For Foreign Nationals Married to U.S. Citizens
In certain cases, foreign nationals physically present in the U.S. who marry U.S. citizens may be sponsored by their spouse to become lawful permanent residents without having to leave the country. Referred to as adjustment of status (i.e., adjusting to your current immigration status to that of a lawful permanent resident), this process is one of the quickest ways for a foreign national living in the U.S. to obtain a green card (i.e. lawful permanent resident status).
Two applications are required to initiate an adjustment of status, the Form I-130 and the Form I-485. The application must be supported by evidence of a bona fide marriage, one or more affidavits of support, a medical exam by a U.S. Civil Surgeon, and documentation of the applicant’s identity and entry into the United States. Unlike consular processing done for applicants outside the U.S., the couple does not have to wait for approval of the I-130 petition before continuing with the application process. The couple can file both applications concurrently – this is a one-step process where immigration officials adjudicate both applications at the same time.
In many cases, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) facility reviewing the applications may issue a Request for Evidence from the applying couple. After the paperwork is deemed sufficient, the case is transferred to a local USCIS field office with jurisdiction over the applicant. Biometric data will be collected and a background check will be done on the foreign national applicant, followed by an interview with the couple with a USCIS Officer. It is at this interview the officer will go over any questions or concerns regarding the application packet and determine whether or not the couple’s marriage is genuine. The time between the initial filing and final interview can take months in some cases and varies based on the backlogs of cases between USCIS field offices. If the officer believes the marriage is genuine, he or she may grant the adjustment of status application on the spot by stamping the applicant’s passport or, at a later date, by mail.
For Foreign Nationals Married to U.S. Green Card Holders
While adjustment of status applications for foreign nationals living in the United States married to green card holders is possible, the one-step process described above is only applicable to petitions for immediate relatives. Foreign citizens married to green card holders must file Form I-130 first, and only after USCIS approves the petition can they file Form I-485. The process takes considerably longer than with foreign nationals married to U.S. Citizens, plus the foreign national applicant must maintain legal status (i.e. have a valid visa) in the U.S. throughout the entire application process.
The paperwork and application process for an adjustment of status can be time consuming and difficult. A solid file with all the supplementary evidence proving you and your spouse’s relationship is genuine is the key to a successful application. To see if your spouse qualifies for a marriage visa contact a qualified and licensed immigration attorney today.