Just getting married to a United States citizen doesn’t guarantee you a green card or an opportunity for future citizenship. You still have to meet certain criteria in order to become a lawful permanent resident of the United States.
You also have to take specific steps, including submitting form N-400 to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Requesting a green card because of your marital relationship can only take place when you are already in the United States. There are alternate processes for spouses who don’t currently live together that can help when a citizen wants to bring their spouse from another country into the United States.
Maybe you met your spouse while in the United States on a work visa, or perhaps you enter the country through a fiance visa. In either situation, you will need to stay married and remain in the United States to qualify for a green card.
How long must the spouse of a citizen wait to request a green card?
Generally speaking, a non-citizen spouse requesting a green card will need to live in the United States for three years before applying. Those three years will need to overlap with their marital relationship. In other words, they will need to have been married and been living in the United States for at least three years before they submit form N-400.
Additionally, they will need to have spent at least 18 of the last 36 months physically present in the United States. Non-citizen spouses seeking their green cards cannot do so until they turn 18. They will need to be able to communicate effectively in English and pass a background check.
How long do you need to stay married to keep your green card?
After you have been in the country for long enough to apply for and receive a green card, you can potentially continue to live in the United States as a permanent resident even if you get divorced eventually. Those who receive a green card because of marriage can eventually qualify for a green card under different grounds when the time comes for renewal.
Whether you are a United States citizen hoping to protect your spouse’s right to stay in the country or an immigrant who wants a green card, understanding the requirements to qualify for a green card through marriage is the first step in sharing a life with the person you love.