Integrity Legal

24th September 2009

The question asked by many American Citizens in the United States or Expats in Thailand with a Thai Girlfriend: How do I obtain a Green Card for My Thai Fiancee? Before answering this question, the researcher needs to discern exactly what a Green Card is.

The Document commonly referred to as a “Green Card,” is in fact a term used to describe Lawful Permanent Residence in the USA. In family visa applications, there are essentially two ways of obtaining lawful permanent resident status: applying for an Immigrant visa and obtaining said status upon entry into the United States; or applying for a K1 visa, entering the United States, and applying for permanent residence through the process of adjustment of status. There are two types of lawful permanent residence: conditional lawful permanent residence and unconditional lawful permanent residence. Conditional permanent residence is reserved for those couples who either opt to adjust status in the United States or who have been married less than 2 years at the time they apply for a visa. Conditional permanent residence is conferred upon the entrant who travels to the United States on a CR1 visa. Unconditional permanent residence is conferred upon an entrant to the United States traveling on an IR1 visa.

If seeking an immigrant visa for a Thai fiancee, then the American Citizen will need to marry the Thai national before the application’s submission. In Thailand, marriage registration can be a very straightforward process provided both parties are legally free to marry. A common question with regard to Thai marriage registration: will the US recognize my Thai marriage to my thai fiancee? In short: yes. The United States recognizes the legality and binding effect of a legally sanctified matrimonial union executed in the Kingdom of Thailand provided that it is registered at the local Amphur office.

What about bringing my Thai fiancee to the United States on a K1 visa? This is an option pursued by many Thai-American couples as it is generally the fastest method of getting a Thai fiancee into the United States. The only real downside of the K1 visa is the fact that it requires a post-marital adjustment of status.

Where the fiancee enters and adjusts or marries abroad and enters on an Immigrant visa, if she decides to travel abroad subsequent to acquiring permanent resident status, then she may be wise in obtaining a reentry permit so that a presumption of residential abandonment does not arise. Those who have acquired a US reentry permit are free to remain abroad for up to 2 years without raising the suspicion that they are not ever returing to the United States.


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