November 15, 2010: How Long Will Permanent Residency Take Through Marriage?

How Long Will Permanent Residency Take Through Marriage?

Hello, I’m an American citizen. I am graduating from high school and am going to join the Navy as an Officer. I am going to college first. My girlfriend is in my graduating class, but she is an illegal with an overstayed visa. I have known her and we have been a couple for 4 years. She was 5 years old when her parents brought her here on a vacation visa.

If we get married in a year or so, how long will the process take for her to at least gain her permanent resident status?
— Anonymous

The fact that she entered when she was 5 years old with a visitor visa and overstayed her authorized period of time, and she has not departed the United States since that entry, will allow her to adjust her status to lawful permanent resident in the United States based on an immediate relative visa petition filed on her behalf – presumably by her United States citizen spouse based on the facts presented.

Of course, she will have to meet all of the other admissibility requirements for lawful permanent residency. The amount of time that the processing of the adjustment of status application will take is not based on her being a visa overstay. Rather it is based on the fact that she is married to a United States citizen, creating an immediate relative relationship. This means she will not have to wait for a visa number from the U.S. Department of State to become available for her to obtain her residency.

It is impossible to predict what the processing times for adjustment of status applications based on an immediate relative visa petition will be a year or so from now. Presently, these types of applications are taking approximately three to six months from the date they are received by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office to the date of the initial interview at your local USCIS Field Office.

It may be wise for the two of you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to make sure she is otherwise eligible for lawful permanent residency and to file all of the necessary paperwork when the time comes. On another note, if the DREAM Act ever passes into law, then depending on the legal requirements, she may be able to benefit from that law.

Michael Shane and Evan Shane, Immigration Attorneys