Los Angeles is a city that offers a lot of excitement – there’s always something new to explore. And maybe while you explore the city, you happen to meet someone. You go on a few dates to the Hollywood Bowl or the Santa Monica Pier, and as time goes on, you realize you’re falling in love.
You move in together, set up your place with things you’ve bought at shops around LA, and before long it’s home. Then, maybe your partner pops the question, maybe you come to a decision together – you’re getting married! You plan your big day, celebrate together, and settle into your life together.
You happen to be an immigrant and your spouse happens to be a U.S. citizen. At some point, if you’re an immigrant, you have to think about your immigration status. Now that you’re married to a U.S. citizen and are starting to build a life together, you both want to know what you need to do in order to get you a green card.
As an experienced immigration attorney in Los Angeles, people ask me all kinds of questions about the green card through marriage process. I also see people make a lot of mistakes when they try to apply on their own.
So, I’ve put together a list of things to know about applying for a green card through marriage if you’re married to a U.S. citizen and both of you are already in the United States.
Here are 7 things you should know before you apply for a green card through marriage!
Entry to the U.S.: How did you enter the United States?
If you entered the United States on a valid U.S. visa and are now married to a U.S. citizen, that valid entry generally allows you apply for a green card through marriage without having to leave the United States. This process is called “adjustment of status” involves the filing for Form I-485 with USCIS.
Unfortunately, if you entered the United States illegally (called an “entry without inspection” or “EWI”), then, in most cases, you probably can’t adjust your status within the U.S. But you may be able to apply for an immigrant visa and an I-601A, Provisional Waiver of Unlawful Presence.
After your I-601A application has been approved, you will have to leaving the United States to attend your immigrant visa interview at a U.S. consulate in your home country. This waiver process is complex and needs to be undertaken with the advice and help of an experienced immigration lawyer.
Visa Fraud Problems
If you attempt to enter the United States on a nonimmigrant visa (for example, a tourist visa) when the true purpose is to trip is to apply for a green card through marriage, you may have serious immigration problems at the airport or port of entry.
Under U.S. immigration laws, the has a specific visa for fiancees and another specific visa for people who get married abroad and then apply for their relative to come to the U.S., they don’t like it when you use a nonimmigrant visa to try to game the system.
Depending on the facts of your case, they could accuse you of fraud, which would require a complicated and difficult waiver application.
Do you live with your spouse? How long have you been living together?
When you apply for a green card through marriage, you’re required to provide U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) with your address history going back 5 years on Form G-325A. The immigration officers use this information to evaluate the validity of your relationship, among other things.
Two things that might raise questions and cause them to doubt the validity of your relationship are:
- If you don’t currently live with your spouse; and
- If you just recently moved in together.
Do you share a bank account with your spouse?
If you’re married, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) expects to see proof of the “bona fides” of your marriage in the form of joint financial documentation such as bank accounts, joint credit cards, and insurance.
If they don’t see that you share your financial responsibilities and risks jointly as husband and wife, then USCIS immigration officers may have reason to question whether your marriage relationship is genuine.
Were you ever married before? When and where did you get divorced?
If you were married before, you need to be able to prove to immigration authorities that your prior marriage legally terminated by divorce (or death). In most cases, this means you’ll have to produce a certified divorce certificate.
But if the divorce took place abroad while you were living in the U.S., there could be problems. USCIS could question the legal validity of your foreign divorce. And if your foreign divorce is not valid, then your subsequent marriage could be deemed invalid, which would, in turn, remove the basis of your immigration case.
A foreign divorce can doom an otherwise approvable green card case. Los Angeles immigration attorney Joshua Goldstein can advise you on the best options to address this issue.
Naturalized U.S. citizens: Are you a U.S. citizen by birth or naturalization?
The marriages of naturalized U.S. citizens are sometimes scrutinized closely, especially when a naturalized citizen became a U.S. citizen through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
If you’re a naturalized U.S. citizen, you got your citizenship through marriage to a U.S. citizen, but later got divorced and are now petitioning for a non-U.S. citizen to get a green card through marriage, USCIS can ask questions about not only your current marriage, but your former marriage!
You should be prepared to explain:
- The circumstances of your first marriage and divorce;
- The circumstances of your current marriage; and
- You should be aware that this green card application may be placed in extended review.
Have you ever had a J visa?
If you ever had a J-1 visa, then you might be subject to the 2-year home residency requirement. If so, you can’t become a green card holder until you either:
- Leave the U.S. and return to your home country for 2 years, or
- Get an I-612 waiver of 2-year foreign residency requirement.
The immigration lawyers in our Los Angeles generally advise against filing an I-485 before USCIS approves the waiver
Los Angeles Immigration Lawyer Joshua Goldstein can help you get a green card through marriage
People fall in love every day. That’s the easy part! Then comes the process of applying for a green card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen – and there’s the confusing part. Let Los Angeles immigration attorney Joshua Goldstein and his team of experienced immigration lawyers help! They’ll work with you every step of the way to explain the process and make it less stressful for you and your spouse.
To book a consultation with Attorney Goldstein to talk about the green card through marriage process, call (213) 262-2000 or simply contact us through our contact form today.