Helpful Tips on Green Card Through Marriage Process
Congratulations! You’ve fallen in love and have decided to get married. But on top of moving to a new country and planning a wedding, as a foreign national you also have to contend with your immigration status. In order to be able to live in the US with your spouse, you need to change (adjust) your status to that of a Legal Permanent Resident. This blog provides a general overview of that process.
What is Adjustment of Status?
When you entered the U.S. legally, you entered on a visa (which is, in essence, a permission to enter US in a particular category that was approved by a US Embassy or a Consulate) with a specific status (deriving from your visa category). For example, if you entered the country with B1/B2 visa, you are in the U.S. in B1/B2 (visitor’s) status. Each status has its own rules and limitations, and you should be familiar with them prior to entering the US to make sure to avoid status violations. Green cards are issued to people as indication of a “legal permanent resident” status in the U.S. Therefore, in order to get a green card through marriage, you must change (or adjust) from your current status to “permanent resident” status in the United States.
Not everyone is eligible to adjust their status. Fortunately, in most common circumstances, good faith marriage to a U.S. citizen allows a foreign national to apply to change their status to “permanent resident”, thus, earning a green card. U.S. citizen spouse must “sponsor” the foreign national spouse to adjust their status.
The process you and your spouse are about to embark on, if successful, will ultimately change your status from your current non-immigrant status, to “permanent resident” status. With this new status you will receive a green card, an ability to permanently live and work in the U.S. and be on track to US citizenship.
First and foremost, objectively speaking, this process can conceivably be completed by a couple if they have a perfect understanding of how the forms and legal issues are intertwined and can figure out filing quirks. However, in current immigration environment and considering how complex and rapidly changing immigration laws are nowadays, it is, of course, recommended that you work with a competent and experienced immigration counsel.
In fact, it would be a good idea to consult an attorney if you’re not married yet. Your relationship, the timing of your marriage, as well as your filing, will be scrutinized during your application process. In the immigration field, it is immeasurably easier to do things right the first time rather than to try to fix a situation after the damage (or mistake) is done. If you’re already married, your best bet is consult an attorney before you file anything to at least understand the process and the logistics of your particular case. An experienced immigration counsel will help you spot any potential issues and will skillfully guide you through your application process.
Ordinarily, once the law firm is retained and the strategy is outlined, your attorney will begin collecting information and documentation from you and your spouse. It is done largely through uploading your information into your individual and secure client portal. The information will be used to complete the USCIS forms. As an example, the documentation requested will include (but is not limited to) copies of passports, birth certificates, marriage certificates, tax returns, certified translations of any documents in a foreign language ,etc.
After finalizing the forms and compiling the necessary supporting documentation, your attorney will have you review and sign the forms, after which your Adjustment of Status package will be filed with USCIS. After you file your Adjustment of Status and it is received by USCIS, you will have a legal status – authorized stay – in the U.S. for the entire pendency of the process.
Please note: while your adjustment of status is pending, you should not leave the U.S. unless specifically authorized by USCIS to be paroled back to US after foreign travels. Concurrently with the adjustment of status, you will file applications for an employment and travel authorization, which usually are issued sooner than your green card (for processing times, please see USCIS website). These documents will enable you to work in the U.S. and travel internationally while your petition processes. Please note that international travel permission does NOT apply to those who were out of status at the time their AOS was filed with USCIS, even if Advance Parole was issued. There will still be a period of time (can easily be a few months) between the initial filing and the employment / international travel authorization issuance, however, during which you should not plan international travel and, if you don’t have current employment authorization, you should not plan on working.
Finally, after USCIS has processed your adjustment of status petition, you will be scheduled for an interview with a USCIS adjudicating officer at your local District Office. At our firm, we arrange for a thorough interview preparatory meeting to fully prepare you and your spouse to go through this process. Although it is often built up, with the proper preparation and guidance from your attorney, the interview should not be a distressing and unfamiliar experience.
The decisions that you make now will have a lasting impact on your immigration journey, so it is essential to consult an experienced immigration attorney to craft a strategic immigration plan. Please feel free to contact our Boston-based law firm if you have any questions regarding this issue.
 This blog post is intended for general information exchange purposes only and does not intend to serve as legal advice. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for your specific case processing