If a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen, the foreign national becomes an immediate relative of the U.S. spouse and may be able to apply for U.S. permanent residency as a result of the marital relationship.
If the foreign national is in the U.S.
If the foreign national is present in the US, the foreign national can apply for a green card in the US.
One of the most important requirements to be eligible for a green card is that the foreign national spouse last entered the U.S. lawfully (i.e. after inspection by U.S. immigration officials). If the foreign national has failed to maintain status and/or worked without authorization in the U.S., as an immediate relative, the foreign national can still qualify for a green card. This process is known as Adjustment of Status.
If the foreign national is not in the U.S.
If the foreign national is not in the US, the immigrant petition must be filed in the United States and approved by USCIS. Approval times vary. Upon approval of the petition, it is forwarded to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC) for processing.
Upon receipt of the approval from USCIS, the NVC will send an acknowledgment to the beneficiary that the approval notice has been received by the National Visa Center.
As an immediate relative of the US citizen, the foreign national will have an immediate priority date. The National Visa Center will first invoice the foreign national beneficiary for the applicable immigrant visa fees. Once the immigrant visa fees are paid, the NVC will issue document cover sheets for the foreign national beneficiary to submit the visa application and supporting documentation.
After reviewing the visa application and supporting documentation, the NVC will hold the visa petition until an immigrant visa interview is scheduled at the U.S. Consulate. This process is known as Consular Processing.