When many couples begin researching the process of applying for a green card for the foreign spouse, they are surprised to find that there is not just one process. Instead, there are actually three main ways that mixed nationality couples go about achieving permanent residence. The options available to you personally will depend on:
- If you are married yet
- Where in the world you and your spouse/fiance(e) live
- The foreign partner’s immigration and personal history
If you are like many of our readers, you probably found this site while doing preliminary research online. At your stage, you are just looking to understand the legal jargon of the immigration process so you can dig a little deeper into your research. So let’s get into those three main pathways to a green card through marriage:
Path 1: Adjustment of Status
“Adjustment of status” is the technical term for the process where an immigrant who is inside the U.S. switches from a temporary status (like a visitor’s visa) to having a green card, also known as being a “lawful permanent resident (LPR)”. Many couples prefer to do an adjustment of status if they qualify, because it is done at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office inside of the United States, and can be done all in one step.
Path 2: Fiancé Visa + Adjustment of Status
If the couple is only engaged (not yet legally married), and the foreign fiancé is abroad, the American can apply for a fiancé visa so that the immigrant can travel into the U.S. After the fiancé arrives, the couple gets married in the U.S., and then does an adjustment of status.
Path 3: Petition + Consular Processing
What if the couple is already married and the foreign spouse is abroad? A fiancé visa is only available for an unmarried couple, so that option doesn’t work. However, the American spouse can do a spouse petition and go through “consular processing” in a U.S. embassy abroad. This option will enable the foreign spouse to enter the U.S. directly as a permanent resident.
Does one of these options sound like it may apply to your situation? Check out our more in-depth resources about each of these options to learn more. And if you’re interested in getting a professional assessment of your immigration situation, click here to set up a consultation with us! Please note that this is general information. Do not make any decisions or file anything based on this information because we do not want you to put your loved one at risk.