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How To Protect Yourself When Marrying A Foreigner

As a United States citizen, you can marry someone from another county. However, there are a few things to take into consideration. You will need to understand the current U.S. immigration laws that can help you obtain a green card for your partner. You must also protect yourself when marrying a person from a foreign country. The last thing you want is to be a victim of a marriage scam or be involved in a fraudulent marriage. Look at the ways you can protect yourself when marrying a foreigner. 

When Both Partners Are in the United States

If you and your noncitizen spouse currently reside in the United States, they likely have a U.S. work or visitor visa. To transition from their temporary visa to permanent resident status, your spouse can undergo a process called adjustment of status to obtain a green card.

Steps for Adjustment of Status:

  1. Marriage Registration: First, get married and register your marriage with the relevant state or county officials where your wedding took place.
  2. File Form I-130: Next, file Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative to start the green card application process. As the petitioner, you will sponsor your spouse, who will be the beneficiary.

The next steps vary depending on whether you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident.

For U.S. Citizens

As a U.S. citizen, you can benefit from a quicker process through concurrent filing. You can file Form I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status simultaneously with your Form I-130. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will process your applications, request a biometrics appointment, and schedule an in-person interview before granting your spouse a green card.

If your spouse entered the U.S. legally but has since lost status, USCIS might overlook the unlawful presence during the adjustment process.

For Lawful Permanent Residents

As a green card holder, your spouse must maintain valid immigration status in the U.S. while awaiting adjustment of status. This means they need a valid work or visitor visa until a visa number becomes available, allowing them to proceed to the next step: filing Form I-485.

Visa numbers for spouses of U.S. citizens are immediately available because they are considered immediate relatives under U.S. immigration law. However, spouses of green card holders may face a waiting period, which can extend the entire process up to 2.5 years. During this time, your spouse must maintain a valid visa.

The 90-Day Rule

Regardless of your situation, it’s crucial to be aware of the 90-day rule enforced by USCIS. If your spouse applies for a green card within 90 days of entering the United States on a temporary visa, USCIS may suspect visa fraud. This can result in the denial of the green card application and the revocation of their current visa. Always consider the timing carefully to avoid complications.

What Are the Consequences of Marrying a Foreigner?

Unfortunately, some U.S. citizens are targeted for marriage scams. While you may have fallen in love, you need to know whether your fiance feels the same way. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, men in their middle ages are the biggest targets for these scams, especially if they use a foreign dating service. There are a few warning signs, including wanting to marry quickly, focusing on obtaining U.S. residency, and asking for money. 

With that in mind, U.S citizens need to protect themselves from any scams. Once you sign all the documents, you are responsible for your spouse. Plus, you must ensure both parties entered the marriage in good faith (for love and a desire to have a life together and not to get an immigration benefit), or you could find yourself in legal trouble. Marriages for the sole or primary purpose of obtaining a green card are considered fraudulent and a federal crime. In some cases, the penalty is up to 5 years in prison and $250,000 in fines.

While you may be focused on building a future with your foreign spouse, a few things can protect you legally and financially

What Happens If You Marry an Immigrant?

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After you marry your spouse, you want to ensure they can legally stay in the country. After the marriage ceremony, an immigrant spouse will not automatically become a United States citizen. The foreign spouse must apply for a green card to obtain permanent residence. The process involves many documents and forms. In some situations, the immigrant can be refused a green card if they don’t meet specific criteria. Factors like previous criminal history, medical problems, or a past immigration violation(s) can deny an application. Also, if the authorities believe the marriage is fraudulent, the green card can be denied. 

After successfully obtaining a green card, you can move to the following process to obtain U.S. citizenship. The foreign spouse must live in the United States for three years as a permanent resident. After that, they can apply for U.S. citizenship. But this only applies if you and the immigrant are living together. If that is not the case, the waiting period extends to five years. 

What If My Spouse Is “Out of Status” or Overstayed a Visa?

