Obtaining Permanent Residence Through Marriage


Marriage for many persons is the culmination of one’s life. Getting married signifies the beginning of a new phase in life, both socially and economically. For those persons who lack permanent residency in the United States and have married a United States citizen, marriage also presents an opportunity to obtain permanent residency. However, although the opportunity to obtain permanent residency arises in such situations, one must be aware of and comply with procedures in existence to obtain such status. Due to concerns that persons were becoming married to United States citizens merely to obtain permanent residence status, a two-step procedure under the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986 (IMFA) was set up to ensure such status was given to those only in marriages that are bona-fide and not entered into simply for immigration purposes.

Under step one of the procedure, if a person is petitioned by his/her U.S. citizen spouse within 25 months after becoming married, that person is given only conditional permanent residence. Such conditional permanent residence status lasts for two years from the date on which it is granted.

Step two of the procedure involves the removal of the conditional label to permanent residence status. Removal of the conditional label is initiated by filing an I-751 Joint Petition to Remove Condition to Permanent Residence (“Joint Petition”). The Joint Petition provides an opportunity for the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) to inquire as to the legitimacy of the marriage after conditional permanent residence is granted. Accordingly, documentation evidencing that the marriage was entered into for bona-fide reasons should be submitted as part of the Joint Petition. The Joint Petition must be filed with the USCIS service center in the 90 days immediately prior to the second anniversary of the granting of conditional permanent residence.

Typically, upon the filing of the Joint Petition, a one-year extension of the conditional permanent residence is granted. The extension affords the USCIS time to schedule an interview with the person seeking permanent residence, and to make a determination as to whether unconditional permanent residence will be granted for a ten-year period. In cases in which documentation submitted as part of the Joint Petition clearly show that the marriage is bona-fide and not merely for immigration purposes, INS may approve a Joint Petition without an interview.

The procedure described hereinabove applies in situations where the marriage has not been terminated. Often, the Joint Petition cannot be filed or approved because the marriage, although bona-fide when entered into, has been terminated. In such cases, the prospect of obtaining unconditional permanent residence status still remains. A waiver of the joint petition requirement may be sought in such cases.

Please note that this article is not legal advice and is not intended as legal advice. The article is intended to provide only general, non-specific legal information. This article is not intended to cover all the issues related to the topic discussed. The specific facts that apply to your matter may make the outcome different than would be anticipated by you. This article does not create any attorney-client relationship between you and the Law Offices of Kenneth U. Reyes, P.C. This article is not a solicitation.

Attorney Kenneth Ursua Reyes was President of the Philippine American Bar Association for 2005. He is a member of both the Family law section and Immigration law section of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Mr. Reyes is a Certified Family Law Specialist. He is a graduate of Southwestern University Law School in Los Angeles and California State University, San Bernardino School of Business Administration. He has extensive former CPA experience prior to law practice. LAW OFFICES OF KENNETH REYES, P.C. is located at 3699 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700, Los Angeles, CA, 90010. Tel. (213) 388-1611 or e-mail kureyeslaw@gmail.com; visit at www.kenreyeslaw.com

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