Spouse in the U.S.

Marriage to the U.S. citizen is the most common and fastest way of getting a green card for a foreign national. If a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen the foreign national becomes an immediate relative of the U.S. spouse. The biggest advantage of being classified as an immediate relative for immigration purposes is they can immigrate to the United States without being subject to any numerical restrictions, unlike other close family members of the U.S. citizen. Immigrant visas are always available for immediate relatives of the U.S. citizen and they can apply for the permanent resident status without having to deal with any waiting time.

Immigration Spouse In The U.S. Law

Bona Fide Marriage

In order to obtain a green card based on marriage, you will have to prove that the marriage is bona fide. Bona fide marriage means a marriage in which the two people intend, from the start, to establish a life together as husband and wife.

The main concern of the USCIS is to ensure that husband and wife have not entered into marriage to evade immigration laws. USCIS is well aware that some U.S. citizens accept money to marry foreign national. That’s why the officer has the authority to question the couple as to the validity of the marriage, bringing up any apparent discrepancies in the paperwork, and requesting more evidence of existence of marital relationship.

Copies of the following types of documents can be useful in proving that the marriage is real. This list is not exhaustive, and couples do not need to have every one of these items. Nevertheless, couples should gather as many documents as they can to show the existence of marital relationship.

  1. Photos of you taken before and during marriage, wedding photos;
  2. Joint bank accounts, joint credit card statements;
  3. Joint tax returns filed together as married couple;
  4. Copies of letters and emails between you;
  5. Phone bills;
  6. Lease agreement or mortgage showing that you have lived together;
  7. Previous hotel and flight tickets showing the trips that you took together;
  8. Utility bills in both your names;
  9. Car, health, or life insurance that has both of your names on the policy;
  10. Documents showing your joint property (warranty deed, car title).


  • Concurrent Filing Petition for Alien Relative and Petition for Adjustment of Status.

    • Petition for Alien Relative. The purpose of this form is to establish the legitimacy of the family relationship. Therefore, it is imperative to submit evidence of the bona fides of the relationship. The mere existence of a marriage certificate will not be enough to establish a bona fide marital relationship. You will be required to submit comprehensive package emphasizing the legitimacy of your family relationship that includes signed affidavits from friends, love letters, joint bank account, joint lease or mortgage and so on.

    • Petition for Adjustment of Status. The purpose of this from is to determine your spouse’s eligibility to adjust status in the U.S. USCIS will look at the following factors to determine your admissibility to the U.S. or eligibility to adjust status within the U.S.:

      • Legal entry. Legal entry occurs when you were inspected by an officer of the U.S. border patrol or port of entry such as an airport, seaport, or bus station. In case you entered the U.S. legally but overstayed your visa or lost immigration status while in the U.S., you still will be able to adjust status as long as you provide a proof of legal entry. If your spouse entered the U.S. illegally without inspection, your spouse will have to go through Consular Processing outside the U.S. to adjust status and become permanent resident.

      • Criminal history. If your spouse was convicted with crime of moral turpitude in the U.S. or any other foreign country, he/she will be inadmissible to enter the U.S.

      • Risk of becoming public charge. U.S. citizen spouse has to demonstrate that he/she will be able to provide sufficient financial support to avoid having foreign national spouse become a public charge. The amount of income that U.S. citizen has to show to satisfy income requirement depends on the U.S. citizen’s household size and federal poverty line.

      • Medical grounds. Foreign national spouse must file with the USCIS results of the medical examination completed by USCIS approved civil surgeon. If spouse was diagnosed with certain communicable illness of public health significance (active form of tuberculosis, syphilis, gonorrhea, leprosy) or found to be drug abusers or addicts, he/she may be barred from admitting to the United States.

    • Application for Employment Authorization. While your Petition for Adjustment of Status is pending, you can apply for working permit. Upon approval, you will be granted an Employment Authorization Card (EAD) allowing you to work without any restrictions in the U.S. In most cases, EAD is issued within 60-90 days after filing.

    • Application for Travel Document (Advance Parole). While your Petition for Adjustment of Status is pending, you can apply for travel document. Upon approval, you will be granted an Advance Parole Document which is valid for multiple entries returning to the U.S. In most cases, the Advance Parole Document is issued within 60-90 days after filing.
  • Receipt Notices.

    Approximately 2-3 weeks after all the paperwork was filed, your spouse will receive Receipt Notices for each filed application, assigning your spouse Alien Registration Number. You should keep these notices as they contain case number that will help you check your case status online and follow up with USCIS.

  • Taking Fingerprints.

    Approximately 2-3 weeks after Receipt Notices were sent out, USCIS will send you Biometrics Appointment Notice requiring from you to show up at the closest Application Support Center to take fingerprints to conduct necessary security background checks by FBI. It usually takes 3-4 weeks for FBI to process your fingerprints and send the report back to the USCIS.

  • Request for Evidence

    If USCIS determines that some documents are missing or further information is needed in order to make a decision on your application, they will issue a Request for Evidence on a blue paper. The Request of Evidence will specifically indicate the documents and/or information needed and due date (usually 30 to 60 days), under which they have to be submitted. Failing to respond to the Request of Evidence within indicated timeframe may result in the denial of the application.

  • Interview.

    Once the FBI check is cleared, USCIS will schedule you for an interview. USCIS will send you a notice in the mail that will specify the date, time and place of the interview, and list of documents that have to be brought to the interview. At this stage USCIS officer will go over your application documents and ask you few questions to determine whether your spouse is admissible to the U.S. and whether your marriage is bona fide. At the end of the interview, the officer will either stamp your spouse’s foreign passport with temporary green card stamp or will make a determination later (usually 60 days after interview). In the last option, the green card will be sent to your spouse by mail.

  • Removing Condition on Your Green Card.

    If you have been married less than 2 years when your spouse was granted permanent resident status, your spouse will receive two year conditional green card. In order to remove the condition on the spouse's green card, both spouses need to jointly petition to remove the condition within 90 days before the expiration date on the conditional resident card. If you fail to file during this time, your spouse’s resident status will be terminated and he or she may be subject to removal from the United States. If the couple has been married for more than 2 years prior to adjustment of status, the foreign national will receive a green card without conditions valid for 10 years.

  • Applying for Citizenship.

    As the spouse of the U.S. citizen, you can apply for citizenship in 3 years of continuous residence in the U.S. as a green card holder. You will also need to meet other requirements, such as:

    • Be at least 18 years old.
    • Remain married to their U.S. citizen spouse.
    • Have been married and living with the same U.S. citizen spouse for the past three years, and
    • The U.S. citizen spouse must have been a U.S. citizen for the past three years

    If any of the above conditions are not met, then the permanent resident spouse will be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization following 5 years as a permanent resident.

If you have additional questions about immigration to the United States, please contact us or schedule a consultation.