MR Civil Justice would like to congratulate you on getting married! If you are an immigrant spouse who is interested in permanently living in the United States, you must apply for a marriage-based green card. In this blog post, we will answer the most frequently asked questions about the legal process of getting a marriage green card.
What is a Marriage Green Card?
A marriage green card allows a foreign national who is married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder (also known as a “lawful permanent resident”) to live and work anywhere in the United States. Remember, an immigrant spouse with a marriage green card can apply for U.S. citizenship after three years from the date they became a lawful permanent resident.
Additional green card benefits include:
Travel in and out of the United States (each trip must be less than a year)
Apply for social security
Obtain a driver’s license
This green card is valid for 10 years. The immigrant spouse must renew the green card no less than six months before it expires to maintain legal residency.
How Do I Get a Marriage Green Card?
First, you must submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)—along with the supporting documents and the appropriate filing fee—to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for the purpose of establishing a valid marriage.
Common examples of supporting documents include proof that the sponsoring spouse or “petitioner” is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident (e.g., copy of sponsor’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or green card), proof that a legally valid marriage exists (e.g., a marriage certificate with each spouse’s name), proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (e.g., joint lease, joint bank account statements, and photos together), and proof that any previous marriage of either spouse has legally ended (e.g., a divorce agreement).
Once the I-130 package is mailed to USICS, the agency will send the petitioner an official acknowledgment or “receipt notice” in the mail within two weeks, on average. However, if USCIS needs more documents or information related to the package, then a Request for Evidence (RFE) will be sent to the petitioner within two to three months.
Next, green card applicants who live in the United States must file Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status)—along with the supporting documents and the appropriate filing fees—with USCIS in order to establish that the immigrant spouse is eligible for a green card.
Common examples of supporting documents include proof of green card applicant’s nationality (e.g., copy of birth certificate and photo page of passport), proof of lawful entry to the U.S. (e.g., copy of I-94 travel record and previous U.S. visa), proof of petitioner’s ability to financially support the green card applicant (e.g., Form I-864 [Affidavit of Support], pay stubs, and tax returns), and medical examination from a USCIS-approved physician.
Spouses of U.S. citizens can combine the I-130 and I-485 packages and file them together. Spouses of U.S. green card holders must wait until the State Department determines a green card is available in the visa bulletin, due to annual caps.
For green card applicants living outside of the U.S., they must file an application package with the National Visa Center (NVC), which will determine if the spouse can interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, which is known as “consular processing.”
What is the Biometrics Services Appointment?
Also known as a biometrics screening, this short and simple appointment involves a government representative who documents a green card applicant’s fingerprints, photos, and signature for the purpose of conducting a background check to check government records for any previous immigration violations or any serious criminal history.
What are the Common Questions I Will be Asked at the Interview?
The final step in the marriage green card process is the green card interview, in which an immigration officer will determine the authenticity of the marriage. Questions will cover how the couple met, their relationship history, wedding details, as well as information about employment, education, friends, and family.
Common marriage green card interview questions include:
How did you meet?
Where was your first date?
When did you start to have romantic feelings toward one another?
When did you decide to get married?
Who proposed to whom?
Why was the engagement short or long?
When did you meet each other’s families?
How often do you see each other’s families?
Where was the wedding held?
Who attended the wedding?
Where was the honeymoon?
Do you live together or plan to do so?
How much time do you spend together?
How do you typically celebrate the holidays?
Do you have mutual friends?
Where does your spouse work?
What is your spouse’s position at his/her company?
Where did your spouse go to school?
What did your spouse get a degree in?
The interview generally lasts between 15 and 20 minutes. The questions are directed to either one spouse or both spouses.
After a few weeks, USCIS will notify the petitioner if the green card has been either granted or denied. If the petition is approved, then the immigrant spouse’s passport will be returned with a “conditional green card” printed inside, if the marriage is less than two years old. If the marriage is more than two years old, the immigrant spouse will receive a permanent green card.
If the officer is suspicious about the authenticity of the marriage after the green card interview, the couple will be asked to return for a second interview, which is known as the marriage fraud interview or “stokes” interview. At the second interview, spouses will be interviewed separately, the officer will ask the same questions, and then the two sets of answers will be compared.
If each spouse has different answers to the same questions, then the petition will be denied. Next, the immigrant spouse will be placed into removal proceedings.
How Long Will the Marriage Green Card Process Take?
A marriage green card can take nine to 36 months to process, depending on if your new spouse is a U.S. citizen or a green card holder and if you live in or outside the United States.
How Much Does a Marriage Green Card Cost?
The government filing fees associated with the marriage green card total up to $1,760 for a spouse living in the U.S. or $1,200 for a spouse living outside the country. This total does not include the cost of the medical examination.
If you are interested in applying for a marriage green card in Dallas or Houstin, TX, or Chicago, IL, call MR Civil Justice at (214) 739-0100 or fill out our online contact form today to schedule a free consultation.