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Marriage Based Immigration

Once residing in the United States, many foreign nationals wish to bring their spouses from abroad to the United States so that they can continue to live together.  Foreign nationals with both lawful and unlawful status (undocumented or over stays) get married in the United States to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, foreign nationals with temporary status, or aliens out of status.  In cases involving marriage, issues arise regarding immigration benefits for those couples trying to live in the United States.

How We Can Help You

Our attorneys have extensive experience in filing I-130 Petitions for all of the aforementioned family-based classifications.  We provide our clients with a realistic prediction of each case’s likelihood of success, with constant updates on each case’s progress, and detailed legal advice during each step of the family-based immigration process.  Contact our office today to speak to a member of our skilled team and find out how you can bring your family to the United States.  To learn more about marriage based immigration, read on.


Generally speaking, a U.S. citizen is able to sponsor a spouse for immigration benefits where the spouse is already in the U.S. Similarly a U.S. permanent resident may sponsor a spouse for immigration benefits, subject to certain limitations which are not applicable to U.S. citizens.

If a foreign national is the spouse of a U.S. citizen or green card holder, the foreign national can apply for his/her green card. To be eligible for marriage based immigration, you must be legally married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and your marriage must be bona fide, i.e. not for the sole purpose of immigration benefits or other fraudulent purposes.   In addition, you and your spouse must not be married to anyone else.

A lawful marriage is a marriage which is officially recognized by the state or county where you were married.   Generally, a documented record, created by the relevant government office, is necessary to prove the legal validity of the marriage.  Due to this document requirement, domestic partnerships or common law marriages,  in which a couple lives together but have not formalized their relationship, are typically not considered sufficient for immigration purposes.  However, if you and your spouse have lived in a place that honors common law marriages, you may be able to prove to USCIS that you satisfy the legal marriage requirement.  Generally, it is much easier to simply have a formal marriage.  o be recognized, from church weddings to customary tribal practices — if recognized as valid in that country.

In addition to a legal marriage, USCIS will consider whether your marriage is bona fide, i.e. not a sham marriage (usually for immigration purposes).    A bona fide marriage exists where the husband and wife intend to start and create a life together as husband and wife.   While this can be construed to mean different things, the primary issue is whether the primary purpose of the marriage was to assist the foreign national with obtaining a green card.  If USCIS believes that this is the purpose of the marraige, they will not approve an I-130 or grant a green card.

The questions which are asked and considered in establishing the bona fides of a marriage are often extensive and intrusive.  Be prepared to provide personal information, such as details about your sex lives, if necessary, as well as other romantic acts and personal details about your spouse, in order to prove the bona fides of your marriage, if your I-130 comes under heightened scrutiny.  The advice of counsel is often very valuable in prepare a persuasive I-130 and avoiding further intrusive inquiries.

To speak with an attorney about your immigration issues, contact us now.  To Learn more about Fiance Visa for the immigrant spouse of a U.S. Citizen click here.  To learn more about family based immigration generally, click here.