Congratulations on getting married! If you are an immigrant spouse who would like to permanently live in the United States, the next step is to apply for a marriage-based green card. The following is an overview of the legal process to obtain lawful permanent resident (LPR) status.
What is a Marriage Green Card?
A marriage green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or LPR (or green card holder) to live and work in the United States. After three (3) years, a married green card holder can apply for U.S. citizenship.
The following are other benefits of a green card:
Obtain a driver’s license
Travel in and out of the U.S. (so long as each trip is less than a year)
Apply for social security
A marriage green card is valid for 10 years. A green card holder must renew LPR status no less than six (6) months before the expiration date.
What Forms Must I File to Apply for a Marriage Green Card?
First, you must submit Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative), supporting documents that establish the existence of a valid marriage, and the appropriate filing fee to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Supporting documents include:
Proof that your spouse is a U.S. citizen – Common examples include birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or valid U.S. passport
Proof that your spouse is an LPR – For example, a copy of the spouse’s green card
Proof of a legal and valid marriage – For instance, a marriage certificate that has both spouses’ names on it
Proof that the marriage is not fraudulent – Common examples include joint bank statements, a joint mortgage or rental agreement, photos together, etc.
Proof of termination of any previous marriages – For example, a divorce agreement
If USCIS approves Form I-130, the next step is to determine eligibility for the spouse seeking a green card. On the other hand, if the agency requires more documents or information to process the filing package, they will send a Request for Evidence (RFE) within two (2) to three (3) months.
For green card applicants living in the U.S., the next step is to file Form I-485 (Adjustment of Status), along with the appropriate filing fee, proof of lawful entry, proof of nationality, proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the immigrant spouse, and a medical examination performed by a doctor approved by USCIS. Spouses of U.S. citizens can file I-485 and I-130 packages together, while spouses of U.S. green card holders are subject to annual caps.
Green card applicants not living in the U.S. must file an application package with the National Visa Center (NVC,) which is run by the Department of State. The NVC collects the required forms and documents, then determines if the spouse is ready for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad, which is known as “consular processing.”
What is the Biometrics Services Appointment?
Once you file a petition for a marriage green card, you will be required to appear at a “biometric services appointment” at a local Application Support Center (ASC) to provide your fingerprints, signatures, and photographs. The purpose of this appointment is to confirm your identity and run a thorough background check.
What are the Common Interview Questions?
The final step of the legal process is the green card interview, which is conducted by an immigration official at a USCIS office. The interview process often lasts between 15 and 20 minutes.
In the interview room, the officer will ask you and your spouse certain questions about your relationship. You and your spouse may have to answer these questions either as individuals or as a couple.
The following are the most common marriage green card interview questions:
How did you meet?
Where was your first date?
When did the relationship become romantic?
What did you two have in common?
When did you meet each other’s family members?
How long were you both dating until you decided to get married?
Who proposed to whom?
Was the engagement long or short and why?
Do you live together, or do you plan on living together?
How much time do you spend with each other?
Where was the wedding held?
Who attended the wedding?
Who were the groomsmen and bridesmaids?
Where was the location of your honeymoon?
Who handles the finances?
When is your spouse’s birthday?
Where did your spouse go to school and what did he/she get their degree in?
Who is your spouse’s employer and what is his/her position?
How do you celebrate holidays?
Does your spouse have any siblings? Nieces or nephews?
What is the name of your spouse’s best friend?
Do you have mutual friends?
What if I'm Married for Less than Two Years?
If your green card petition is approved but your marriage is less than two years old, you will be issued a “conditional green card” (CR1), which lasts for two years. Couples must file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove Conditions and Residence) during the 90-day period prior to the expiration of the CR1 in order to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent green card.
What if I’m Married for More than Two Years?
If your green card petition is approved and your marriage is more than two years old, you will receive an “immediate relative” green card (IR1), which is a permanent green card that is valid for 10 years. You can renew the IR1 without having to prove the authenticity of your marriage.
If you are interested in obtaining a marriage green card in Santa Barbara, call Appel & Morse at (805) 467-6060 or complete our online contact form today for a free case evaluation. Our immigration lawyers have more than 40 years of combined legal experience!