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Green Card Marriage: Avoiding the 90-Day Rule Pitfall

For many couples, marriage is a joyous step towards a shared future. However, when one partner is a foreign national seeking a green card, navigating the legalities can add complexity. A particular regulation that can raise concerns is the infamous "90-Day Rule" enforced by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This guide clarifies the 90-day rule, its implications for marriage-based green card applications, and strategies for navigating it successfully.

Understanding the 90-Day Rule

The 90-day rule applies to foreign nationals who enter the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa (like a tourist visa, student visa, or work visa) and marry a U.S. citizen or permanent resident within 90 days of arrival. This rule is in place to deter marriage fraud, where individuals enter marriages solely to obtain a green card.

It's important to note: The 90-day rule does not apply to couples who entered the U.S. on a K-1 Fiancé(e) visa specifically intended for marriage. In that case, the couple must marry within 90 days of the foreign national's arrival.

How Does the Rule Affect Green Card Applications?

For applicants who marry within the 90-day window, the implications can be significant:

  • Delayed Application: You'll need to wait until the 90-day period elapses before filing for a green card.
  • Increased Scrutiny: USCIS will likely subject your application to more intense scrutiny, meticulously examining your relationship history, shared finances, and living arrangements to ensure its genuineness.
  • Potential Denial: If USCIS suspects the marriage is fraudulent, they may deny your green card application. This could have serious consequences, potentially impacting your ability to remain in the U.S. legally.

Strategies for Navigating the 90-Doay Rule

By being proactive and well-prepared, you can increase your chances of a successful green card application even if you fall within the 90-day window:

  • Plan Ahead: If possible, the foreign national should enter the U.S. well in advance of the intended marriage date. This allows them to establish themselves and ensures the 90-day period passes naturally.
  • Consider Adjustment of Status: Individuals already in the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa for more than 90 days might explore applying for adjustment of status to permanent resident before marriage. This allows them to remain legally present while the green card application progresses.
  • Gather Compelling Evidence: Compile strong documentation that demonstrates a genuine, pre-existing relationship. This can include photographs together, travel records documenting visits between the couple, communication records (emails, phone logs), joint financial documents (leases, bank statements), and sworn statements (affidavits) from friends and family attesting to the relationship's authenticity.
  • Consult an Immigration Attorney: An experienced immigration attorney can provide invaluable guidance throughout the process. The attorney can explain the specific requirements in your situation, review your documentation, represent you in communication with USCIS, and advocate for your case during the application process.

Understanding the 90-Day Rule (Optional)

While the 90-day rule serves as a safeguard against marriage fraud, there are nuances to consider:

  • Unforeseen Circumstances: In rare cases, unforeseen circumstances (like a serious illness or natural disaster) might delay a wedding beyond the 90-day window. If the couple can provide compelling evidence and justification for the delay, they may seek an exception to the rule from USCIS.

Remember: Every case is unique. Consulting with an immigration attorney is crucial to understand the specific requirements and considerations that may apply to your situation.

Conclusion: Building a Strong Foundation for Success

A successful marriage-based green card application hinges on transparency, authenticity, and effective legal support:

  • Transparency: Be truthful and provide accurate information throughout the application process.
  • Authenticity: Gather comprehensive documentation that showcases a genuine, long-term relationship built on love and commitment.
  • Legal Support: An immigration attorney can guide you through the complexities of the process, ensuring compliance with all regulations and maximizing your chances of a successful outcome.

By understanding the 90-day rule, planning strategically, and gathering strong evidence, you and your partner can move forward with confidence on your journey towards building a future together in the United States.

Additional Resources:

  • USCIS Website: The USCIS website offers valuable resources on marriage-based green cards, the 90-day rule, and the application process.

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