Permanent resident options for alien spouse

If you (or your spouse) are a non-U.S. citizen and would like to immigrate to the United States by obtaining permanent residence (Green Card), there are several paths you can take depending on whether the alien spouse resides in the US or abroad. The procedure also depends on whether the marriage is more or less than two years old.

The first thing to consider to determine how to obtain permanent residence is depends on where the alien spouse is residing at the time the couple is ready to prepare and file the immigration paperwork. If the alien spouse is already in the United States, the U.S. citizen can file an immigration petition and the alien spouse can file an application to adjust status to permanent resident at the same time.

If the alien spouse resides abroad, the U.S. citizen needs to file an immigration petition on behalf of the alien spouse. During this process, the couple may be called in front of an immigration official for separate interviews to determine the validly of their marriage. Once the petition is approved, the National Visa Center sends documents to the U.S. citizen spouse to be completed and submitted within the U.S. The alien spouse may be required to have fingerprints taken and submit the passport for visa processing. The visa outlines the amount of time that the alien spouse has to enter the United States. When the alien spouse arrives in the US on the immigrant visa, he or she will be issued U.S. permanent residence (a Green Card).

An important consideration is the length of marriage at the time of applying for permanent residence. If the marriage occurred less than two years before the alien spouse is admitted as a U.S. permanent resident, a “conditional green card” is issued to the alien spouse. That means the permanent resident status may be subject to termination within two years after it is granted. Causes of termination include divorce or annulment during that period. Except for this condition, the alien spouse is a full permanent resident.  In order to remove the condition on the alien spouse’s permanent residency, both spouses need to petition (together) to remove the condition. They must file the petition within 90 days before the second anniversary of the alien spouse’s admission as a permanent resident. Failure to do so will result in the termination of the alien spouse’s conditional permanent residence.

While these steps seem straightforward, it would be prudent to engage an immigration attorney to handle any immigration matter. The attorney will know how to fill out the forms properly and what supporting evidence should be included based on the couple’s situation.