I-864 instructions for details. If you are using the income of persons in your household or dependents to qualify as a sponsor, you must also submit a separate Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member, for each person whose income you will use. If you are unable to show enough income on your own, one may use a joint sponsor for the Affidavit of Support

Each family-based immigration filing has its own  unique issues. Please contact ILG for a case-specific evaluation. 

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