When you are married to a citizen or a permanent resident of the United States of America, you are eligible to apply for a marriage-based immigrant visa or green card. While you may be eligible to receive a green card based on this marriage, a green card will not be automatically granted when this union is validated.
How can I prove the validity of my marriage?
If a foreign national is seeking a green card due to their marriage to a citizen, the spouse that is a citizen must petition for an alien relative process and file the Form I-120. In addition to this information, evidence must be provided that proves the validity of the marriage in accordance with the law.
The marriage will be deemed valid by proving:
- The marriage is legally binding.
To be legally married, the government of the state or country you were married in must have an official record of the marriage and this must be provided to prove the legality of the union. Domestic partnerships are not recognized since there is not a legal component, but couples that live in states recognizing common law marriage can use this if they have met the legal requirements. The marriage does not have to have occurred in the United States to be considered valid.
- The marriage is not a sham.
Any marriage that a couple enters into with the purpose of obtaining a green card is not a valid marriage and is considered a sham. Validity can be determined by answering an extensive list of questions and showing documentation that proves you and your spouse are building a life together.
- The marriage occurred with a citizen.
The only people that have the right to obtain green cards for their spouses are citizens and other green card holders. Simply holding a work permit or a visa does not grant someone the right to petition for their spouse. Someone is a citizen by being born in the country, by becoming naturalized, or by acquiring citizenship through a family member.
- Neither spouse is married to another person.
The only way the United States recognizes an end to a marriage is through death, divorce, or annulment. If none of these happened with a former marriage, then you are not legally able to get married. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may see the dual marriage as an attempt to gain access to the United States via a sham marriage.
Being married to a United States citizens or permanent resident does enable you to apply for a green card based on their status, however, this is not an automatic status that will be granted to you. You must prove that your marriage is valid using the above means before United States Citizenship and Immigration will grant you permanent residency in the country.