As an experienced immigration attorney, I have seen firsthand the many challenges and obstacles that couples face when trying to obtain a green card through marriage. The process can be lengthy, complex, and confusing, with numerous requirements, paperwork, and legal hurdles to overcome. However, with the right guidance, preparation, and support, it is possible to successfully navigate the path to a green card and achieve your dreams of living and working in the United States.
Marriage-based immigration is a process through which a foreign national who is married to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) can obtain a green card, which allows them to live and work in the United States permanently. This process is also known as “family-based immigration,” as it is one of the main avenues for family members to join their loved ones in the U.S.
The Green Card through the marriage application process can be divided into two main stages: the immigrant petition stage and the adjustment of the status stage. During the immigrant petition stage, the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse files a petition on behalf of their foreign spouse with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the authorities approve the petition, the foreign spouse can then initiate the green card application through the adjustment of status process. This process requires them to submit various forms, provide supporting documents, and attend an interview.
To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the foreign spouse must meet several requirements, including:
- Legally marrying a United States citizen or LPR
- Having a qualifying relationship with their U.S. citizen or LPR spouse
- Being admissible to the United States (i.e., not having a criminal record or certain medical conditions)
- Meeting the income requirements of the U.S. citizen or LPR sponsor (if applicable)
- Residing in the United States (if applying for adjustment of status)
Simply being married to a U.S. citizen or LPR does not automatically qualify an individual for a green card, it’s important to note. The couple must provide evidence of a bona fide marriage, meaning a marriage entered into for genuine reasons and not solely for immigration purposes. This evidence can include joint financial records, joint leases or mortgages, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
The process of obtaining a marriage-based green card can be broken down into several steps:
- File the immigrant petition. The U.S. citizen or LPR spouse files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with USCIS, along with supporting documents such as proof of the marriage, the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse’s citizenship or residency status, and proof of any prior marriages and/or divorces.
- Wait for the petition to be approved. USCIS will review the petition and supporting documents and may request additional evidence or information. If the petition is approved, USCIS will send a notice of approval to the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse and forward the case to the National Visa Center (NVC).
- Submit the application for adjustment of status. If the foreign spouse is already in the United States, they can apply for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with supporting documents such as biographical information, employment and education history, and evidence of financial support.
- Attend the biometrics appointment. USCIS will schedule a biometrics appointment, during which the foreign spouse will have their fingerprints, photograph, and signature taken.
- Attend the green card interview. USCIS will schedule an interview to assess the legitimacy of the marriage and the foreign spouse’s admissibility to the United States. The couple will need to provide evidence of their relationship, answer questions about their marriage and life together. And demonstrate their ability to communicate in English.
- Wait for the green card to be approved. If the green card application is approved, the foreign spouse will receive their green card in the mail. If the application is denied, the couple can appeal the decision or reapply.
The green card application process can be fraught with challenges and obstacles, including:
- Delays and backlogs. USCIS and other government agencies often experience delays and backlogs, which can prolong the process and cause frustration and anxiety for applicants.
- Requests for evidence. USCIS may request additional evidence or information to support the green card application, which can be time-consuming and stressful.
- Inadmissibility issues. If the foreign spouse has a criminal record, a history of immigration violations, or a medical condition that makes them inadmissible to the United States. They may be ineligible for a green card.
- Language and cultural barriers. The green card interview requires good communication skills and cultural awareness, which can be challenging for couples who come from different backgrounds and speak different languages.
To increase your chances of a successful marriage-based immigration journey, consider the following tips:
- Hire an experienced immigration attorney. An immigration attorney can guide you through the process, handle the paperwork and legal issues, and advocate for your rights and interests.
- Be organized and proactive. Keep track of deadlines, gather your documents and evidence in advance, and communicate with USCIS and other agencies in a timely and professional manner.
- Be honest and transparent. Provide accurate and truthful information, and do not try to conceal or misrepresent any facts or circumstances.
- Build a strong case for a bona fide marriage. Provide plenty of evidence of your relationship, such as joint financial records, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
- Be patient and persistent: The process of obtaining a green card can be lengthy and frustrating. But it is important to stay positive, focused, and persistent.
Choosing the right immigration attorney is crucial for a successful marriage-based immigration journey. Here are some factors to consider when selecting an attorney:
- Experience and expertise. Look for an attorney who has extensive experience and expertise in marriage-based immigration and green card applications.
- Communication and responsiveness. Choose an attorney who communicates clearly and promptly, and who is available to answer your questions and concerns.
- Reputation and references: Research the attorney’s reputation and track record, and ask for references from past clients.
- Fees and affordability: Consider the attorney’s fees and payment plans, and choose one who offers reasonable and transparent pricing.
- Ask for a contract that is clear and foresees all scenarios. There shouldn’t be any surprises.
- Choose a lawyer based on the technologies he uses to keep you informed of your case, who has modern and fast systems for sharing information
Providing strong evidence and documentation is essential for a successful green card application. Here are some tips for gathering and presenting evidence:
- Gather a variety of evidence: Provide a range of evidence that demonstrates the legitimacy of your marriage, such as joint bank statements, lease agreements, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
- Be thorough and organized: Present your evidence in a clear, organized, and easy-to-follow format, with clear labels, dates, and descriptions.
- Avoid fraudulent or fabricated evidence: Do not try to fabricate or falsify evidence, as this can result in serious legal consequences and damage your credibility.
- Be prepared for requests for evidence: USCIS may request additional evidence or information to support your case, so be prepared to provide this in a timely and professional manner.
Q: Can I apply for a green card through marriage if my spouse is not a U.S. citizen or LPR?
Lawyer Elektra Yao: No, you must have a qualifying relationship with a U.S. citizen or LPR to be eligible for a marriage-based green card.
Q: How long does the Green Card through the marriage application process take?
Lawyer Elektra Yao: The processing time can vary depending on various factors, such as USCIS workload, the complexity of the case, and the applicant’s background and circumstances.
Q: What happens if my green card application is denied?
Lawyer Elektra Yao: You can appeal the decision or reapply, depending on the reasons for the denial.
Q: Can I work or travel while my green card application is pending?
Lawyer Elektra Yao: Depending on your circumstances, you may be eligible for work authorization or a travel document while your green card application is pending.
Here are some real-life stories and experiences of couples who have gone through the marriage-based immigration process:
- Maria and Juan: Maria and Juan met in Mexico and fell in love. Juan was a U.S. citizen, so they decided to get married and apply for a green card for Maria. Despite some delays and requests for evidence, their application was approved, and Maria is now a permanent resident of the United States.
- Ahmed and Sarah: Ahmed and Sarah met in Egypt and got married. Sarah was a U.S. citizen, so they applied for a green card for Ahmed. However, their application was denied due to Ahmed’s prior immigration violations. With the help of an immigration attorney, they were able to appeal the decision and eventually obtain a green card for Ahmed.
- Wei and John: Wei and John met in China and got married. John was a U.S. citizen, so they applied for a green card for Wei. Despite some language and cultural barriers during the interview, their application was approved, and Wei is now a permanent resident of the United States.
Obtaining a green card through marriage-based immigration can be a challenging and complex process, but with the right guidance, preparation, and support, it is possible to achieve your dreams of living and working in the United States. By understanding the requirements, being organized and proactive, building a strong case for a bona fide marriage, and working with an experienced immigration attorney, you can increase your chances of success and overcome the obstacles that may arise along the way.