By Atty. James G. Beirne

If you are in a relationship and contemplating marriage with a foreign national, it is important to be aware of the U.S. immigration laws regarding marriage. A solid understanding of the rules involved will ensure that you and your spouse have a successful and smooth immigration process.

Marriage results in a conditional residence status unless it is more than two years old. The two year clock will start to run from the time the conditional residency is granted. The conditional residency status may be terminated prior to the two year mark for the following reasons:

The marriage was entered into to gain immigration status;
The marriage was terminated;
The couple did not file Form I-751 within 90 days of two year anniversary date;
The couple failed to attend their interview (unless the immigrant has filed for l-751 seeking a waiver of the joint filing requirement.

If the two years passes, the conditional residence status becomes permanent residence status if it is not terminated for any reason.

Marriage to a U.S. citizen has long been considered the easiest pathway to obtain citizenship for an immigrant. Unfortunately, there has been a long history of sham marriages where immigrants are looking to find a short cut in the process. So how does the Immigration Service suspect a sham marriage? What are they looking for? Generally, immigration authorities are looking at various factors such as the conduct of the parties after the marriage, as well as their conduct prior to marriage. If you find yourself in a situation where you are going to be visited by an USCIS officer, or are requested to come to an interview its best to take some time to prepare. You will be asked to produce documentation showing the marital relationship. This documentation could include anything from income tax returns, bank statements, insurance policies, and photographs. You must also satisfy all of the questions posed by an immigration office.

If it is determined that the marriage was entered into for the purpose of gaining immigration benefit, it will become a permanent bar to any future immigrant visa petitions. It is also considered a major crime that carries with it fines and even jail time. For the alien spouse, it means imminent removal from the country and never being allowed to be a lawful resident of the U.S.


An active member of the State Bar of California and the State Bar of Nevada, James G. Beirne is also a member of the highly respected American Immigration Lawyers Association and Los Angeles County Bar Association Immigration Section. He is admitted to practice before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, all federal district courts in California and Nevada, California state courts, and Nevada state courts. Mr. Beirne has represented clients in numerous immigration cases. His offices are located at 520 E. Wilson Ave., Suite 110, Glendale, CA 91206, and 17215 Studebaker Rd., Suite 380, Cerritos, CA 90703, with telephone numbers (818) 552-4500; (562) 865-4480; and (866) 903-4522. He also has offices at 2640 E. Garvey Ave., Suite 104, West Covina 91791, with tel. no. (626) 262-4446. His newest office is at Valencia Executive Plaza, Suite 200-E, 27201 Tourney Road, Valencia, CA 91355, tel. no. (661) 200-0644.
(Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only. Results may vary depending on the facts of a particular case. We make no prediction, warranty or guarantee about the results of any case, nor do we assume any legal liability for the completeness of any information and its impact on the results of any case. Each case is different and results depend on the facts of each case. Consult with and retain counsel of your own choice if you need legal advice.)

If your marriage has come under the scrutiny of the USCIS officials, it is important to seek out legal guidance. These matters are not only stressful, but can become complicated as well. Or perhaps you and your spouse are contemplating marriage, but have questions or concerns as to how the immigration process works. The Law Offices of James G. Beirne can help you with your immigration concerns. With over 10 years experience and thousands of satisfied clients, we can put your mind at ease and take care of your immigration matter so you can move on with your life. We have three office locations to serve you: Cerritos (562) 865-4480, Glendale (818) 552-4500 and West Covina (626) 262-4446.