If you are planning to obtain a green card through the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services, you may already know you have many hoops to jump through. The immigration process in the U.S. is extremely strict, and agents are always alert for those who try to enter the country fraudulently. This may be especially true when it comes to family-based green cards.
Seeking a green card through the sponsorship of a spouse who is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident is one of the most popular ways for foreign nationals to take advantage of the many benefits of permanent residency. This includes getting a job or starting your own business, owning property, and even qualifying for certain federal benefits. However, you must first prove to the government that your marriage is valid.
What makes a valid marriage?
If your spouse is a native citizen, naturalized citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may be eligible to seek permanent residency by obtaining your own green card. If your spouse holds a temporary visa, such as a work visa, you may have to find a different way to obtain a green card. However, with an eligible spouse, the next step is proving that your marriage is valid according to U.S. immigration laws, which include the following three factors:
- The government where you married recognizes your marriage as legal, including common law marriages. However, the U.S. does not consider marriages lawful if they are between family members.
- You and your spouse must be married only to each other. Even if multiple marriages are legal in your home country, the U.S. does not recognize marriages involving more than two partners.
- Your marriage must be genuine and not simply for the goal of obtaining a U.S. green card.
You can be certain that the USCIS will thoroughly investigate your marriage to confirm that it is bona fide, legal and exclusive. This will include examining extensive documentation you provide and interviewing you and your spouse to determine that your marriage is authentic. It can be a stressful time, and you may have many questions and concerns along the way.
Some couples in your situation find it is helpful to seek the guidance and advice of a skilled and knowledgeable attorney who has experience in family-based immigration. Since the smallest mistake can create unimaginable delays in the immigration process, you may benefit from having an advocate on your side.