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Marriage-Based Green Cards - The Dos & The Don'ts

Updated: Nov 16, 2018

Many people have heard that marriage to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident can open up many potential immigration benefits, but what exactly are those benefits and who is eligible for them? Keep reading below to find the answers to some frequently asked questions.

1. I entered the country legally with a tourist visa, but I have overstayed my visa. Now, I am going to marry a US citizen. What are my options?

While it is never advisable to overstay one’s authorized duration of stay in the country, those persons who marry US citizens are considered an “immediate relative” of the US citizen petitioner. This means that any unlawful presence following a legal entry and any unauthorized work will be forgiven and a waiver will not be required as a privilege afforded to US citizens. The same holds true for those persons who are a minor child (under age 21) of a US citizen and parents of US citizens, as both are also considered “immediate relatives.”

2. Now that I am married to a US citizen, what do I do next to begin my path towards becoming a lawful permanent resident?

If you have entered the US lawfully and you are now married to a US citizen, you may apply for your green card inside of the United States through a process known as “Adjustment of Status.” You also qualify to file both the Petition for Alien Relative (Form I-130) and the Application to Adjust Status (Form I-485) concurrently. This and other applications and supporting documents will need to be submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to ensure a smooth green card process. Sometime after USCIS receives your application packet, you will be scheduled for a green card interview. How soon you will receive your interview appointment depends on the state in which you reside.

3. What if I am the spouse, son, daughter, or parent of a green card holder?

For those persons who are relatives of lawful permanent residents, there are no visas immediately available. This means that one must consular process, or attend a consular interview, in their home country prior to becoming eligible to return to the United States as a green card holder. If this is the case, one must also be very cautious not to overstay his or her authorized duration of stay in the US. This is because a person who accumulates more than 6 months but less than 1 year of unlawful presence will be subject to the 3-year bar from reentry to the US, and those who overstay their visa for more than 1 year will be subject to the 10-year bar. Those people who accumulate sufficient unlawful presence will require a waiver, and which family members may submit a waiver on behalf of their immigrant relative is more limited than those family members who may submit family petitions for their immigrant relatives.

In order to ensure the smoothest path to permanent residency, consider speaking with a local immigration attorney today. Feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns at 614-599-9562 or at

Please keep in mind that all blog posts are intended to provide the reader with general information ONLY and are not meant to substitute a private consultation with legal counsel. By reading this blog post, you, the reader, acknowledge that no attorney-client relationship is created unless and until a formal contract is entered into with our office.

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