Green Card Marriage: What Comes After The Walk Down the Aisle?

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, each year, over 450,000 U.S. citizens marry foreign-born nationals, who subsequently petition to acquire a green card and establish permanent residency. In 2010, foreign-born spouses of U.S. citizens accounted for 57 percent of the total immediate relative LPR flow, making it one of the most common avenues toward obtaining a green card in the U.S., along with employment-based green cards and family-based green cards. However, the process is complex and can be overwhelming, so it is strongly recommended for couples to hire an experienced immigration lawyer. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ (USCIS) examiners are trained to detect any inconsistencies or traces of fraud during the green card interview, so it is important to complete each step of the process with caution and accuracy. There are alternative options available, such as the “Extreme Hardship Waiver” for those who wish to apply for a marriage green card, but have previously violated immigration laws, i.e. overstayed a temporary visa. However, if not properly handled, there are risks involved that could lead to deportation or ban from the reentering the country. Refer to Perez & Malik, PLLC San Antonio immigration lawyers to ensure that your green card marriage case is processed quickly and effectively.

Exchange Vows: Be Legal Here Now.

Every foreign-born national who marries a U.S. citizen must file a Form I-130 Immediate Relative Petition in order to eventually obtain a green card. However, if you’re spouse is not a U.S. citizen, but a legal permanent resident, you must file a green card petition under the F2A visa category, which is under the family preference category. Unfortunately, this category has an annual quota, which means there can be a wait of several years after filing. In either case, your spouse will also have to complete an Affidavit of Support.

Marriage in the U.S.

If you marry in the USA, you and your spouse can be together in the country while waiting for approval. Your marriage to a U.S. citizen classifies you as an immediate relative, so you can immediately apply for a green card and file both the Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status) at the same time.

Marriage Outside the U.S.

There are two options available:

  1. Complete the Form I-130, wait for approval, and travel to the U.S. through consular processing.
  2. Instead of waiting abroad for your From I-130 to be approved, you can file for a K-3 Nonimmigrant Visa for a Spouse, which will allow you to travel to the U.S. as a non-immigrant. All you need is the receipt of the Form I-130 petition. Once entering the U.S., you may then file for Form I-485, Adjustment of Status.

Remember, during the green card application process, you should not leave the country without USCIS permission, which is known as “advance parole.” We also recommend you consult with an immigration lawyer prior to traveling due to the 3 and 10 year bars.

Fingerprints and Biometrics Appointment

About two months after submitting your Adjustment of Status form, you will be scheduled for a fingerprints and biometrics appointment at a USCIS support center. The USCIS requires the scanning of all 10 fingers and a series of facial photographs before completing the visa interview.

The Interview

An appointment for you green card interview should come in the mail 4-6 months after filing. Bring all the documents specified in your visa application and all identification documents (birth certificate, passport, marriage certificate), which should be original copies. Keep in mind that the receipts from your I-130 Petition and Adjustment of Status form should be treated as official government documents. The immigration examiner may conduct the interview in several ways, i.e. interview you and your spouse together, individually, on videotape, etc. It is extremely important that you prepare for the interview beforehand, review all USCIS documents filed by both you and your spouse.

Conditional Green Cards: Till Two Years Do Us Part…

Conditional permanent residence is granted to immigrants whose marriage is less than two years old at the time of interview. This means permanent residence status can be terminated if the marriage is annulled, ends in divorce, or is found to be completely fraudulent within two years after permanent residence status is granted. The green card holder must apply for removal of the conditions within two years after it is granted and provide proof of a bona-fide marriage (i.e. wedding initiations, church certificates, join bank accounts, shared financial statements, etc.).

If the marriage does end in divorce prior to the two years, the petition to remove conditions may still be filed and approved, resulting in an unconditional, 10 year green card.

How Long Until Green Card is Issued?

Since there are no annual quotas for the “Immediate Relative” visa category, the process to obtain a visa through your marriage to a U.S. citizen can take anywhere from 4 to 12 months, assuming that you file Form I-30 and Form I-485 Adjustment of Status application simultaneously. However, a work permit is issued within 90 days after filing forms, which then enables you to apply for a Social Security Card.

How Our San Antonio Immigration Lawyers Can Help You

Perez & Malik, PLLC immigration attorneys will:

• Analyze your personal history, including your immigration and marriage details, and determine eligibility.
• Explain pertinent legal issues, inform you of all available options, and advise you on the best course of action to take in your particular case.
• Assist you in accurately filling out and submitting all required documentation.
• Contact USCIS officials and manage proceedings
• Accompany you and your spouse to the marriage green card interview.
• Keep you informed and up-to-date throughout the entire process.

Contact our Perez & Malik, PLLC law office and let our expert immigration attorneys assist you in acquiring a marriage green card.