Marriage-Based Green Card for Canadians Applying for Permanent Residency when Marrying an American Citizen
A Canadian citizen who is married to a U.S. citizen can apply for permanent residency – also known as a green card. There are two options to apply for a green card through marriage: 1) Adjustment of status, and 2) Consular Processing. Read more about Marriage-Based Green Card for Canadians.
Conditional Residency versus Permanent Residency
Marriage-based green cards may be issued for either 3 years or 10 years, depending on whether USCIS approved the Canadian spouse for conditional or permanent residency. If you have been married for fewer than two years at the time of the interview, the green card will be valid for 2 years – which is referred to as conditional residency. If you have been married for more than two years at the time of the interview, the green card will be valid for 10 years – which is referred to as permanent residency.
If USCIS issues a 2-year conditional green card, the couple will have to jointly apply for a 10-year permanent resident green card within the 90-day window prior to the expiration of the conditional green card. As with the initial application, the couple must provide evidence demonstrating their ongoing bona fide marriage.
Example: Johnny married a U.S. citizen in June 2017 and he received his conditional green card on July 1, 2018. He and his wife must apply to remove the condition of his residency sometime between April 1, 2020 and July 1, 2020.
The policy behind the conditional residency requirement is to prevent non-U.S. citizens from entering into fraudulent marriages in order to obtain a green card. After all, many foreigners marry U.S. citizens simply to get a green card in order to stay and work in the country. The USCIS requires married couples to show that their marriage is still intact two years later in order to curtail such abuse.
Once the application for removal of the condition is removed, the Canadian citizen becomes a full-fledged U.S. permanent resident. However, the Canadian citizen can risk losing his/her residency if the couple forgets to remove the condition within the appropriate timeframe. So it is crucial to mark the one-year and nine-month date of receiving conditional residency on your calendar by using the USCIS early filing calculator.
What if I get divorced before the two-year anniversary?
It is common in this day and age for marriages to last fewer than two years (or even two months, for that matter). For those whose conditional residency has not been removed, this could lead to problems with their immigration status. Generally, divorce terminates conditional residence. However, those with a 2-year conditional green card may be able to apply for a waiver of the failure to remove the condition if they can prove that the marriage was bona fide, entered into in good faith, and that the Canadian spouse was not at fault for failing to file the joint petition.