One of the quickest and most common ways for a foreign national to obtain lawful permanent resident status or “greencard” in the U.S. is through marriage to a U.S. Citizen, in a process called Adjustment of Status. As with much of Immigration Law, marriage-based adjustment of status can be quite complicated. The process begins with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The same petition can be used for a parent, child or sibling. The petition is necessary to establish the relationship between the U.S. Citizen and the relative, in this case, the foreign national spouse. In addition to form I-130, the U.S. Citizen and foreign national spouse must each complete form G-325A which provides general biographical information. Immigration Law, requires that the U.S. Citizen petitioner prove that the marriage was valid at the time it was performed, that the marital relationship is bonafide, and that it was not entered into solely for procuring an immigration benefit. The mere existence of a marriage certificate will not be enough to establish a bona fide marital relationship. A strong filing will also include many or all of the following: signed affidavits from friends and relatives attesting to the authenticity of the relationship; love letters, holiday cards and photos. In cases where the marriage is arranged, it is important to include evidence that the arrangement is part of the cultural norm.
In cases where the foreign national is already in the United States, it may be expected that the couple live together. USCIS will expect to see commingling of funds through joint bank accounts, joint tax filings, joint utility bills and joint leases or mortgages. The birth certificate of children born into the marriage will also be strong evidence of a bonafide relationship. If the foreign national spouse of a U.S. Citizen is in the U.S. , under most circumstances , the couple can concurrently file the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and the I-485 Adjustment of Status to the of a Lawful Permanent Resident. In addition to the I-130, G-325A and supplemental evidence, the U.S. Citizen and his or her spouse would generally need to file form I-485 along with forms I-864, Affidavit of Support, I-131 Application for Travel Document, I-765 Application for Employment Authorization and I-693 Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record which can be obtained from a USCIS approved Civil Surgeon. Upon receipt of these documents, USCIS will issue a receipt notice, followed by an ACS appointment notice in order to collect biometrics for the foreign national. The biometrics will be used to conduct a background check on the foreign national before any work authorization or adjustment of status can be granted.
The final step of the marriage-based adjustment of status application is the adjustment of status interview. At this interview a USCIS Officer will interview the couple, go over any questions or concerns regarding the application packet and determine whether or not the couple’s marriage is bonafide. If the officer believes that the foreign national is admissible and that the marriage is bonafide the officer may grant the adjustment of status application right there by stamping the foreign national’s valid passport with an I-551 stamp indicating that they are a lawful permanent resident, or more commonly, the officer will decide at a later date usually within 30 days, and the I-551 Lawful Permanent Resident Card or “greencard” will be sent to the foreign national by mail. If the couple has been married for less than two years, the Lawful Permanent Resident Card will be a two year conditional card. The foreign national must again prove that the marriage was bonafide after two years by filing form I-751 with proof that the marriage was bonafide within 90 days of the card’s expiration. If the couple has been married for more than two years prior to the adjustment of status, the foreign national will be issued a Lawful Permanent Resident Card without conditions. The card itself will need to be renewed every 10 years, but the foreign national will be eligible to apply for U.S. Citizenship in three years if they remain married.
The above description is the most common procedure for individuals who have no other issues that might complicate matters. Some of these issues include but are not limited to those who entered without lawful admission, those who are currently out of status, those with visas that require that they return to their home country, those with certain medical conditions and those whose U.S. Citizen spouses do not meet the financial requirements. No article can substitute for a legal consultation with a competent attorney. This information is general in nature and not legal advice. Each case is different and should be reviewed by an immigration attorney as an improperly filed adjustment of status application could lead to loss of thousands of dollars, lengthy delays or even deportation.