[Almost] All You Need is Love:
Getting a Green Card through
By Kwang-Yi Ger Gale and Angelo A. Paparelli
Most people know that marriage to a U.S. citizen can allow a foreign spouse to obtain a “green card” –
the legal status that permits a foreign citizen to live permanently in the United States. A common
misperception, however, is that the marriage alone will confer some kind of automatic citizenship or lawful
permanent resident status on a spouse from another country. What many people don’t realize is that the
immigration laws require that a formal process be followed, and that the process can change dramatically
depending on the couple’s location in the U.S. or abroad, travel plans and place of marriage.
Before describing the available procedures and choices, however, let’s be clear about a few things.
Marriages of convenience, paper marriages, marriages that occur only because the green card is the sole
objective are wrong, stupid and illegal. The only legitimate reason to marry is that the man and woman
love each other. Or, as the immigration law requires, they want to “make a life together.” Readers should
know that the U.S. government despises phony marriages and will use every legal weapon in its arsenal
to prosecute the U.S. citizen spouse and deport the foreign spouse. It won’t necessarily happen like in
the movie “Green Card” with Gérard Depardieu and Andie MacDowell, but it will be just as sad in the end.
Readers should also be aware that same-sex couples will not find comfort under U.S. immigration law
because their relationship (even if they are married in a state or country where same-sex marriage is
legal) will not be recognized for immigration purposes. This doesn’t mean that they cannot get a green
card for the foreign spouse; it just means that it will have to be done in another way, e.g., through
employer sponsorship or immigration through a parent or other qualifying relative.
So, assuming that the marriage is based on love and involves an oppos