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 end result is a green card, 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 remain 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.