A bona fide marriage with a U.S. citizen is the easiest way to obtain permanent residency in the U.S. While a step towards this process is as easy as filing an immediate relative petition, one must be aware that the foreign national spouse must have entered the U.S. legally or must have been “grandfathered” by way of an application / petition filed prior to April 30, 2001. If this situation applies to you, you could also be required to submit proof of physical presence in the U.S. covering a certain time period.
A foreign national who entered the U.S. illegally by crossing the border uninspected, and is not protected under section 245(i) of the Immigration and Nationality Act must obtain his / her permanent residency through consular processing at his / her home country. This process could be tricky and professional assistance is highly recommended.
A marriage not contracted in good faith constitutes fraud. The finding of fraud on behalf of the foreign national bars him / her from future immigration benefits. This offense is also punishable by up to five years in jail.