From I Dos to Green Cards: Validity of Marriage for Immigration Purposes

This article explores the validity of marriage for immigration purposes, focusing on visas and green cards in the United States. It delves into the requirements for marriage-based immigration, including the need for a valid marriage and genuine intentions. It also discusses the implications of immigration laws on different types of marriages, such as common law and same-sex marriages. Lastly, it highlights the importance of seeking legal assistance and the rights and benefits of being a lawful permanent resident.

What is a Visa and Green Card?

Understanding the Basics

A visa is an official document that allows individuals to enter, stay, or reside in a foreign country for a specific period. In the context of the United States, a visa grants non-U.S. citizens the permission to enter the country for various purposes, including tourism, work, and study. On the other hand, a green card, also known as a Permanent Resident Card, is an identification card proving that the holder is a lawful permanent resident of the U.S. A green card holder has the authorization to live and work indefinitely in the United States.

Visa Process for Marrying a Foreigner

When a U.S. citizen or permanent resident desires to marry a foreign national, they need to go through the visa process to legalize their marriage in the United States. The visa process typically involves filing a petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish the legitimacy of the relationship.

Applying for a Green Card

Once the foreign national and the U.S. citizen or permanent resident are married, they can apply for a green card to initiate the immigration process. The green card application requires the submission of various documents to prove the validity of the marriage and the eligibility of the applicant to obtain a green card. These documents include the marriage certificate, proof of financial support, and evidence of a genuine marital relationship.

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Requirements for Marriage-Based Immigration

Valid Marriage for Immigration Purposes

A valid marriage is an essential requirement for immigration purposes. The marriage must be legally recognized by the country where it took place, and it should meet the criteria set forth by the immigration laws. The immigration authorities need to establish that the marriage is not a sham or fraudulent arrangement solely for the purpose of obtaining a green card.

Marriage Must be Genuine

While a valid marriage is necessary, it is crucial for the marriage to be genuine. The couple must demonstrate that they have entered into a bona fide marital relationship out of love and commitment, rather than for the sole purpose of evading immigration laws. The immigration officers are vigilant in detecting fraudulent marriages and may conduct extensive interviews and investigations to determine the authenticity of the relationship.

Marriage Certificate and Documentation

For marriage-based immigration, the submission of a marriage certificate is essential. The marriage certificate serves as evidence that a legal marriage ceremony has taken place and establishes the relationship between the petitioner and the beneficiary. It is crucial to submit other supporting documentation, such as photographs, joint bank accounts, and affidavits from family and friends, to corroborate the genuineness of the marriage.

Marriage and Immigration Laws

Implications of Immigration Laws

Immigration laws have significant implications on marriages involving foreign nationals. It is essential to understand these laws to navigate through the immigration process smoothly. The U.S. immigration laws protect the interests of citizens and lawful permanent residents while preventing fraudulent marriages and the misuse of immigration benefits.

Common Law Marriage and Immigration

Common law marriages, where a couple lives together and presents themselves as spouses without a formal ceremony, can also be recognized for immigration purposes. However, the requirements and recognition of common law marriages vary from state to state. It is advisable to consult an immigration attorney to determine the validity of a common law marriage in the context of immigration.

Same-Sex Marriage and Immigration

Following the legalization of same-sex marriage in the United States, same-sex couples now have the same rights and benefits as opposite-sex couples in the immigration process. The U.S. government recognizes valid same-sex marriages for immigration purposes, granting the same opportunities for immigration benefits and green card applications.

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Seeking Legal Assistance

When to Consult an Immigration Attorney

Due to the complexity of the immigration process, it is advisable to consult an immigration attorney when dealing with marriage-based green card applications. An immigration attorney can provide expert guidance and ensure that all necessary documents are accurately prepared and submitted. They can also represent clients in interviews and hearings before the USCIS.

Navigating the Green Card Application

The green card application is a crucial step for marriage-based immigration. An immigration attorney can help navigate through the application process, ensuring that all requirements are met and all necessary documents are submitted. They can also assist in addressing any challenges or issues that may arise during the application process.

Rights and Benefits of Lawful Permanent Residents

Once the green card application is approved, the foreign national becomes a lawful permanent resident of the United States. Lawful permanent residents enjoy various rights and benefits, including the ability to live and work in the U.S. indefinitely, access to social security benefits, and the opportunity to apply for U.S. citizenship after a certain period of time.


Marriage plays a crucial role in the immigration process, particularly when it comes to obtaining a green card in the United States. A valid and genuine marriage is essential to navigate through the complex immigration laws successfully. Seeking legal assistance during the application process can help ensure that all necessary requirements are met and increase the chances of a favorable immigration outcome. Ultimately, the rights and benefits of being a lawful permanent resident provide a pathway to a stable and secure life in the United States.