Marriage-based immigration is one of the most common—and heavily scrutinized—ways of obtaining lawful permanent residence in the United States. It is far from simple, however, and many of our clients aren’t sure where to begin.
The following is a compilation of frequently asked questions about spouse and fiancé visas. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. if you need additional information or would like to get started on your case. We can provide highly personalized guidance that takes your unique circumstances into account.
1. Can I sponsor my spouse for a green card?
If you are a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident, you can sponsor your foreign-citizen spouse (i.e. petition for a green card on their behalf). The U.S. government provides an unlimited number of green cards each year for the spouses and other immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, but the immediate relatives of lawful permanent relatives will be placed on a waiting list.
2. What is a conditional green card?
USCIS will generally grant a conditional green card to a foreign citizen who has been married to a U.S. citizen for less than two years. At the end of these two years, the foreign citizen must apply to remove the conditions on their permanent residence, and USCIS will have a second opportunity to assess the validity of their marriage. If they still qualify, USCIS will issue a regular green card that simply must be renewed every ten years.
3. How does USCIS verify marriage?
USCIS rigorously assesses applications for evidence of marriage fraud. The interview also serves to test the validity of a couple’s marriage.
Evidence that may prove the validity of your marriage includes:
- Children, fertility treatments, adoption certificates, and other evidence of starting a family together
- Evidence of a romantic relationship (e.g. gifts, travel documents, personal affidavits from friends and family, photos, etc.)
- Financial commitments (e.g. joint bank accounts, joint ownership of real estate, naming each other as beneficiaries, etc.)
- Cohabitation (e.g. shared addresses, joint utility bills, etc.)
Generally, USCIS looks for evidence of behavior and decisions that a fraudulent marriage wouldn’t contain. The more evidence you can include that demonstrates your bona fide relationship, the more easily you can avoid issues.
4. What is the average spouse visa processing time?
Green cards for the spouses of U.S. citizens are unlimited, which means your spouse won’t need to be placed on a waiting list after the original petition approval. However, the entire process can still take anywhere from 1-3 years. You may need to wait longer if you are a lawful permanent resident rather than a U.S. citizen. Ultimately, the processing time will depend on a broad array of factors, and the best way to shorten your wait time is to enlist support from an attorney.
5. What if my spouse is already in the U.S.?
You will not need to obtain a visa for your spouse if they are already in the U.S. (lawfully). They will need to adjust their status to permanent residence, which they can do without leaving the country.
6. Can I sponsor my fiancé for a green card?
To help your fiancé obtain a green card, you must be a U.S. citizen—not a lawful permanent resident. If they are already in the U.S. lawfully, they can adjust their status to permanent residence. If they are abroad, you will need to file a petition for a K-1 nonimmigrant visa, which allows them to come to the U.S. and marry you within 90 days.
7. What happens if my fiancé gets a K-1 visa but we don’t get married?
If you don’t get married within 90 days of your fiancé’s entry into the U.S., the visa will expire, and your fiancé will need to leave the United States. Any accrual of unlawful presence can jeopardize their future eligibility for a visa or green card.
Seek Professional Guidance Today
If you are hoping to obtain a green card for your spouse or fiancé(e), our team at Sintsirmas & Mueller Co. L.P.A. would be happy to assist. We provide a wide range of immigration services, and we are proud to put our skills to work for families from all around the world. The immigration system can be exceedingly challenging to navigate, which is why you can greatly benefit from our one-on-one support.