Marriage-Based Green Card for Canadians Marrying a U.S. Citizen
Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
As outlined in our Marriage-Based Green Card for Canadians page, there are two ways to apply for a green card through marriage: 1) Adjustment of Status in the United States, or 2) Consular Processing from a U.S. consulate abroad. You can apply for adjustment of status if you are currently in the United States on a work visa, student visa or investor visa. If you are outside of the United States, you would apply for an immigrant visa at the U.S. Consulate in Montreal.
Proof of Bona Fide Marriage
In order for a Canadian to qualify for a green card by marrying a U.S. citizen, they must be able to demonstrate that the marriage is legitimate and bona fide. That means that they have to provide sufficient proof that the marriage is real and entered into in good faith – not just for purposes of obtaining a green card.
A bona fide relationship isn’t necessarily determined by how long a couple has been together. A couple may have only been dating for a few months before getting married and that would still be a bona fide marriage.
To prove that a marriage is bona fide, the couple will have to provide a lot of documents. These can include photographs, joint accounts, proof of traveling together, and proof of living together. There is no standard checklist of documents to prove a bona fide marriage. Every relationship is different, so documents and proof will vary with each case.
Green Cards for LGBTQ and Same-Sex Marriages
Read more about Same-Sex and LGBTQ Marriages.
Engaged same-sex and LGBTQ couples can also apply for the K-1 fiancé visa.
Adjustment of Status in the U.S.
A Canadian citizen who is currently residing in the United States in some sort of valid, lawful status, may be able to adjust their status to a green card. Valid status may include a work visa, investor visa, or student visa.
Adjustment of status requires the U.S. citizen to submit a petition to USCIS indicating his or her intent to sponsor the Canadian spouse. The Canadian spouse may concurrently file a form known as an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, seeking to change the Canadian’s current immigration status to that of a permanent resident.
Consular Processing from Abroad
A Canadian citizen who is currently residing outside of the U.S. can apply for a marriage-based green card through consular processing. After the U.S. citizen spouse’s petition is approved, the Canadian spouse will be required to attend an interview in Montreal or at another U.S. consulate in the country that they are currently residing in. If approved, he or she will be issued an immigrant visa and subsequently a green card after moving to the U.S.
A Canadian citizen with a pending adjustment of status application with USCIS can apply for employment authorization (EAD) which allows them to seek employment while they are waiting for their green card interview. Employment authorization is not available to those applying for a green card through consular processing. It is only available for those adjusting their status in the U.S.
As of October 2019, employment authorization appears to be taking about 6 months for approval. Unless the Canadian is already in a valid non-immigrant status such as TN status, H-1B status, E-2 status, L-1 status, or O-1 status, they should not accept any type of employment until the EAD is approved.
With the exception of those in H-1B status or L-1 status, Canadians with a pending adjustment of status application through marriage with USCIS cannot travel outside the United States until their green card is approved. Doing so may result in USCIS considering the green card application as abandoned. Advance Parole is not available to Canadians applying for a green card through consular processing.
When applying for adjustment of status through marriage, the Canadian should also submit an application for Advance Parole. When approved, Advance Parole will permit them to travel outside the United States and return while their green card application is still pending. It should be noted that Advance Parole is discretionary and that CBP officers have discretion whether to re-admit them into the United States. As such, Advance Parole should generally only be used in emergency or humanitarian situations. Advance Parole applications submitted with EAD applications will usually be issued at the same time. As of October 2019, Advance Parole applications appear to be taking about 6 months to be issued.
Affidavit of Support
For both adjustment of status and consular processing applications, the U.S. citizen spouse is required to sign an affidavit of support confirming that he or she meets the income requirement to support the Canadian spouse after the green card is issued. When signing an affidavit of support, the sponsor is affirming that he/she will remain obligated to their spouse until one of the following has been met: 1) they become a U.S. citizen; 2) they die; 3) they leave the U.S. and abandons residency; or 4) they earn 40 quarters of social security credits.
Use of Income
The income requirement varies depending on the size of the U.S. citizen spouse’s household. The larger the household, the more income he or she is required to demonstrate.
Use of Assets
Instead of income, the U.S. citizen sponsor can also use assets such as savings, retirement funds, or real estate. For savings, the amount must be at least 3 times the difference between the income requirement and the income earned. For real estate, the U.S. citizen can have an appraisal done to assess the current value of the home minus any outstanding mortgage balance.
Use of Joint Sponsor
If the U.S. citizen sponsor does not meet the income or asset requirements, they can use a joint sponsor or co-sponsor who does. The joint sponsor must be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) but there is no requirement that he or she be related to the primary sponsor.