Hollywood loves a green-card marriage – typically depicted in film as marriage of convenience between a U.S. citizen and a foreigner who wants to become a permanent resident of the United States. But as any real-life couple will tell you, getting a green card – the official document of permanent residency – through marriage is anything but convenient.
the person providing an avenue to the green card must be a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. In almost all cases, he or she submits Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), which requests green card status for the foreign fiancé or spouse. After that step, the process varies depending on the couple’s circumstances. A fiancé living abroad must remain outside the United States until obtaining a K-1 fiancé visa. A fiancé or spouse already in the United States must be here legally – say on a student or work visa – to obtain an adjustment of status.
If the spouse entered the country illegally, the path to a green card is risky and requires legal assistance. Returning to the home country for consular processing may trigger a three- or ten-year bar against reentry; attempting to obtain legal status while remaining in the United States has recently led to the arrest of some married immigrants.