Contributed by Kim Tremblay, Associate Attorney
As Valentine’s Day is approaches, if you are involved in a dual nationality romance, you might be longing for your foreign partners and wishing that he or she was in the United States. Others with partners already in the United States may be fantasizing about finally getting their partner lawful status. In popular culture and in the minds of many, marrying a United States citizen is an automatic ticket to United States citizenship. In both my professional experience as an immigration attorney and personal experience as a Canadian immigrant married to a U.S. citizen, I can assure you that this is untrue. In reality, when the process goes well, it can feel invasive, requires payment of many filing fees, has several steps, and involves lots of paperwork and waiting. When the process does not go smoothly, it can lead to heartbreak and the inability for the partners to live together in the United States. However, the aforementioned hassles will melt into the distant past once you are able to gaze lovingly into your lawful permanent resident spouse’s eyes.
What must a dual nationality couple do to live happily ever after in the United States? The answer to that question is quite complex and depends on a host of factors, including, but not limited to, the foreign partner’s immigration history, location, and health; both partners’ criminal histories; the United States partner’s financial situation and immigration status; and whether the couple is already married or has met. Depending on these factors, the best route may be a fiancé visa and subsequent adjustment of status in the United States, consular processing of an immigrant visa, or adjustment of status in the United States.
Before choosing any of these options, you must not be missing that crazy little thing called love. Indeed, to obtain immigration benefits based on a marriage, a couple must show that they intended to establish a life together when they married. Getting married solely to obtain a green card and without such intent constitutes marriage fraud. Not only can the foreign applicant be deported and barred permanently from coming to the United States in the future, both parties can be fined up to $250,000 and face up to five years of imprisonment. They say money can’t buy you love. It can’t buy you a marriage-based green card either!
Given the multitude of factors at play, the risk of costly errors, and the different strategies available, a prenuptial consultation with an immigration attorney is always a good start. An immigration attorney will be able to recommend the best course of action and expertly guide you through the process. Happy Valentine’s Day!
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