Green card marriage

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A green card marriage is a marriage of convenience between a legal resident of the United States of America and a person who would be ineligible for residency but for being married to the resident. The term derives from the availability of permanent resident documents ("Green cards") for spouses of legal residents in the United States, where marriage is one of the fastest and surest ways to obtain legal residence.[1] Marriages, if legitimate, entitle the spouse to live and work in the United States, as in most other countries. In the United States, 2.3 million marriage visas were approved from 1998 through 2007, representing 25% of all green cards in 2007. Even if the non-resident spouse was previously an illegal immigrant, marriage entitles the spouse to residency, generally without the waiting time required for persons caught being in the United States illegally.[1]


Most marriages between residents and non-residents are undertaken properly, for reasons other than or in addition to residency status. That said, the practice of obtaining residency through marriage is illegal in the United States if the marriage itself is fraudulent.[2] A marriage that is solely for purposes of obtaining legal residence is considered a sham, and is a crime in the United States for both participants.[3]

Many of the arrangements are simple transactions between two individuals, often in exchange for money paid to the legal resident. In other cases the legal resident is an unwitting victim of a fraudulent marriage.[4] In yet other cases the marriages are arranged by criminal enterprises, sometimes involving the complicity of corrupt immigration officials who accept payment for describing the marriage as legitimate in immigration paperwork.[5]

Cultural references[edit]

  • The film Green Card is a romantic comedy that portrays a green card marriage.[6] The films The Proposal and The Wedding Banquet portray a similar marriages of convenience designed to allow the main female character to stay in the United States.
  • In the TV show Parks and Recreation, the character Tom Haverford entered into a green card marriage with Wendy, his Canadian college friend.[citation needed]
  • On the show My Name Is Earl, Catalina, a Mexican immigrant, and Randy, her dimwitted American friend, were forced into a green card marriage so Catalina could come back to America.[citation needed]
  • In the season 5 finale of That '70s Show, Fez marries Laurie Forman to avoid deportation.[7]
  • In the two part season two finale of the sitcom Melissa & Joey, Joe proposes to and marries Elena, his Russian girlfriend who will likely be arrested upon her return to Russia after her company is shut down due to a Ponzi scheme that she was either unaware of or not a participant in. Joe marries her so that she can become a US citizen.[8][9]
  • In the seventh season of the TV show Malcolm in the Middle, Reese is tricked by Raduca, his grandmother's servant from Eastern Europe, to marry her and study for the green card exam to gain her citizenship.
  • In the 7th and 8th season of House MD, House marries a Ukrainian cam girl to allow her to obtain her green card.
  • In the sitcom The Nanny, Fran's French tutor proposes marriage to get a green card.[10]
  • In the film In My Life, Mark Salvacion's mother married his boyfriend, in order to obtain green card, as her son's dying wish. It was revealed when she met an American guy who woos her.
  • The TLC Reality Series, 90 Day Fiancé centers around Green card marriages.
  • In the TV show Prison Break, Mika had a previously arranged marriage with Michael Scofield as a mutual favor.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b David Seminara (November 2008). "Hello, I Love You, Won't You Tell Me Your Name: Inside the Green Card Marriage Phenomenon". Center for Immigration Studies.
  2. ^ "Man pleads not guilty in alleged Internet green card marriage". Associated Press. December 31, 2007.
  3. ^ Scott Glover (December 7, 2007). "Pair arrested in green card marriage that resulted from Web ads". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ Greg Gordon (September 27, 1997). "For love or a green card? As tougher INS laws loom: Minnesotan tells her story". Minneapolis Star-Tribune. Archived from the original on October 25, 2012.
  5. ^ Bill Hutchinson (June 8, 2006). "Immig officer & sis held in scam". New York Daily news.
  6. ^ Caryn James (March 3, 1991). "Green Card apes Pretty Woman". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "Celebration Day". That '70s Show. Season 5. Episode 25. May 14, 2003. Fox.
  8. ^ "From Russia With Love". Melissa & Joey. Season 2. Episode 14. August 22, 2012. ABC Family.
  9. ^ "Mel Marries Joe". Melissa & Joey. Season 2. Episode 15. August 29, 2012. ABC Family.
  10. ^ "Green Card". The Nanny. Season 3. Episode 25.