More Helpful Information on the Green Card Marriage Process
Green Card Marriage & Adjustment of Status
You can apply for a green card marriage through the adjustment of status process if you are inside the US and entered legally and you are otherwise "admissible". Some individuals are not "admissible". For example, those that entered unlawfully/illegally are inadmissible as are those who entered the country as a C1/D Crewman. There are other circumstances which may make you inadmissible, such as being convicted of certain crimes or engaging in fraud or misrepresentation. It's important that you fully discuss your case and background WITH YOUR ATTORNEY.
Spousal Petition & Adjustment of Status
When navigating the green card through marriage process in the US, the first part of the process is for the US citizen spouse to submit an Immigrant Relative Petition on behalf of his/her foreign national spouse. The petition is used to confirm that the US spouse would like to sponsor his/her foreign spouse for a green card and to establish the family relationship between the petitioner (US spouse for purposes of this discussion) and the beneficiary (foreign national spouse for purposes of this discussion).
The second part of the green card marriage process is for the foreign spouse to submit an Application to Adjust Status in the US from a nonimmigrant status to an immigrant status. This application is used to show that the foreign spouse is eligible to adjust his/her status in the US. If the foreign spouse is in the US and is "admissible", then it usually makes most sense to submit the Immigrant Relative Petition and the Application to Adjust Status simultaneously.
Green Card Marriage Affidavit of Support
The green card affidavit of support is an essential aspect of the green card marriage application. Regardless of the US spouse's income, the US spouse must complete an affidavit of support. If the US spouse's income and/or assets are insufficient, they may bring in a joint sponsor or possibly use the income and/or assets of the foreign spouse. The green card marriage application will not be approved without meeting the affidavit of support requirements.
The affidavit of support is a contract between the United States government and the petitioner/sponsor and any joint or co-sponsors. The essence of the contract is that under certain circumstances the sponsor and any joint or co-sponsors must pay the foreign individual's living expenses or reimburse the cost of any government benefits obtained by the foreign individual if he or she becomes a "public charge" (receipt of welfare or certain types of government assistance).
A joint sponsor will be necessary if the US spouse does not meet the affidavit of support requirements. A joint sponsor can be any US citizen or permanent resident (green card holder) and he or she need not be related to either the US citizen spouse or the foreign national spouse. In some scenarios, the foreign spouse can use his/her income and/or assets thereby avoiding the need for a joint sponsor.
How long does the Affidavit of Support bind the person who signs it?
The affidavit of support is a long term commitment. It is a legal contract that can be enforced by the government for any means-tested public benefits obtained by the sponsored foreign national. The affidavit of support contract ends when the foreign individual either becomes a citizen of the United States or earns 40 working quarters. Of course, the contract also ends if the foreign individual were to lose or give up his/her status as a permanent resident.
You can apply for work authorization as part of your green card marriage application. Work authorization will take approximately 3 months to arrive and is designed to allow the foreign national to legally work in the United States while waiting for his/her green card. Of course if the foreign national is in the United States in a status that already legally authorizes them to work, then the work authorization card is not as important, although it should be applied for anyway.
Unless you are in the H1B visa or L-1 visa statuses and you have a valid visa for these statuses in your passport, you cannot travel outside of the United States after submitting a green card application until you receive advance parole. If you travel outside of the United States while your green card application is pending before receiving advance parole, you will be deemed to have abandoned your green card application and it will be denied, unless, as mentioned, you are in H-1B or L-1 status. Advance parole generally takes up to 3 months to arrive. It should be noted that advance parole and work authorization are now granted on the same card.
If you have any unlawful presence issues or you are an overstay, you should NOT use advance parole as you could be subject to a 3 or 10 year bar if you leave the country (the law has recently changed to reflect that this may no longer be an issue). Furthermore, you should be aware that if you do use advance parole to re-enter the U.S. after a trip abroad, you will be treated as an "arriving alien". This can be problematic if you have any issues with your application as "arriving aliens" have less rights and recourse than other individuals.
The safest approach is to not use advance parole, except in case of an emergency situation, and even then you must be certain that you do not have any unlawful presence or overstay issues.
Marriage Green Card filing fees
The total filing fees for a green card through marriage application are $1,490. This is comprised of $420 for the Immigrant Relative Petition and $1,070 for the Adjustment of Status Application and Biometrics. Filing fees for work authorization and advance parole are waived when these two items are applied for as part of the green card through marriage application.
The Green Card Marriage Interview
As a result of rumors heard from others, stories read online, or just a general fear of meeting with government officials, the green card marriage interview is dreaded by many. Every couple who has submitted a marriage green card application will have an interview at the end of the process. In order to ensure that you are well-prepared for the green card marriage interview and that you have gathered all necessary documentation, it is essential to work closely with your immigration lawyer.
For more info on the process, please see the following page on our website devoted exclusively to the Green Card Marriage process: Green Card Interview.
Conditional permanent residency
You will receive a conditional green card valid for a 2 year period if at the time of your approval you have been married for less than 2 years. You will be required to submit an application to remove the conditions of the green card and convert it into a 10 year green card within 90 days of the 2 year anniversary date. The purpose of the conditional green card is that it gives USCIS an opportunity to re-evaluate the marriage to ensure that it was not entered into to circumvent immigration laws. If you have been married for 2 or more years at the time of your approval for a green card when applying through marriage, you will receive a 10-year green card upon approval. It is very important to discuss your case with your immigration lawyer prior to applying to remove the conditions of your green card, as certain factors can complicate your case.
It is important that you fully understand your situation and the requirements of your case, as each green card marriage case is different. You will have to submit numerous documents and detailed information about you and your spouse. The preparation of all applications and documents in an accurate, organized, and legally compliant manner is extremely important to the success of your case and can help avoid delays and potential denials.
For additional information on this process, we highly encourage you to visit www.GreenCardMarriageLawyer.com, which is our website devoted exclusively to the Green Card Through Marriage process.