Marriage-Based Green Card: What Are The Legal Requirements?

You may qualify for a marriage-based green card if your spouse is a citizen or legal resident of the United States. You may find the rules about marriage-based green card services detailed and complex. First, the marriage must be valid to obtain the spouses' immigration benefits.

The marriage green card process is among the most scrutinized immigrant visa processes, so you must meet legal requirements. Read on to find out what these legal requirements are.

Your Marriage Must be Legally Recognized

Your marriage is legal if the country's government where you got married recognizes the union. Therefore, you should have or obtain the official record of your marriage from a government office. No restrictions exist on whether you did a church wedding or customary tribal marriage as long as it's government-recognized.

Domestic partnerships — where you live with your spouse but haven't formalized your marriage — aren't recognized by marriage-based green card services. An exception is if your spouse lives in a country or state that recognizes common-law marriages. In such a case, you will need an attorney to guide you through the process.

Your Spouse Must Be a U.S Citizen or Permanent Resident

You can't petition for your spouse to become a permanent resident if you have temporary rights to live in the U.S. Temporary rights include visas and work permits. Note that you can lose your residency if you are a permanent resident. For example, if you start a home outside the U.S or commit crimes and get deported.

If you lose residency during the green card process of your spouse, they lose the right to immigrate through your marriage.

Your Marriage Must Be 'Bona Fide'

Legal experts regard a bona fide marriage as a mutual union between two people that crops from a genuine affection for one another. In other words, you shouldn't have gotten into the marriage solely because you want a green card. The USCIS does a thorough search to determine whether your marriage is fraudulent before you get the green card.

Your Marriage Must Be Your Only Marriage

The U.S government requires your spouse to have legally ended any previous marriage. Thus, you require evidence for your spouse to qualify for marriage-based green card services. Proof could be a divorce, death certificate, or certificate of annulment. Otherwise, USCIS may consider your first marriage real and the second one a sham to get a green card.


You won't attain a marriage-based green card if neither you nor your spouse is a citizen or permanent resident. However, if you have a temporary visa, the other spouse could gain a visa as your dependent. The dependent visa can give your spouse a right to study or work in the U.S but not a direct pathway to permanent residency.

For more information, contact green card services near you.