GREEN CARDS and marriage
A green card is a document that grants you lawful status in the United States of America. It gives you the right to work and the ability to exit and reenter the United States without any problems. It may be obtained through your spouse, a family member, your employer, or by falling within a special class of immigrants.
The U.S. government doesn’t hand out green cards easily. If you have a legitimate marriage, you will be asked to prove it, in great detail. The government will review everything, including your Facebook and other social media accounts.
If you’re extremely well-prepared and confident, you can get through the process without a lawyer. But I get calls all the time from people with strong cases who tried to do it themselves and ran into trouble - got a request for more evidence from the government they don’t understand, or a notice of intent to deny. Even if you don’t hire me, I hope I can convince you to consider hiring a lawyer to see you through this process as an investment in your future.
What Are The Steps And Timeline?
During the initial consultation, we address all your questions and concerns, then go through the checklist of documents and forms required to successfully file your case.
After you sign up, we collect all your documents and make sure nothing’s missing or pending, then we prepare all the necessary forms required for your case.
After I thoroughly review your case, we schedule a meeting to review the completed forms and make any additional changes. At this time we collect checks for the government fees and answer any outstanding questions you have.
We then send your file out Priority Mail to the United States Citizenship & Immigration Services agency (USCIS). When they receive it they notify us with a paper receipt notice and the immigrant spouse is assigned an alien number if they don’t already have one.
After we receive the receipt notice, you will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment with USCIS at the service center nearest to your home. Your photograph and fingerprints are taken in order to run all security and background checks.
Your interview will be scheduled in 5-8 months from that time, depending on processing times at USCIS. We’ll meet at my office a week beforehand to prepare you for the green card interview, do a final review of your application, and organize all your documents.
On the day of the green card interview, we will meet you at the USCIS office and wait until the officer calls your case. We then attend the interview together, which usually lasts anywhere from 30 minutes to an hour and a half.
At the interview the officer will look for two things: First, they will want to verify that your marriage is genuine and will ask you about how you met, when you started dating, where you live and many other questions pertaining to your marriage. Once the officer is satisfied, they will most likely tell us that the first part of the case is approved.
Second, the officer will focus their attention on the immigrant spouse’s green card application. They will ask the immigrant spouse a long list of questions to ensure there are no security or criminal related issues that would result in the denial of your green card. Many of these questions are embarrassing or ridiculous but please do not be insulted. I am there to make sure your rights are protected.
After this line of questioning, the officer will let us know if they need additional documents and when we can expect a decision on your application. If everything goes smoothly, they will say that nothing further is required and the decision will be mailed to us.
Within two to three weeks, you will receive the green card and the approval notice in the mail. Congratulations! You are now a green card holder.
What Documents Will I Need?
These are the forms we typically prepare for marriage cases:
⁃ Form I-130 (12 pages)
⁃ Form I-485 (18 pages)
⁃ Form I-130A (6 pages)
⁃ Form G325As (1 page)
⁃ Form G1145s (1 page)
⁃ Form I-131 (5 pages)
⁃ Form I-693 (13 pages)
⁃ Form I-765 (2 pages)
⁃ Form I-864 (12 pages)
Completion of these forms requires most of these documents:
⁃ Passports of both spouses
⁃ Birth certificates of both spouses (with certified translation)
⁃ Certified copy of marriage certificate
⁃ 8 passport-style photographs of immigrant spouse
⁃ 2 passport-style photographs of citizen spouse
⁃ Previous divorce or death decrees of either spouse’s previous spouses
⁃ Children’s birth certificates
⁃ Driver’s license or state issued ID of citizen spouse
⁃ Certificate of Citizenship of citizen spouse, if naturalized
⁃ Copy of immigrant spouse’s work permit, if applicable
⁃ Wedding invitations or announcements
⁃ Wedding photographs
⁃ Photographs of both spouses from your life together
⁃ Greeting cards written between the spouses
⁃ Testimonial letters from family and friends about your marriage and relationship
