The process of gaining permanent residence in the United States through marriage is known as adjustment of status. It is generally available to aliens who entered the country legally, such as through a visa or the Visa Waiver Program. However, in some cases the spouse of a U.S. citizen may be able to use adjustment of status to get their Green Card if they entered the country illegally or overstayed their visa, provided certain requirements are met.
In general, adjustment of status marriage of status involves a concurrent filing with USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) of a Petition for Alien Relative by the citizen spouse, and an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status by the foreign spouse. The two applications achieve different ends – the petition establishes that the foreign spouse is an immediate relative of the citizen, and the application confirms that the couple are married in good faith and have no admissibility issues that could interfere with approval.
Adjustment of Status through Marriage: A Comprehensive Guide to Navigating the Immigration Process
It is also possible to apply for work authorization during this time by filing an EAD (Employment Authorization Document) or a DV (Diversity Visa) separate from the AOS application. Work authorization is generally issued within a few months of filing and enables the foreign spouse to support themselves while their green card application is being processed.
People who entered the country without a visa are usually prohibited from adjusting their status, but there are some exceptions – for example, it is possible to use adjustment of status to become an immigrant as the spouse of a citizen even if you overstayed your VWP entry permit. There are some other situations where it is not permissible to use adjustment of status, such as when you have a criminal record or have been the victim of domestic violence.