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Can I apply for Permanent Residency through Marriage in the United States?

There are different ways to become a permanent resident and in this article we will focus on the process for those who are married to a US citizen or permanent resident and are eligible to do 100% of the process in the US. We will discuss 245(i) protection, how a legal entry can help, the use of waivers in complex cases, and the processing time for these cases.

Key points

  • "Adjustment of status" means getting permanent residency without having to leave the country. Unfortunately not everyone can do this process.

  • It’s important to verify if you have 245(i) protection or if you need a waiver because this can impact your options.

  • The processing times for adjustment of status varies depending on location and case preparation.

245(i) Protection

One way you can apply for permanent residency without leaving the United States is if you have 245(i) protection. This applies to people who were beneficiaries of an immigration petition filed on or before April 30, 2001 or if a petition was filed for their parents on or before April 30, 2001 and the person was still under age 21.

If you are married to a US citizen or a permanent resident and think you have 245(i) protection, you can show your old petition to an immigration lawyer to verify if you can get permanent residency through marriage without having to leave the United States.

It is important to mention that not all people have 245(i) protection and some will have to go through consular processing, which is a completely different type of case that takes longer and involves more steps. Therefore, it is important to speak with an immigration lawyer to verify your eligibility.

Permanent Residency Through Marriage to a US Citizen and a Legal Entry

Alternatively, if your last entry into the United States was legal and you're married to a U.S. citizen, you might qualify to apply for permanent residency within the US. (This is not an option if the spouse is a permanent resident.) However, it's essential to note that immigration authorities look at all entries, not just the most recent one. Multiple entries sometimes result in the person having a permanent bar. There are also 3 year bars and 10 year bars. Speak with an attorney about each entry and exit (even if you weren't detained or were a minor or the entry was legal).


There are situations in which a waiver may be necessary to obtain permanent residency. Since 2007, I have successfully helped many clients who require a waiver. Whether due to criminal convictions or the use of false documents for entry or attempted entry into the United States, sometimes waivers are needed. If you've faced criminal charges (even if you've fulfilled all court orders) or if you've ever been detained by immigration authorities, it's crucial to have an attorney review your situation because it can impact your options.

How long does a permanent residency case in the US take?

The time it takes will depend on several factors. If you do not submit the correct proof or if you do not prepare the applications well, then they can reject the case, they can deny the case, or they can send a notice saying that some documents are missing and then the case will be delayed. The processing time also depends on where in the United States you are located. Some offices process them in a few months, others take a year or longer. If your spouse is a permanent resident, then it may take 3-4 years (as of the time this article was written).

Make sure you receive the advice of an immigration lawyer before submitting your case. Do not rely on a notary or unaccredited individuals who offer to prepare your applications and then disappear when problems arise. Many times they make mistakes and your case will take longer resulting in additional costs and possibly the denial of your case. In the worst case, the denial may result in you being referred to immigration court.

No Legal Entry or 245(i) protection?

If you don't have a legal entry or 245(i) protection, all is not lost. Consular process is the other common way to obtain permanent residency through marriage. It takes longer and usually involves a waiver, however it can result in permanent residency. Our office has a 100% approval rate for I-601A provisional waivers and can definitely help if this situation applies to you.


Achieving permanent residency through marriage is an attainable goal with the right guidance and preparation. Whether using 245(i) protection or a lawful entry, consulting with an attorney ensures your eligibility and thorough case preparation to avoid unnecessary delays. Don't leave your immigration journey to chance—secure the support of a qualified attorney to navigate the path to permanent residency smoothly.

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Alena Ray Conrad

Immigration Attorney

This is for general information purposes only. For advice about your specific situation, contact an experienced immigration attorney.


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