Can a Green Card Holder Marry a Non-U.S. Citizen?

can a green card holder marry a non resident

Getting a green card opens up incredible opportunities, but it also raises new questions around your rights and future plans. One area many permanent residents have concerns about is marriage – specifically, can you marry a foreign national who is living outside the United States?

The answer is yes, but there are several factors to consider regarding immigration laws and your spouse’s path to lawful status.

What Does It Mean to Be a Green Card Holder?

A green card holder is an individual who has been granted lawful permanent resident status in the United States.

This status allows you to live and work in the country indefinitely as long as you abide by specific rules and maintain your status.

As a green card holder, you have the right to:

  • Live and work permanently in the US.
  • Travel in and out of the country (with some restrictions).
  • Petition for certain family members to join you in the US.
  • Eventually, apply for US citizenship, if eligible.

However, your rights and responsibilities may differ from those of US citizens, especially regarding marriage and sponsoring a spouse for a green card.

Tying the Knot with a Non-Resident – Is It Legal?

The short answer is YES.

A green card holder may marry a non-resident, also known as a foreign national.

You have the right to marry whomever you choose as a permanent resident, regardless of their citizenship status.

However, bringing your non-resident spouse into the United States and obtaining a green card for them can take time and effort.

Before you say “I do,” there are several factors to consider:

  1. Your spouse’s current immigration status and location.
  2. The requirements for a valid marriage in your state or country.
  3. The process of sponsoring your spouse for a green card.
  4. Potential challenges and delays in the immigration process.

Marriage Process for Green Card Holders

To ensure that US immigration authorities recognize your marriage to a non-resident, you must follow the proper legal procedures.

This task includes:

  1. Meeting the requirements for a valid marriage in your state of residence. In California, this means obtaining a marriage license and having the ceremony performed by an authorized officiant.
  2. Registering your marriage with the appropriate government agencies and obtaining a certified copy of your marriage certificate.
  3. Gathering evidence to prove your marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration benefits.

You must research and understand the specific marriage laws in your state or country, as they can vary.

For example, in California, both parties must be at least 18 years old (or have parental/court consent if younger), not already married to someone else, and not closely related by blood.

Sponsoring a Non-Resident for a Green Card

Once legally married, the next step is to sponsor your non-resident spouse for a green card.

As a green card holder, you can file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish your relationship and start the green card application process.

To be eligible to sponsor your spouse, you must:

  • Be a lawful permanent resident of the US.
  • Have a valid marriage to your non-resident spouse.
  • Meet the income requirements to support your spouse financially.
  • Provide evidence of your bona fide marriage, such as joint financial accounts, shared residence, and photographs together.

Approaching the Green Card Application Process

After USCIS approves your I-130 petition, your non-resident spouse can apply for a green card through one of two paths.

1. Consular Processing

If your spouse is outside the US, they will attend an interview at a US embassy or consulate in their home country and, if approved, receive an immigrant visa to enter the US and obtain their green card.

2. Adjustment of Status

If your spouse is already in the US on a valid visa (such as a student or work visa), they may be eligible to apply for a green card from within the country using Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).

Both paths require submitting extensive documentation, undergoing background checks, and attending an interview with USCIS or consular officials to prove the legitimacy of your marriage.

Preparing for the Green Card Interview

Once the government processes your non-resident spouse’s green card application, the final step is typically an interview with a USCIS officer or consular official.

This interview is an opportunity to prove the authenticity of your marriage and address any concerns or discrepancies in your application.

To prepare for the interview:

  • Review your application and supporting documents thoroughly.
  • Prepare to answer questions about your relationship, shared experiences, and plans for the future.
  • Bring original copies of all relevant documents, such as your marriage certificate and evidence of your shared life together.
  • Be honest and forthcoming in your answers, but also be prepared to assert your rights if you feel the questioning is inappropriate or irrelevant.

Remember, the interview process can be stressful, but with proper preparation and the guidance of an experienced immigration attorney, you can approach it with confidence and clarity.

