What You Need to Know About Green Card Marriage

What You Need to Know About Green Card Marriage

Hollywood loves the idea of a green card marriage.  In one famous example, The Proposal, Sandra Bullock played a hard-charging New York city publisher who was forced to fake a marriage with her assistant in order to keep from being deported back to her home country of Canada.  These marriages have a lot of important legal implications.

Favoritism for marriage

To understand green card marriages, it is useful to understand the benefits that marriage can have in the immigration process.  A green card is technically known as a permanent resident card.  It allows someone to live and work permanently in the United States.  A green card is an important step up from a visa. A visa just gives a foreigner a right to be in the country, usually for a limited period of time or under limited conditions.  Perhaps the most common is a work visa. A person might get a visa to come to America for a certain job for a certain period of time, for example. That is what Sandra Bullock’s character had in The Proposal.  When her work visa was about to expire, she tried to get a marriage based green card. 

There are very frew requirements to getting a green card through marriage.  You basically just have to be married or engaged to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident in a green card marriage.  This can seem so easy compared to the other avenues to getting a long-term visa or green card. Securing permanent status through a job can be complicated, as can other avenues like being a refugee or abuse victim. 

Many types of green card marriages

As many as 25% of all green cards are issued to spouses of American citizens.  Faking a marriage for a green card is illegal, of course, but the government does struggle to root out fraud.  Many people are granted green cards to move to the U.S. to marry spouses that they met online. These people may be considered modern “mail order brides,” but there is not necessarily anything illegal about such a relationship

How long does it take to get a green card through marriage?

The actual time it takes to get a green card after a green card marriage can vary, but experts will tell you to expect it to take around a year.  The process begins with an American citizen (or lawful permanent resident) filling out a form I-130 petitioning for an “alien relative” to stay in the U.S.  This process is fairly quick and costs a few hundred dollars.  This process establishes the legal relationship, a green card marriage between the person already permanently living in America and the spouse (or other family member) that now wants green card status. 

The next step is for the spouse wanting a green card to fill out a I-485, which is an application for permanent register status.  This is a more complicated form that will lead to a full review of the person seeking permanent status.  Required information will include birth certificates, criminal records, and proof that the person applying has followed immigration laws so far.

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