A person may apply for a green card through a family member, such as a U.S. citizen spouse. Whether a person can apply for a green card while remaining in the U.S. or will be required to complete the process in their home country will depend on the manner of entry into the U.S. and other factors.
The process of applying for a green card in the U.S. is called adjustment of status to permanent residency. As part of this process, an interview is required at U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (“USCIS”). For most residents of Wisconsin, these interviews are handled at Milwaukee USCIS.
If a person is not eligible for adjustment of status, then the process must be completed at the U.S. consulate abroad. Consular processing is especially tricky for individuals who have lived in the U.S. unlawfully for a year or longer as a waiver of inadmissibility is required.
Marriage to a U.S. citizen does not result in an automatic green card. An application can be denied if the government does not believe there is sufficient evidence proving the marriage is bona fide and not entered for immigration purposes. In addition, individuals with a complicated immigration history or have criminal convictions may be denied permanent residency.
It is for these reasons that I strongly recommend an applicant for a family-based green card consult with me before starting the process.