Frequently Asked Questions
- I Plan to Get Married. What I Can Do Before Marriage to Help The Green Card Visa Process?
Generally before you become married, you are not able to file any marriage-based petitions except for the K-1 fiancé visa petition. However, we advise most of our clients to start as soon as possible to obtain documents that are likely to be needed from a foreign country. Some of these documents are typically difficult and time consuming to procure, especially foreign birth certificates or registrations.
For those aliens whose births were not registered, or whose birth registration is lost, special procedures are necessary to obtain the affidavits and substitute documentation from the foreign local government that may satisfy the requirement. In addition, all documents in a foreign language must be provided along with certified translations. Those planning to submit marriage based visa petitions may make the process faster if they obtain foreign documents with certified translations ahead of time. Such will typically include birth certificates or registrations, divorce decrees, adoption records, school records, marriage certificates and such.
- I Am Married. What is Faster, the K-3 Spousal Visa or the Marriage Green Card?
The K-3 visa petition generally permits those married to US citizens to enter the US faster than if they had to wait for the entire green card process to be completed before entering. Note however, that upon entry with the K-3 visa, the spouse of the US citizen must still complete the green card process in the US. See Faqs for K-1 fiance/K-3 Visas.
- I Married an Abusive Spouse Who Refuses to Sign My Marriage Green Card Visa Papers. Can I Apply under VAWA?
Victims of spousal abuse, assault and/or battery may be able to self-sponsor for a green card. Where an abusive US citizen spouse refuses to support an application, the alien may be able to file the petition on his or her own behalf under the provisions of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The application may be approved with or without the support of the abusive spouse. To qualify for self-sponsorship under VAWA, applicants must show the following:
- He/she is a spouse of a US citizen or Legal Permanent Resident (LPR);
- Entered into a good faith marriage;
- Has resided with US citizen or LPR;
- Has good moral character;
- Was battered or subjected to extreme mental cruelty by spouse OR is the parent of a child abused by USC or LPR spouse; and
- Has credible evidence to prove the items above.
Petitions under VAWA are filed using the Form I-360 at the Vermont Service Center and may also be filed by those who may have entered without inspection (EWIs), illegal aliens and those in removal or deportation proceedings.
- I Married an Illegal Alien, Can My Spouse Get a US Marriage Green Card Visa?
Illegal aliens may seek adjustment of status under section 245i if they qualify. Also, provisions of VAWA may permit those spouses that have been subjected to abuse to self-sponsor a VAWA adjustment of status application while in the US. Finally, illegal aliens married to US citizens may apply for a hardship waiver at the US embassy of their native country. Visit our Married to Illegal Aliens page for more information on the waiver for illegal aliens married to US citizens.
- I Married a US Citizen but Worked Illegally, Can I Get a Marriage Green Card Visa and Work Permit?
Aliens married to US citizens but have worked illegally may nevertheless apply for a green card, adjustment of status and work authorization. However, the income earned from illegal employment cannot be counted to meet the I-864 Affidavit of Support obligation. Aliens who have worked illegally should apply for work authorization at the earliest possible time to minimize the duration of unauthorized employment
- I Entered Legally but My Visa Expired, Can I Apply for a Marriage Green Card Visa And EAD Card?
Most aliens who entered legally with a visa whose visas subsequently expired may still apply for a green card, adjustment of status and work authorization if married to a US citizen. However, it is important to consult an experienced immigration attorney to review the facts and circumstances of the entry, the type of entry visa, and to confirm that adjustment of status application is appropriate and approvable.
- Can I Travel Outside the US While My Marriage Green Card Visa Is in Process?
Green card applicants who have applied for adjustment of status can only travel with permission from the USCIS. Aliens with pending adjustment of status applications must first apply for Advance Parole and may only travel upon approval of the application for advance parole. Such aliens must carry the approved Advance Parole application and present such upon re-entry. Those aliens on H-1B or H-4 visa status are not required to obtain advance parole. Such aliens may travel on the H visa. However, it is important to speak to an experience immigration attorney before traveling to ensure that current state of the law and that there are no special requirements that may apply to that alien.
Aliens who entered illegally and those that overstayed their visa may not qualify for advance parole and may not be permitted to return to the US after traveling abroad. Such aliens should consult an experienced immigration attorney before making any travel plans.
- Can I Apply for a Work Permit and Travel Document When I Submit My Marriage Green Card Application?
Yes, In fact our law firm routinely submits those at the same time for qualified applicants. You can submit an application for an EAD card as well as Advance Parole at the same time you submit the marriage green card application. It takes anywhere from 60 to 90 days to obtain USCIS approval for these.
- What Should I Expect at the USCIS Interview for My Marriage Green Card Application?
Generally, the USCIS examiner’s goal is to determine whether the couple is in a good faith marriage and sharing a joint life. The USCIS examiner typically asks questions about day-to-day life of the couple; where and how they met; whether friends, relatives and coworkers are aware of the marriage and joint life; and whether or not they have visited friends and family members as a couple. Examiners also review documents from the couple such as leases, bills, photographs, bank statements, credit card statements, and insurance policies to determine whether the claim of a joint life is supported by the documentation provided by the couple. In some instances, the couple will be separated and quizzed separately on different aspects of their daily life, home and activities.
