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Obtaining a Green Card after Marrying a U.S. Citizen

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Congratulations on your recent marriage! The presents have been opened, the cake has been eaten and now it is time to obtain lawful permanent resident status! This article will briefly walk you through the steps that you need to take to be able to live permanently in the United States with your new spouse.

 

The First Step

The first step in this process is to file the form I 130 petition for alien relative and the required supporting documentation with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services(USCIS). In addition to filing process, there may be three additional steps that you would have to take to become a lawful permanent resident. These additional steps consist of a marriage interview, adjustment of status or consular processing and inspection and admission by US Customs and Border Protection(CBP).

 

Form I 130–The Basics

The form I 130 must be completed by the US citizen spouse. The first section asks about the U.S. Citizen petitioner’s relationship to the sponsored spouse. The next part asks for basic information regarding the petitioner spouse including the full name, current address, place and date of birth, gender, marital status, date and place of the present marriage. Part B also asks for the petitioner’s social security number, information on prior marriages and information on how the petitioner obtained citizenship. Part C requests various information regarding the beneficiary including their name, current address, place of birth, prior marriages, employment status, etc. Part D requires other miscellaneous information including prior I 130 petitions and asks if other I 130 petitions are simultaneously being submitted for other family members. Once all sections of the form are completed the US Citizen petitioner signs the form I 130.

 

The Supporting Documentation

Along with the form I 130 USCIS requires the petitioner to attach supporting documentation to demonstrate citizenship and establish the familial relationship to the beneficiary. Any documentation in a foreign language must be translated to English and must include a certification from the translator that the translation is accurate and the translator is competent to translate. The Documentation that you submit to USCIS to support the petition will be considered primary evidence or secondary evidence. Primary evidence consists of official government documentation that has been properly certified or authenticated. Secondary evidence includes records that were made at the same time of the event in question such as baptism records, hospital records, church, school or employment records. The typical standard of proof that must be satisfied by the petitioner is the preponderance of the evidence. The standard means it is more likely than not at the statements are true and the relationship is legitimate.

 

The Next Step

After the I 130 and supporting documentation is submitted, USCIS may require a marriage interview before approving the I-130. Generally USCIS will require a marriage interview at this stage only when they suspect fraud. There are a number of situations in which USCIS may be suspicious of a spousal relationship including wide age differences, indications that the couple is not currently residing together or the fact that the couple does not speak a common language. Whenever USCIS schedules an interview, the couple should be ready to establish the legitimacy of their marriage through evidence such as photos, testimony and affidavits of friends and family.

 

The Third Step

The third step is to determine eligibility for adjustment of status from a non immigrant to a lawful permanent resident. Adjusting status has the advantage of allowing the foreign national spouse to remain in the United States throughout the immigration process.
In order to qualify for this benefit, the foreign national spouse must be able to show that they were admitted inspected or paroled onto the United States and must not be inadmissible for any reason such as unlawful
presence, fraud or criminal activity. If the qualifications for adjustment of status are met, the foreign national spouse will usually file for adustment on form I 485 at the time of filing the I 130. However, it is permissible to file after the I 130 has been approved. After the form I-485 has been received, a marriage interview will be scheduled at a USCIS office. At the adjustment interview, applicants immigrating through marriage should be prepared to answer questions about the validity of the marriage. If all goes well at the interview, the officer will stamp the passport with temporary evidence of lawful permanent resident status. The applicant will then be mailed the form I 551, permanent resident alien card.

 

The Fourth Step(for those who cannot adjust status)

Consular Processing
If the beneficiary spouse is not eligible to adjust status they will go through consular processing. After the petition on form I 130 is approved, a notification will be sent to the beneficiary and the approved petition will be forwarded to the National Visa Center(NVC). The NVC will then send out a set of instructions informing the beneficiary that he or she may begin the consular processing stage. Once the required fees are paid, the NVC then instructs the applicant to go to the Department of State website to complete the appropriate forms and gather all of the necessary documentation. Once the forms along with the requested documentation are sent to the NVC, the file is then forwarded to the consular post and in most cases the NVC will schedule the visa interview. At the visa interview the officer will evaluate the validity of the marriage and look at any potential grounds of inadmissibility to the United States. If the visa is issued allowing travel to the United States, it will usually be valid for six months. In order to obtain permanent resident status, the beneficiary must travel to the US with a passport(valid for at least 60 days) and a visa packet during the visa validity period.

 

Conclusion

These steps omit some specifics of the process in an attempt to give a broad overview of the process. A few steps that were not addressed include the required medical examination and affidavit of support. Also, the steps listed in this article attempt to demonstrate what the process looks like in a best case scenario. However, in reality there are oftentimes roadblocks along the way that can add complexity to the process. If you encounter roadblocks or have questions about the process I encourage you to reach out to a knowledgeable immigration attorney for guidance.

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