A marriage green card is a “green light” for one member of the marital union to have permanent residency inside the U.S. The cards are issued to spouses of U.S. citizens predominately and serve as a way for couples to lead more productive and secure lives inside the United States. Without lawful permanent residence in the U.S., it can be incredibly difficult to perform basic tasks and live the kind of life one would want to with their partner. This is because of many reasons, including, but not limited to:
- Traveling abroad as a couple in which either partner does not have valid lawful permanent residence in the U.S. can be incredibly difficult. This means vacations to visit extended family members in foreign countries are usually not an option and put further distancing between loved ones
- If you are not a visa holder, you most likely need at least an Employee Authorization Document (EAD card) to work legally in the United States.
- You receive an EAD card through a green card application. While it may take a year or longer to be issued a green card, an individual can receive their EAD card only within a few (4 to 5) months.
- Studies show couples who are both working feel more productive and are happier and can afford a better lifestyle. If one partner is not able to work and is dependent completely on their partner, it can create friction in one's marriage and also a feeling of hopelessness that nothing can be done to ameliorate the situation and be able to use ones own productive capital and have a greater purpose in life.
As such, marriage green cards allow immigrants to become lawful permanent residents and have more freedom and liberty to do the things they want while enjoying marriage with their partner. Green cards also lead to the eventual process of applying for naturalization within three to five years, depending on prior military service or not.
Threats to the Marriage Green Card process
However, it’s not always an easy process of obtaining a green card for an individual who is married because of their past history for example. While the USCIS website does not explicitly cover married couples in which one party has entered the country illegally, this is a reality and complication that creates a possible threat to the green card process. But if someone has entered illegally years ago and has nothing on their record, they should be able to secure a green card and start paying taxes, right?
Not necessarily, according to new rules and regulations. In a growing number of cases immigrants with old deportation orders that were never enforced are getting the go-ahead to be removed from the United States under the current administration. Such events have created fear that showing up for a green card interview could be a one way ticket to being detained, adding drama and unforeseen expenses to the household that are affected by a close relatives detention.
During the Obama administration, applicants still had to undergo vetting and security checks, for example, and prove that being deported would cause an American citizen — a spouse, for example, significant hardship. But once an immigration officer certified that their marriages were real, those with old deportation orders could ask an immigration judge to lift them so they could move on with their applications.
While that used to be the norm, today there are much stricter immigration policies, and even illegal immigrants with zero criminal histories and who have resided in the U.S. for many years are being arrested when they show up to have said green card interviews. This adds a new element of uncertainty in the whole process and creates a sort of inefficient stalemate whereby an immigrant is trying to do the right thing to make lawful residence but is risking his livelihood by showing for a green card interview.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement have stated publicly in recent years that it is their duty to “Remove any individual determined to be in violation of U.S. immigration laws, and subject them to arrest.” While this is a legal precedent that has been set, it is important to realize that the entire status quo around immigration has changed, and married couples in which one member is not a U.S. citizen faces considerable fears of breaking laws they might even be aware of.
Applying for a Green Card Abroad
In light of such events, it is important to realize that the green card process and adjustment of status can be completed from abroad, if necessary, and this process is known as consular processing.
While it may be difficult to leave loved ones in the U.S., especially after spending years in the country, the option is available and processing time may take up to a year, which is not all that different from the green card processing if one was already residing in the country. Overall, it is important to know one's rights as a citizen, or non-citizen looking to apply for lawful permanent residence.