If you marry a U.S. Citizen, you are in the U.S., and you are otherwise eligible, you may apply for a green card right away. In other words, you may apply to become a lawful permanent resident in the U.S. This is also referred to as ‘adjusting your status’. The result is a green card marriage, assuming you are successful through the process.

If your marriage is relatively new, meaning you have been married for only two years or less at the time immigration approves your green card, the green card you receive is a conditional one valid for two years.

If you have already been married for more than two years by the time that immigration grants your green card, they will most likely give you a permanent 10-year green card. If you only receive a 2-year conditional green card, you must later apply to remove the conditions on your green card and apply for your permanent 10-year green card.

So, when would you have to apply to remove your green card conditions and ask for your 10-year permanent green card? Well, it depends.

1. If you’re still married, you can apply as early as 90 days before the expiration of your 2-year green card, but you must apply by the expiration date of your 2-year green card. This is very important to remember. Late filing can cause major complications and will require you to explain to immigration why you filed late.

2. If you have divorced and no longer remain married to your spouse, then you may go ahead and file to remove the conditions on your green card at any point in time before your two-year green card expires.

3. Suppose you remain together, happily married to a U.S. citizen spouse, you have filed to remove the conditions on your 2-year green card but your 10-year green remains pending, and you have had your green card for three years to date. In that case, you may now be eligible to file your naturalization application asking immigration for citizenship so you can become a U.S. Citizen, even while your 10-year green card remains pending. If you are no longer married to your U.S. citizen spouse, you must wait for five years before being eligible for citizenship.

Whether you are eligible at the 3-year mark or the 5-year mark, you may apply as early as 60 days before your appropriate 3 or 5-year date to become a US Citizen. Keep in mind that your eligibility will depend on other factors, so be sure to always consult with an experienced immigration lawyer to make sure you qualify for immigration benefits before applying for any benefits such as green cards or citizenship.

How can I prove my green-card marriage is valid and legitimate?

As long as your marriage was truly in good faith, you shouldn’t worry too much. There are some steps you can take to help try to ensure that the U.S. government does not accuse you of marriage fraud and that they recognize your marriage as valid and legitimate.

1. Know Your Spouse

It’s essential to know your spouse well and be confident that you are getting married for the right reasons, not just to secure residency status. One of the biggest reasons that the U.S. government might suspect fraud is when there is a divorce shortly after the foreign-born party receives their green card from Immigration. Your intent before, during, and even after the green card process can be evaluated by Immigration (USCIS) in determining if you should be able to receive, and keep and maintain your green card at all future points in time.

2. Include Documents Demonstrating Your Marriage

For anyone who applies for a marriage-based green card, the U.S. spouse must submit a visa petition to the immigration department via Form I-130. When this petition is filed, it’s important to include documents that demonstrate your bona fide marriage and that you and your spouse have a life together.

The documents could include, but are not limited to things such as:

● The fact that you live together (mortgage or rental agreement)

● If you have had children (birth certificates)

● You share finances (bank or credit card statements)

● You spend time together (photos, texts, letters, etc.)

3. Address Any Potential Red Flags

● A large age difference

● Not living together

● Large educational or social differences

● A history of immigration petitions

● Not knowing each other’s family or friends

If you have a legitimate marriage, but you think a red flag like one of these might cause suspicion, you can address the situation by including a letter or other appropriate proof to support your marriage with your petition. This gives you a chance to explain why something may seem odd but shows that it does not mean your marriage is a fraud.

4. Supply Additional Information at Your Green Card Interview

This is your chance to bring in additional evidence of your bona fide marriage that you weren’t able to send in when filing the petition.

Consult an immigration attorney prior to your interview and they can help prove the legitimacy of your marriage so that you can obtain permanent resident status!