Overcoming Hurdles: Challenges and Considerations

Marrying a non-resident and obtaining a green card for them is a lengthy and complex process with potential obstacles along the way:

  1. Delays in processing times, which can vary depending on the USCIS office or US consulate handling your case.
  2. Maintaining a valid immigration status for your spouse during the process, especially if they are in the US on a temporary visa.
  3. Providing sufficient evidence to overcome any suspicions of marriage fraud, which can lead to serious consequences, including deportation and permanent bars to immigration benefits.

For these reasons and more, you must work closely with an experienced immigration attorney who can guide you through the petition, sponsorship, and interview process, help you avoid common pitfalls, and ensure the government recognizes your rights.

Why Maintaining Your Green Card Status Is Important

As a green card holder pursuing marriage to a non-resident, you must maintain your permanent resident status throughout the process.

This legal duty means:

  • Renewing your green card before it expires (every ten years).
  • Filing Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document) if you plan to be outside the US for over a year.
  • Avoiding any actions that could jeopardize your status, such as criminal activity or prolonged absences from the US.

Failing to maintain your green card status can complicate sponsoring your spouse and may even lead to losing your permanent resident status.

If you have any questions or concerns about maintaining your status, consult an experienced immigration attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi for guidance.

Alternative Routes to Love and Residency

There may be more efficient and appropriate paths in some cases than marrying a non-resident and sponsoring them for a green card.

Alternative options include:

  1. Marrying in your spouse’s home country and then applying for an immigrant visa through consular processing.
  2. Exploring other visa categories that may be available based on your spouse’s skills, education, or employment opportunities in the US.

Each path has its own requirements, timelines, and considerations, so it’s essential to carefully evaluate your options with the help of a knowledgeable immigration attorney.

Why Professional Guidance Is Necessary

Taking on complex US immigration law alone can be overwhelming, especially when seeking marriage-based green cards.

A qualified immigration lawyer can make a huge difference in ensuring your claims process goes smoothly and is successful.

Your legal counsel can help you:

  • Understand the legal requirements and potential challenges of your specific case.
  • Prepare and file the necessary paperwork accurately and efficiently.
  • Gather and present compelling evidence to support your marriage’s legitimacy.
  • Represent you in interactions with USCIS, US consulates, and other government agencies.
  • Explore alternative options and strategies if obstacles arise.

When searching for an immigration attorney, look for someone who:

  • Is licensed to practice law in your state.
  • Has significant experience handling marriage-based green card cases.
  • Provides clear and transparent communication about their services and fees.
  • Makes you feel comfortable and confident in their ability to represent your interests.

The Law Office of Lina Baroudi offers comprehensive immigration services for all Californians, including assistance with marriage-based green cards for spouses of US citizens and permanent residents.

With a deep understanding of US immigration law and a commitment to personalized, compassionate representation, our team is here to help you complete the path to a happy, secure future with your loved one.

Knowledge Is Power When Marrying a Non-Resident

Marrying a non-resident as a green card holder is a significant decision that requires careful planning and attention to detail. By understanding your rights, responsibilities, and the legal process, you can take the necessary steps to build a strong foundation for your future together.

If you’re a green card holder considering marriage to a non-resident or have already tied the knot and need assistance with the green card application process, contact the Law Office of Lina Baroudi today.

Schedule a confidential consultation with our immigration lawyers to discuss your unique situation and explore your options for building a future together in the United States.

Author Bio

Lina Baroudi is the owner and managing attorney at the Law Office of Lina Baroudi. Lina is a dedicated immigration attorney with over ten years of experience in the field. As an immigrant herself, having moved to the United States from Syria at a young age, Ms. Baroudi understands the challenges and complexities that immigrants face. Her personal connection to immigrant rights fuels her passion and commitment to achieving success for her clients.

Throughout her career, Lina has been recognized for her excellence in immigration law. She was listed in the California 2015-2020 Rising Stars List by Super Lawyers, an honor given to only 2.5 percent of attorneys in the state. Lina’s proficiency in the field is further evidenced by her role as a Law Clerk at the California Court of Appeal for the Sixth Appellate District, where she gained invaluable experience and knowledge. She also received the prestigious Witkin Award for Academic Excellence in Immigration Law during her time at Golden Gate University School of Law.

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