U.S. Immigration Laws provided special ways for Spouses of U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to obtain a Green Card. They also provide a way for Fiancé's of U.S. Citizens to obtain a Green Card. Below are answers to several common questions about this process:
The couple must be lawfully married under the laws of the country they are in. The marriage can occur anywhere in the world. The only requirement is that the marriage be lawful under the laws of that country. Also, the marriage must not go against U.S. Laws, such as having multiple marriages/spouses at the same time. Same-sex marriages are permitted.
There are three parts to a marriage case:
1) Civil Evidence: Documents identifying the couple (birth certificates) and proof of lawful marriage (marriage certificate).
2) Proof of Relationship: Evidence of the couples relationship, such as pictures, letters, joint financial documents and other evidence.
3) Affidavit of Support: Before a Green Card is issued, the foreign spouse must have a financial sponsor. This can be the Petitioner spouse, or potentially by sing their own assets or a joint sponsor.
a) If the foreign spouse is obtaining their Green Card in the U.S., they may require proof of lawful entry.
b) If the foreign spouse is obtaining their Green Card through Consular Processing (at the Embassy or Consulate) foreign police certificates (and other civil documents) may be required.
The timeline for Spouses depends on the U.S. Immigration Status of the U.S. Petitioner Spouse. If the U.S. Petitioner Spouse is an American Citizen there are no delays other than regular application processing time. In this case the spouse is considered an "Immediate Relative" and gets in the front of the line.
However if the U.S. Petitioner Spouse is a Green Card holder, the foreign spouse falls within the "F2a Preference Category." There is a limited number of Visas made available to such spouses. Thus there is a line. The waiting period is updated monthly on the State Department's Visa Bulletin.
Some countries allow couples to be married by proxy when one spouse is not able to physically meet their spouse. The U.S does not accept such marriages as valid. For the marriage to be complete and acceptable by U.S. authorities, the couple must meet at least once after the marriage occurs. This is to consummate the marriage. The Marriage Green Card Aplication is only acceptable after this occurs. The married couple should keep documentation and evidence of this meeting.
I always recommend having a consultation with an immigration attorney first. There are many issues that can create problems for the application that people not trained or experienced in immigration law are not aware. However, the first technical step is to begin preparing the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative.
This form has to be filled out with the necessary information of the Petitioner (US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident) and the Beneficiary (Foreign national spouse). You will also need to prove the sincerity of the spousal relationship through documents. A Marriage certificates will also be needed.
Adjustment of Status is a request separate from the Petition for Alien relative. It is made when the Beneficiary Spouse is located in the US and is applying for the Green Card. This application, Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Resident or Adjust Status and can be filed alongside the Form I-130 in most cases where the Beneficiary Spouse had lawfully entered the US with a Visa.
If the Beneficiary Spouse is not in the USA, they must first wait for the approval of Form I-130. Once approved, the US Immigration Department ("USCIS") will send the case file to the National Visa Center ("NVC"). The NVC will contact the Petitioner and request original or certified copies of civil documents, along with a completed Form I-864 Affidavit of Support. Once the Petitioner or Attorney has submitted these documents to the satisfaction of the NVC, the case will be sent to the local US Embassy or Consulate to complete Consular processing.
Both of these steps usually require an interview of the beneficiary, before a Green Card is granted.
This is a form required as part of the application process that shows a US person (the Petitioner or someone else) can support the Beneficiary immigrant so that they will not come to the US and become a Public Charge.
You can find the chart on Form I-864p (Poverty Guidelines) that will help you. You need to add yourself, the number of your dependents, and the number of potential immigrants you may be supporting. Your annual income based on your recent tax return must be more than the dollar amount listed on the chart for a person of your household size. Co-sponsors and other's may potentially have to submit such Affidavits as well.
After a successful Adjustment of Status or Consular Process interview, the Green Card will be mailed to the address on record. For Consular Processing, a separate online request must be made.
The USCIS website has addresses to mail the form to depending on the US State the petitioner is located in.
In addition to the filing fees for the I-130 ($420.00), I485 ($1,070.00) or Consular Processing, ($445.00) you will likely be required to pay a fee for medical check-ups, police certificates, translations, pictures and receiving the physical Green Card. For Legal Fees, please contact the JQK Law Firm to schedule a consultation.
A Conditional Green Card is given to spouses that have been married for less than two (2) years at the of the issuance of the Green Card. This Green Card acts just like a Permanent Green Card, except that between 21-24 months of its issuance, a separate application for the removal of the conditions (Form I-751) must be sent to USCIS. This may also require an interview and other documents to prove the sincerity of the marriage.
Separation or divorce will make it more difficult to remove the conditions on the Green Card. In such cases a waiver will usually be necessary. Moreover, the Applicant should have evidence to show that the relationship was real. In such cases, consulting an Immigration Attorney is highly recommended.
If the foreign spouse has been married to a US Citizen for the three (3) years, they will be able to file for their Citizenship (Form N-400, Naturalization) instead of waiting five (5) like regular lawful permanent residents have to wait. As part of the Citizenship Application, documentation of the relationship will be required. Note that being marriage to a Lawful Permanent Resident will not help obtaining Citizenship faster.
Importantly, a potential Petitioner or Beneficiary should consult an attorney, especially if there was ever a period of unlawful status, previous immigration court appearances, removal or voluntary departure, or criminal history. Moreover, there are country specific issues that exist that require attorney research to prevent problems emerging that can cause delays or potential damage the case.
The JQK Immigration Law Firm is very skilled and experienced in these types of cases and can provide excellent personal attorney attention to the processing of your parents Petition. Please email or call our office to discuss further.
The attorneys of the JQK Law Firm speak multiple languages, including Spanish, Farsi (Persian), Armenian, and Korean and help people from across the world including Vietnam, Russia, France, Canada, Mexico, Guatemala, Iran and dozens of other countries. Contact us now.