⁃ Tax returns, filed jointly as spouses
⁃ Joint bank accounts
⁃ Joint savings accounts
⁃ Joint investment accounts
⁃ Life insurance policies listing each other as beneficiaries
⁃ Lease or rental agreement with both spouses’ names
⁃ Mortgage statements showing joint ownership of home
⁃ Cable bill, water and power bills,
⁃ Joint cell phone bills
⁃ Automobile insurance and registration showing both spouses’ names
⁃ Medical insurance policies with both spouses’ names
⁃ Medical bills
⁃ Regular or junk mail addressed to either spouse
⁃ Emails from online stores showing that you reside together
⁃ Receipts from items purchased together
⁃ Plane tickets
⁃ Hotel reservations
⁃ Tax returns for the prior three years with W2 statements or 1099 statements reflecting an income that meets the federal poverty guidelines
⁃ Six months of pay stubs from citizen spouse or a letter from employer reflecting dates of employment, position, and yearly salary
⁃ If the immigrant spouse has a criminal record, a California Department of Justice LiveScan report and any and all other documents from criminal court
⁃ If the U.S. Citizen spouse owes any federal or state taxes, a letter from the IRS or state tax board reflecting an agreement to pay monies owed
⁃ Proof of lawful entry for the immigrant spouse
If you’d like to get a head start on gathering your documents, you can download the checklist we use in my office here.
How Much does it cost?
In most cases, I charge $3,000 and the government filing fees are $1,760 for a total of $4,760. More complex cases involving criminal issues or multiple family members may cost more. That covers all of the paperwork, any questions you have throughout the process, and going to your green card interview. If the government makes a request for more evidence before the interview, my fee covers that too. I’ll work with you from start to finish until your case is approved.
Frequently Asked Questions About Marriage Green Cards
Yes. Many people enter the United States as tourists or students and find themselves marrying a U.S. Citizen. If the marriage is genuine, then you will qualify for a green card without having to leave the United States. In this case, it is important to document evidence of your legal entry into the United States. This can be the stamp in your passport or your I-94 card with your entry stamp. Do not lose this document!
Yes. However, this process is longer, more difficult, and a bit more expensive. You may have to file what is known as an unlawful presence waiver. More importantly, you may have to leave the country and attend an interview at the U.S. consulate in your home country before your green card is issued. Remember, there is always a risk that you may be denied entry back into the U.S. At my office, we try to see if there is any other option before suggesting this option.
Maybe. This depends on the extent of your criminal record, the age of your criminal conviction, and the type of conviction. Many times, misdemeanors should not disqualify you from obtaining a green card. At our office, we do a thorough review of your criminal record to ensure that you will be able to successfully obtain your green card. In this instance, do not file a green card application without hiring an attorney.
No. You must enter into a legally valid marriage before you can be eligible for a green card.
Yes. As long as the marriage is recorded with the county and we have a copy of the marriage certificate, we are ready to go. Remember, immigration law is federal so the state in which you marry does not matter!
Typically yes. As long as your U.S. citizen spouse was not convicted or charged of any crimes related to child abuse, they should be able to sponsor you.
The Federal Poverty Guidelines spell out the minimum amount of yearly income you must gross in order to be able to successfully sponsor your spouse for a green card. For a household size of two people, you will need to gross at least $20,300 per year. As your household size increases, the amount of yearly earnings also goes up.
If you do not make enough money, you can find a joint sponsor. The joint sponsor does not have to be a family member and in fact can be a friend as long as they are either a U.S. citizen or green card holder. The joint sponsor will have to disclose three years of their tax returns with W2 statements and six months of pay stubs from their place of employment.
A Word About Marriage Fraud
This is a serious accusation and once the door is open, it will be hard to close. USCIS will investigate you and if they decide to file charges and prosecute you, you can face jail time and a fine of up to $250,000. Furthermore, the immigrant spouse will be barred from receiving any immigration benefit and may be deported. I do not work with people attempting to commit fraud.
Remember, if you’re confident in your relationship, I’m confident in your case.