Obtaining US citizenship, or permanent residence status, is the goal of many immigrants who come to the US legally or illegally. Acquiring the green card, or permanent residence card, is the first step in eventually gaining US citizenship but these can be very difficult to obtain. One way that many immigrants seek permanent residency is by marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident. For those immigrants validly married and now considered an immediate relative, there are no limits on the number of card cards that may be distributed to them.
Once you do get married, then you need to file a Form I-130 or Relative Petition and Form I-485 or Adjustment of Status. An immigration attorney can assist you in completing and filing these forms.
Legal vs. Illegal Entry
Many immigrants marry US citizens or permanent residents for the purpose of gaining permanent residency for themselves. There are different green card options for those who entered the US legally such as on a valid non-immigrant visa or through the Visa Waiver Program, and those who did not. This includes those individuals who overstayed their visa.
You entered illegally if you were not inspected by the US border patrol. This includes any arrival done surreptitiously in order to elude border patrol agents. You may be barred from the US if you were ever captured at least once, have stayed in the US one year or more and/or you were deported. For others who entered the US illegally, you cannot request a change in status unless you meet certain narrow exceptions where an immigrant petition was filed for by a family member or employer before January 14, 1998 or between January 14, 1998 April 21, 2001 and you were in the US when the petition was filed.
Otherwise, if you have been here illegally for at least 6 months since April 1, 1997, you can apply for an IVP or Immigrant Visa Processing. Your other option is to apply for a waiver based on “qualifying” relationship to a US citizen and prove that denial of admission would result in an extreme hardship to the US citizen or legal resident spouse or parent, son or daughter of yours.
If you overextended your visa but did get married to a US citizen(and not a permanent resident) and you have not been in the US illegally for at least 6 months, then you can leave the country and apply at any US Consulate for a fiancé visa.
Required Submissions Once Married
Once married to a US citizen, you should complete and file Forms I-130 and I-485 along with the following:
- Form G-325A, which is the biographic information needed
- Medical Report (Form I-693)
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) proving the US citizen can sufficiently support the spouse
- EAD or employment authorization document (Form I-765)
- Advance Parole or travel document (Form I-131)
After these are received, the Biometric appointment is scheduled where fingerprints and photo are taken for your security background check. If all is satisfactory, then the Adjustment of Status interview is undertaken where any issues of past immigration or possible criminal involvement are discussed. Also, the issue of whether the marriage was entered into legitimately or for the purpose of obtaining permanent residency status is examined.
Proof of a Bona Fide Marriage
You are not required to have married a US citizen in the US so long as there is an official record of the marriage that can be obtained from a government office in the country where the marriage took place. Both of you must have been physically present at the wedding.
The USCIS, or United States Customs and Immigration Services, will closely examine whether your marriage was bona fide before granting you adjustment of status. Factors that the department considers:
- Wedding photographs including relatives of both parties at the wedding
- Affidavits from relatives attesting to the legitimacy of the marriage
- Joint bank accounts
- Joint lease or mortgage and utility bills
- Joint ownership of other property
- Children’ birth certificates showing they were born of the marriage
- Love letters
- Joint tax filings
The interviewer may also ask certain intimate or personal questions about each other after separating the parties and then comparing the responses. Your immigration attorney can be present at this interview.
Results of the Interview
At the conclusion of the Adjustment of Status interview, the officer may grant permanent residence status or declare any of the following:
- Approval of permanent residency status-valid for 10 years
- There is a need for supervisory review if background checks not completed
- An unresolved issue with the case exists-follow up in 30-60 days
- Granting conditional permanency status if the marriage is less than 2 years old
If permanent status is granted, then the foreign national spouse can begin the process toward naturalization.
If you have any questions about this post, please contact Gastelum Law – we are here to help with all your immigration needs.