If you're applying for a green card based on your marriage, here are five tips for preparing your application:
- Provide documentation. Include documentation proving the petitioner's U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status. Provide your marriage certificate and other proof of your bona fide marriage. Include documentation proving you share a life together, such as a deed, joint lease, joint bank accounts, and other proof that shows you intend to share a future together. Also, include sworn affidavits by third parties who have personal knowledge of and can provide a statement about your relationship.
- Review and save a copy of your application. Once you have gathered the documentation and completed all the relevant forms for your application, do a thorough review paying particular attention to correct name spellings, dates of birth and addresses. Make a copy of your application for your records.
- Track your application. Once the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) receives your application, you will receive a Receipt Notice, notifying you that they have accepted your application for review and adjudication. The notice will contain a Receipt Number, which you can use to track the status of your application. Soon after, you will receive another letter inviting you to a biometrics appointment, where USCIS will take your photo and fingerprints as part of the background check done in the green card process. After a few months, you will receive an invitation letter to come to the in-person interview at the local USCIS office. If you are moving, make sure to complete the change of address form to keep USCIS abreast of your new address, ensuring that you receive all correspondence. You may do so online or by mail.
- Prepare for your interview. Most people think that the interview is merely a formality, but it is not so. Marriage-based interviews can be tough, as you will have to overcome the presumption that your marriage was entered into purely for immigration purposes. Review the application you submitted to USCIS to see if there's anything you need to update with immigration. Bring updated and additional documentation showing the progress in your marriage (e.g. joint tax return, joint lease, common children, shared pet, etc.). Bring an album of select photos to show the officer. An officer will not view your photos on a flash drive. Make sure you bring copies of documents so you can keep the originals, in case the officer asks to keep a copy of the document. Click here to learn What happens at a marriage petition interview?
- Keep updated. There are several things that may happen after the interview. You will generally have a sense of whether the officer will approve your application or not, but you will be told to wait to receive the official decision in the mail. Here are the likely outcomes of a green card application:
- Approval: Congratulations! If you have been married to your spouse for more than two years, you will receive a permanent green card which expires in 10 years. However, if you have been married for less than two years, you will receive a conditional green card. In this case, you and your spouse will have to apply to remove the conditions on your status during the 90-days before your conditional residency status expires.
- Second Interview: USCIS may schedule a follow-up interview if they suspect marriage fraud. If you have a bona fide marriage and you were asked to appear for a second interview (called a "Stokes Interview"), it may be because the documents you provided for the application do not sufficiently show that you have a real marriage, or you did not adequately prepare for the interview. Spouses may be interviewed separately and could take hours. If you are invited for such an interview you will receive, with your appointment letter, a written list of your rights and a list of documents to bring. This is a high-stakes interview, so we recommend that you seek legal counsel if you are called for a Stokes Interview.
- Denial: If you are in lawful immigration status, you may reapply again, but will have to pay the immigration fees again. Thus, it is important that you submit a good application the first time around. If you are not in status, you will receive a Notice to Appear (NTA), a summons to appear in immigration court for removal proceedings. This is the commencement of the deportation case against you, so it is important to seek legal counsel to represent you in immigration court.
If you already have an approved green card application, we recommend that you keep updated on changes in immigration policy as it relates to your application. Remember, green card holders are not immune to deportation. If you are applying for a green card based on marriage, please contact us. We are here to help. Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn or Tumblr for up-to-date immigration news.
Rasoulpour Torregoza is the law firm for immigrants, by immigrants. We are founded on the motto of LegalEase: we do away with the legal jargon and make law easy to understand, so you can focus on what’s important to you – going for your American Dream.
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