There are two ways to obtain a marriage based green card. First, you can process a spousal green card completely from within the United States. Second, you can petition for a marriage based permanent residence through a consular office abroad. A lawyer can help in both cases by using their experience with the green card process to ensure your petition is completed and filed correctly. An attorney will look out for any potential problems in your case. Additionally, a lawyer will prepare you for, and attend your bona fide marriage interview.
The process for obtaining a green card through marriage varies depending on whether your spouse is currently residing in the United States. If a US Citizen petitions for a spouse while the spouse is in the United States, they apply for adjustment of status with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service. However, in order to obtain a green card by marriage to a US citizen in this manner, it is necessary that the intending immigration have entered the United States on a lawful visa. If the intending immigrant entered illegally, it will not be possible to process your marriage based green card petition within the United States, and you will need to petition for a waiver of your unlawful presence.
When you file for adjustment of status based on marriage to a United States Citizen, all of the forms and supporting documents are filed at once. This is because marriage to a US citizen results in the immigrant’s classification as an ‘immediate relative’ under immigration law, and a visa is therefore immediately available. Because all of the forms and documentation are filed at once, attorneys often refer to a marriage based adjustment of status green card petition as a ‘one-step.’ In contrast, when a green card holder petitions for their spouse, a visa would not be immediately available. You would need to wait to proceed with your case, typically for more than a year after the filing date.
There are three primary reasons that you should have an attorney help with preparing and filing the forms for your marriage based green card. First, if you are in a position where you are unclear about what the forms are asking because of a language barrier. Second, if you believe that you could complete the forms, but you want the process to be handled smoothly and efficiently. Third, if you anticipate a problem with your case and are unsure how to best proceed. While it is likely that you can complete the forms with enough time and attention, an experienced lawyer will save you time and you can be certain that the forms for your marriage green card petition will be completed correctly.
You must submit all of these documents when you file the forms for your marriage green card petition. Otherwise your filing will be rejected, or you will receive a request for evidence. This can slow down the processing of your marriage green card significantly. When submitting the application, you should only submit copies of the documents. You will need to bring the originals, such as passports and birth certificates, with you to your bona fide marriage green card interview.
The final stage of the adjustment of status process is an interview with an immigration officer at a US Citizenship and Immigration Services field office. The purpose of the interview is threefold. The officer will go over your forms and identifying documents, ask you security related questions, and inquire about your relationship and marriage. The main purpose of the interview is to determine whether you are in a real marriage. The officer is trying to weed out cases where people are committing immigration fraud by entering into a fake marriage in order to obtain a green card.
While there is no exact list of questions that the interviewer will ask, you can be certain that you will be expected to explain the history of your relationship. In order to make sure the marriage is real and that you are not engaged in fraud to obtain a green card, the interviewer will want to know the specifics of when you met, when your relationship became serious, when you met each other’s families, and when and why you decided to get married. Some immigration officers will ask more pointed questions about birth dates, names of siblings and parents, and other information to flush out green card fraud.
It is vitally important that you produce documentation at your interview to prove that you are in a real marriage. The burden of proof is on you to prove that you are in a bona fide marriage. In order to have the best chance of success with your spousal green card petition, you should plan to collect and produce documentary evidence such as joint bank account statements, joint credit card statements, a joint lease agreement, pictures spanning the length of your relationship, and statements from friends or family. While every case is different and there is no single piece of evidence that is absolutely necessary, you should try to collect as much documentation as possible to support your financial co dependence and proof of your relationship.
Your attorney can accompany you at your bona fide marriage green card interview. While the attorney cannot answer questions about your relationship for you, the lawyer can address any legal questions that arise in the course of your interview. Additionally, a lawyer can present the immigration officer with your supporting documentation and explain to the immigration officer why it is relevant to prove you are in a real marriage. Finally, an attorney can work with you in advance of your interview to go over anticipated questions and to assemble the packet of documentation you will submit to prove that you are in real marriage.
Some immigration officers will give you a decision on your case at the end of your interview. However, most officer will review your case and issue a written on your marriage green card petition with a few weeks of your interview. If your case is approved, you will receive your marriage based green card in the mail shortly thereafter. If you have an attorney, the lawyer will also receive notice of your approval. If you prefer, your attorney can receive the green card at their office.