Legal Guide

What You Should Know about Green Cards through Marriage

A green card grants a person who is born outside of the United States the ability to permanently reside in the United States. It gives them the opportunity to live together with their spouse and make a life for themselves in this country.

Many foreign-born persons are able to become permanent residents based on their marriage to a U.S citizen. Their citizen spouse can sponsor them for a green card.

They are considered as an “immediate relative.” This means that there are no numerical quotas which could prolong their wait for a green card.

When looking to complete this process, whether you are the sponsor, or the one receiving the sponsorship— there are going to be a few things that you should know about getting a green card through marriage. Here is what you need to know about the process.

When the Marriage Takes Place in the U.S

When a person enters the U.S. with a visa and gets married here, things are usually a little simpler when compared to a marriage which takes place abroad.

In this case, the applicant doesn’t have to go back to his country of residence.  He is able to adjust his status to permanent resident without leaving the U.S.  Although this seems relatively simple, there are a few things that may cause hiccups in the process.

It is important to be aware of the following:

  • Coming on a Tourist or Student Visa—When a person enters the United States with a tourist or student visa, and gets married to a U.S citizen within 90 days, the government may deny the adjustment of status application on the grounds that the person entered the country with the intention of remaining here permanently.
  • Be Prepared for Personal Questions—You’ll both have to prove that the marriage is based on love and wanting to share a life together. If the USCIS determines that the marriage was entered into solely for the foreign-born spouse to get a green card, it will be considered fraudulent and the application was be denied.
  • The Application Fee—There is a $1960 filing fee when applying for the green card when the marriage takes place in the United States.

The Documents You’ll Need When Married in the U.S, and Filing for a Green Card

When you are ready to file for a green card after getting married in the U.S., you will need to complete the following immigration forms, and submit them to the USCIS:

  1. Form I-130 Visa Petition
  2. Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status
  3. Form I-765 Application for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  4. Form I-131 Application for an Advance Parole Travel Document
  5. Form I-864 Affidavit of Support—This will need to be signed by the American citizen spouse and must be accompanied by their latest tax return. Keep in mind that if the sponsoring spouse does not have enough income, a co-sponsor may be required.

Along with the immigration forms above, you and your spouse need to attach:

  1. Your marriage certificate
  2. The sponsoring spouse’s U.S. birth or naturalization certificate
  3. Proof of termination of any previous marriages
  4. Include photos of your marriage ceremony with family and friends in attendance (Not mandatory but, highly recommended)
  5. Provide proof of sharing a living space (Joint lease, bank accounts, insurance policies, bill payments, etc.)
  6. The application should show that the person applying is “admissible” to the U.S (the applicant doesn’t have any legal trouble in the past, everything from crime to immigration/legal status fraud).

Once all of this information is gathered and meticulously filled out, it must be submitted to the USCIS.

What Happens after the Paperwork is Submitted, For Marriages That Take Place in the U.S?

Here is what happens after the applications are submitted:

  1. The Biometrics appointment—The next step, after submitting the paper work, will be getting scheduled for a biometrics appointment. The USCIS will take the applicant’s fingerprints and send them to law enforcement agencies. They will then verify whether or not the applicant has ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime.
  1. The Employment Authorization Document (EAD)—About 6 months after submitting the initial paperwork, the applicant should receive an EAD work permit. If eligible, they will also receive an advance parole travel permit.
  1. The USCIS Interview—After about 12 to 18 months the USCIS will interview the couple. If they find that the marriage is legitimate, they will then grant the applicant a 2-year green card.  If the officer has doubts, each spouse may be interview separately.  The officer may also order an investigation into the bona fides of the marriage.
  1. The 1-751 petition—The 1-751 petition has to be submitted to the USCIS during the 90-day period which occurs before the 2-year green card expires. If you are both still married, a joint 1-751 should be filed. If you are divorced, you should submit an 1-751 waiver petition.

Finally, once the 1-751 petition is approved, the applicant will get his 10-year green card.

What You Should Know About Getting a Green Card Abroad

Although, it is more likely that a couple will file for a green card in the United States, a few circumstances may cause them to apply for a green card aboard:

  • If the marriage did not take place in the United States
  • If the green card applicant did not enter the United States lawfully
  • If the green card applicant is ineligible to adjust their status is the U.S

You should also keep in mind that there will be a $1,400 fee, when applying for a green card abroad. Also, keep in mind that travel accommodations will have to be paid for as well.

The Legal Documents You’ll Need When Applying for a Green Card from Abroad

Here are all the documents that you’ll need for the green card application process, when done outside of the U.S:

  • An I-130 Visa Petition—This will be the form that starts the filling process. The U.S. citizen spouse needs to file it with the USCIS.  It may take USCIS around 6 to 9 months to make a decision on the petition.
  • Documents that Are Requested from the National Visa Center (NVC)— If the petition is approved, it will be send to the NVC. They will request documents from the applicant. (Send photocopies, not originals).
  • I-601A Provisional Waiver- If the foreign-born spouse has been unlawfully present in the U.S. for over 180 days, and has to go abroad in order to apply for a green card, he will be barred from returning to the U.S. for 3 to 10 years. However, if he submits an I-601A provisional waiver, and the USCIS finds that the U.S. citizen spouse (and/or the foreign-born spouse’s parents if they are U.S. citizens or green card holders) would suffer “extreme hardship” if he were barred from returning to the U.S., he can be granted a waiver of the unlawful presence bar.

What Happens Once the Paperwork is Submitted?

Here are the next steps of the green card process, when applying abroad:

  • The Interview Abroad—Once all the documents are submitted, the NVC will schedule an immigration visa interview for the applicant. This will take place at a S Embassy, or Consulate located in the country where the applicant resides.
  • The Move—If the interview goes smoothly, and the applicant is approved for their immigrant visa, they will have 180 days to move to the United States.
  • A Final Check—When entering the United States, an immigrant officer will look into the paperwork. If everything looks good, the applicant will be admitted into the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. A few weeks later, the green card will be mailed to the applicant by the USCIS.

There are going to be a few things both spouse should know about: the documents that are needed, the things you’ll have to include, the laws surrounding immigration, the costs associated with the green card process, and how the process will flow depending on where the applicant is applying from.

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Excerpt: “The great news for those couples going through this process is that getting a green card for a foreign spouse is one of fastest ways of getting a green card.”

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