A visa is often available to the spouse of a citizen because they are considered an “immediate relative.” The combination of your U.S. citizenship and the spouse entering with a visa will usually give your spouse the ability to file an “adjustment of status.” As a result, your spouse will have an advantage over those who have evaded inspection by immigration officers or illegally entered the country. With the right to adjustment of status, the spouse can file a green card application at the USCIS office and proceed to the required interview. You can do this regardless of the visa expiration time, and it does not require the applicant to leave the United States. 

Those spouses who overstayed a visa can immediately start the immigration process once married, although for practical and legal reasons this may not always be advisable. Sometimes it is better to wait a while after the marriage before filing a case with immigration especially if the spouse got married within the first 90 days of coming to the United States.  If the foreign spouse entered with a visa and is married to a U.S. citizen, he or she can file the USCIS Form I-130 either separately or together with Form I-485 for the green card. The waiting times vary and just having proof of a filed case does not provide legal status to a foreign spouse.

This means that the spouse could be picked up and deported at any time, although having a pending case certainly increases the chances that immigration won’t take adverse action. In some situations after the I-130 is approved, for example, if the foreign spouse had entered the United States unlawfully, a waiver may be required before the spouse leaves the country to ask for their green card abroad. With limited exceptions, a spouse who entered unlawfully cannot make an adjustment of status but rather has to leave the country to attend an interview for their green card at a U.S. consulate in their home country. If a foreign spouse has spent more than 6 months or a year unlawfully in the United States, they can be barred from returning to the U.S. for three to 10 years if they don’t have an approved waiver. 

Are There Any Regulations About Finances and Income Levels?

According to the 1996 immigration law, there are financial requirements for United States citizens who marry non-U.S. citizens. The U.S. citizen must fill out Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. That form will show that the spouse can support an immigrant at a level above the U.S. Poverty Guidelines. All citizens will need to show the U.S. government that they can support the non-U.S. spouse for a period of 10 years. With that, the obligation will continue if the two spouses divorce. 

If the U.S. citizen does not have enough income to support the immigrant, then a household member may be able to promise support. In most cases, the immigrant’s own assets can be counted too. 

What Happens If You Marry a Foreigner and Get Divorced?

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If you divorce your spouse before they get a green card, it may or may not affect their immigration status. If they have a green card already, whether it will affect them depends on if they have a conditional green card issued for two years or a regular green card issued for ten years.  A conditional green card is issued when married is less than two years old. If you divorce your spouse who has a conditional green card, they could lose their residency status. However, that only occurs if you file for a divorce within the first two years of marriage after your spouse has gotten their green card.

The divorce judgment may take anywhere from six to 12 months after petitioning for the divorce. The foreign spouse will then have to apply for a special waiver based on the divorce in order to keep their permanent residency and get a ten-year green card. With that waiver, the spouse needs to show with documentation and their personal statement that the marriage was entered into in good faith and not used to secure citizenship. 

The foreign spouse could also apply for a waiver in order to keep their green card after the two years expires if the U.S. spouse abused them, or they would face hardships if deported. Also, the Affidavit of Support will not terminate upon the divorce. The amount of support depends on the foreign spouse’s income and overall financial situation. 

Abogada Ashley

Reach Out To an Immigration Attorney

Abogada Ashley has extensive experience in immigration law. We can help with a variety of immigration issues, including: 

  • Waivers
  • Green cards
  • Citizenship and naturalization
  • Fiance visas
  • Deportation cases
  • Work permits
  • Appeals

Our goal is to keep families together. When you need help with immigration legal issues, reach out to us. 

Immigration law can be tricky to navigate, especially with changing laws, rules and policies. You will want to have a legal professional with experience helping with these processes. Make sure to contact  Abogada Ashley Immigration, Inc. to assist with these cases. By following these steps, you can make sure to protect yourself when marrying a foreign spouse. 

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