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It is possible for U.S. citizens to petition for their immediate family members to become permanent citizens. Under immigration law, immediate family members who may be eligible for a green card include unmarried children under the age of 21, parents if the U.S. citizen is over the age of 21, and spouses. Marriage is a common avenue through which foreigners attain their green card status.

In order for a foreign-born spouse to attain permanent residence through marriage, the U.S. citizen will first have to submit a form I-130 visa petition on behalf of his or her foreign-born spouse. If the spouse is in the United States legally, he or she can then file for adjustment of status packet without having to leave the country. If, however, the foreign-born spouse entered the United States without inspection, he or she may have to apply for a green card through marriage and seek a waiver at the same time. Some spouses are able to apply for a provisional waiver in the United States but this requires the assistance of an immigration attorney specifically experienced in waiver law.

Another important part in the application process is proving that the marriage was bona fide. One way to do this is to have the U.S. citizen spouse’s parents and relatives attend the wedding. It is also helpful for the couple to have joint property, income tax returns and other joint financial documents that show an intertwined life. This helps prove that the two are together and lawfully married.

If the marriage is less than two years old at the time the green card is granted, it will have a two-year limit. The couple will then have to submit additional documents and forms within 90 days of the expiration date of the green card for the foreign-born spouse to obtain permanent residency (which needs to be renewed in 10-years). If, however, the couple divorces before the end of the two-year period, the foreign-born spouse is still eligible to receive a green card but will need the help of an immigration attorney to navigate this process.

Green cards through marriage are widely considered the fast track to lawful permanent residence in Los Angeles, but not all applications are accepted. It is advisable to receive counsel and guidance from an experienced Los Angeles immigration lawyer throughout the application process in order to ensure that the foreign-born spouse is allowed to remain in the country during the proceedings.