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I am German citizen who lived in California for many years under F1 visa and I am on OPT right now. In October I will be getting married to a US citizen in California.

I am in the process moving to Canada for an "adventurous venture", that means: Maybe I decide things are going well and we'll be staying there for a few years or things won't work out. My spouse will stay in the US for now.

I'll have a Canadian work permit but if things don't work out we want to move back to California (if they do, my spouse will follow permanently to Canada).

While I will be able to enter the US as a tourist (Visa waiver) I want to avoid having a longer time (=weeks or even months) where I am not allowed to work.

  • How long does it take for me to get the greencard while my spouse is the US and I am in Canada?
  • Is it a good idea to apply for greencard immideately, even though I am in Canada or is it better to wait until I know for sure things won't work out in Canada?

In the latter case I am just afraid it will take many months until I will be allowed to work in the US which is financially prohibitive.

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    I’m slightly confused by your question. You want to reside in Canada to work, but at the same time apply to be a permanent resident of the US? – Traveller Sep 29 at 6:42
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    Marrying and not living together will be a red flag for DHS that your marriage is actually a sham to achieve US citizenship. In addition, if you contemplate filing an I-485 to adjust your status, your move to Canada can imperil the application. For a related discussion: expatriates.stackexchange.com/questions/8693/… – David supports Monica Sep 29 at 16:04
  • @Traveller: I will reside in Canada to work for IF THINGS WORK OUT (it is a startup and hence things are NOT as certain) for 1-2 years but then we want to go back to California – divB Sep 29 at 16:55
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    @David: There is enough evidence (pictures, stories, witnesses) that we are together for many years and we have lived to gether in California for a year. I think I gave up on I-485 because I think there would not be enough time for this to happen before going to Canada. – divB Sep 29 at 16:59
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There are 2 ways to get the Green Card AFTER being married to a USC. 1) A IR-1 (or CR-1 if married less than 2 years) or 2) An Adjustment of Status - AOS.

For the first option, you will apply for the IR-1/CR-1 visa in a US consulate in Canada. The process can take from 5 to 16 months. Once approved, you'll need to move to the US before the expiration date of the IR-1/CR-1 visa: "An immigrant visa is usually valid for up to six months from the date of issuance unless your medical examination expires sooner, which may make your visa valid for less than six months".

For the second, you NEED to be present in the USA. You will only be able to travel outside of the US with your new EAD, since you won't qualify to re-enter with your F-1 Visa/OPT EAD. Also, you will only be able to work after you receive your new EAD (unless you keep using your OPT/STEAM OPT until then). However, since you're moving to Canada, this is not really an option.

Please keep in mind that being married to a USC can raise a red flag every time that you come to the US. You will need to prove that you won't try to stay permanently either by illegal means or by applying for an AOS (instead of going through the CR-1 process above) to be with your spouse.

EDIT: I saw in the comments that you thought about getting the AOS done before moving to Canada. Keep in mind that once granted the Green Card you can't be absent from the US for a long period of time or make your primary residency abroad. See "Abandoning Permanent Resident Status": https://www.uscis.gov/green-card/after-green-card-granted/maintaining-permanent-residence

  • "You will only be able to travel outside of the US with your new EAD" EAD is only for work. It's Advance Parole that allows them to travel outside the US. EAD and Advance Parole may or may not come together on a combo card. – user102008 Oct 2 at 6:07
  • @user102008 that is correct. I used the term EAD to simplify and avoid confusion. Unless your request the 2 documents separate, they'll send you a combo card. Plus on F-1 OPT you would need to show EAD (even though is not an AP), Visa and Proof of Employment to cross the border back. – IanDan Oct 2 at 14:15

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