The examiner generally does not rely on one or two factors alone. Instead, they review all of the facts of the situation together to reach a judgment whether they believe that the couple share a joint life.
- Will I Get the Green Card on the Day of the USCIS Marriage Interview?
In some cases, the examiner will approve the petition at the time of the interview. In may cases however, the examiner may first need to get approval from a supervisor, request additional documentation, or conduct additional research before the application is approved. Petitions are sometimes approved on the day of the interview where all of the necessary information has been obtained by the USCIS, the interviewing agent has authority to issue the final approval and no additional documentation is required from the couple prior to the approval. Where additional documentation or material is requested, the alien should cooperate with the USCIS examiner to arrange a mutually convenient time to provide the documents and information expeditiously.
- Must My Spouse Also Attend the Marriage Green Card Visa Interview with Me?
Yes. The USCIS typically requires that your spouse be present at the interview. If your spouse is unable to attend, it is good practice to explain the reasons in writing, submit supporting evidence and request that the interview be rescheduled so that your spouse may attend at a later date.
- After My Marriage Interview, USCIS Requested More Evidence to Prove Our Marriage. What can I do?
A typical request for additional evidence must be responded to in 30 or 84 days. It is important to review the amount of time within which to respond in order to provide ample time to do so. Review our checklist of items to show a good faith marriage. If you have already submitted all of the documentation that you have but the examiner is still not satisfied and is asking for more, it is advisable to seek the help of an experienced immigration attorney if you did not retain one already. The attorney is likely to interview the couple extensively to determine whether additional information can be obtained. The attorney may also collect sworn statements from friends, family, co-workers, landlords and others to submit to the USCIS.
- My Spouse Filed for Divorce While Our Marriage Visa Was In Process, Should I Go to the Interview?
This situation needs a thorough review of the case file before a recommendation should can be made. An experienced immigration attorney will likely review the entire application, the divorce decree, other visa options available to the alien and explore whether self-sponsorship is viable under the situation. Aliens in this situation need to consult an attorney as soon as possible while different options may still be available. It is important to note however that failure to appear for the interview will likely result in a rejection of the application
- My Spouse and I Do Not Have Enough Income for the I-864 Affidavit of Support. What Can We Do?
The sponsoring spouse is required to complete and submit an I-864 affidavit of support regardless of income. To meet the public charge requirement however, income from other family household members as well as the alien count in some instances. Those couples with less than the required income may ask household members and other relatives with verifiable income to provide sponsorship as joint sponsors. Joint sponsors must complete the I-864 form and submit the required income verification and tax returns. All of the income, when combined, must also exceed the poverty guidelines considering the number of dependents that they sponsors have.
- My Spouse Is a US Citizen, How Long is it Before I Qualify for Citizenship after I Get My Green Card?
Generally, those married to US citizens qualify for citizenship after 3 years. Please review our Citizenship/Naturalization Page for information on citizenship.
- How Long Does the Marriage Green Card Visa Process Take from Application to Approval?
This is typically difficult to predict because a lot of it depends on the workload of the USCIS. However, an estimate of 6 months to one year is fair. Sometimes, the process is completed sooner than six months. In other instances, it takes more than one year to complete. The difficulty in predicting the length of the processing time stems from the largely unpredictable schedule of the USCIS and its process. The USCIS is committed to reducing this backlog and the waiting period is likely to improve in the coming months and years.
- I Am a US Citizen with a Criminal Conviction, Can I Apply for a Marriage Visa for My alien Spouse?
Yes, you may apply for your alien spouse even though you have a criminal conviction
- I Am An Alien with a Criminal Conviction Married to a US Citizen, Can I Apply For a Green Card?
Most minor traffic offenses and parking tickets do not affect an alien’s ability to complete the green card process. Aliens convicted of certain crimes may or may not be able to obtain adjustment of status, depending on the nature of the conviction. More severe crimes and felonies may affect an alien’s ability to obtain or even retain his or her green card. Violent crimes and crimes involving fraud and moral turpitude may hurt an alien’s chances of obtaining permanent residence. Since the determination depends very much on the specific nature of the charge and conviction, Aliens with a conviction should obtain the entire criminal case file from the courthouse and set an appointment with an experienced immigration attorney who will review the facts and circumstances surrounding the conviction and render an opinion.
- I Am On J-1 Visa Married To a US Citizen, Must I get a J-1 Waiver Before Applying for a Green Card?
J-1 visa holders who are not subject to the 2 year foreign residence requirement do not need a waiver prior to seeking a change or adjustment of status. Those subject to the requirement must return to their home country to complete the 2 year foreign residency requirement or obtain a waiver of that requirement through various methods. Review our J-1 visa waiver options page.
- I Attended a Marriage Green Card Interview and My Application Was Denied, What Can I Do?
Depending on the reason for the denial, there are a couple of options. Generally, most denials can be appealed to the BIA, AAO or Federal court, depending on the reasons and how the denial came about. In some instances, an alien may be able to file a motion to reopen the case and for additional evidence or documentation to be submitted in support. If the case is reopened, it may be reviewed and approved based on the existing evidence and additional evidence submitted. In many instances, the alien is able to resubmit the entire application and pay the filing fees again. Where a petition is resubmitted, the alien would ensure that the missing information that resulted in the prior denial is addressed in the new petition so that another denial does not result.