Obtaining permanent residency, commonly known as green card, through a marriage to a U.S. citizen might be the easiest way to gain permanent residency in the U.S. But don’t be fooled by the appearance of simplicity. One misstep can mean months of delay or even a denial. So, let’s go through the procedure step by step from a nonimmigrant status to permanent residency in the U.S.
Required USCIS Forms
There are two primary applications to file with USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services): I-130, Immigrant Petition for Alien Relative and I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Form I-130 is the U.S. citizen spouse’s petition for the foreign national spouse and Form I-485 is the foreign national spouse’s application to adjust her status from a nonimmigrant to an immigrant. These forms can be filed together since the foreign national spouse is already in the U.S. If she was outside the U.S., the U.S. citizen spouse could only file Form I-130 and she would have to process an immigrant visa overseas. This article will focus on procedures in the U.S. for the foreign national spouse who is already in the U.S.
Along with Forms I-130 and I-485, the foreign national spouse can also apply for a travel document (Form I-131, Application for Travel Document) and an employment authorization (Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization). Applying for travel document and employment authorization allows her to travel overseas and legally work in the U.S. while she waits for her green card. Under certain circumstances, however, traveling is not recommended.
Under certain circumstances, however, traveling may not be feasible before the green card is issued. For example, if the foreign national spouse failed to maintain a legal status in the U.S., traveling overseas with a travel document while her green card is pending might trigger a “bar” to reentry once she leaves the U.S. Specifically, if the person stays in the U.S. without legal status for six months or more, the person will be barred from re-entering the U.S. for a period of three years. If the person stays in the U.S. without legal status for one year or more, the person will be barred from re-entering the U.S. for a period of 10 years. There are certain exceptions to the rule and certain waivers that might be available for such persons, but this is a case-by-case analysis. We recommend you to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for your specific case.
In addition to Forms I-130, I-485, I-131, and I-765, there are Form G-325A, Biographic Information and Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act that are also required. Form G-325A is for both the foreign national spouse and her husband showing their basic information such as their dates of birth, current and past residences/employments, etc. Form I-864 is required to show that the U.S. citizen spouse has adequate means of financial ability to support his foreign national spouse. This means that the U.S. citizen spouse should be gainfully employed with enough income or if unemployed, have enough assets to show that his spouse will not rely on the government for financial support. If this is not possible for the U.S. citizen to document, the couple can have a “join sponsor” who is a legal permanent resident (a green card holder) or a U.S. citizen who can provide such support for the foreign national spouse.
Another form that the foreign spouse must obtain is Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record. This can only be done through a designated civil surgeon. The list of designated civil surgeons is provided on the USCIS website. The form is used to report the results of a medical examination of the foreign spouse by the civil surgeon. This procedure is required to establish that the foreign spouse is not inadmissible to the U.S. on public health grounds. The civil surgeons charge a separate fee for this procedure, generally ranging from $200-$300. The procedure is fairly simple and the results can be obtained within a couple of days. Form I-693 must be submitted in a sealed envelope that is prepared and given by the civil surgeon.
Together with the forms, the couple must submit supporting documents such as the marriage certificate, birth certificates, most recent income taxes, lease agreement, utility bills, pictures, etc. Finally, correct fees must be included in the package. The current fee schedule can be found on www.uscis.gov.
While there is much information out there showing how to submit your case on your own, we highly recommend you to seek the assistance of an experienced immigration attorney. What may seem like a trivial mistake can cause months or years of delay and in some cases, denial of the case altogether. We, at Root Law Group, have combined experience of more than 60 years practicing exclusively immigration law. Call today for a free in-office legal consultation! (323) 456-7600