The Permanent Resident Card is commonly known as a “Green Card”. The Green Card allows a person to live and work on a permanent basis in the United States. The most popular way to obtain a green card is by marrying a U.S. citizen or green card holder.
The Green Card is not automatically given upon marriage. After the marriage an application must be made to The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS). To be successful, you must prove that the marriage is genuine, that is that the marriage didn’t’ take place for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card. Also, in order for to obtain a green card, the person being sponsored must be qualified to be admitted into the U.S. under immigration laws.
When you apply to sponsor your spouse you must include all of the following items:
- Form I-130 petition for alien relative on the spouse's behalf
- Form I-485 application for adjustment of status to permanent resident (green card holder)
- Biographical form G-325A for each party
- Form I-765 application for employment authorization
- Birth certificate of the petitioner/U.S. citizen
- Citizenship papers of the petitioner/U.S. citizen or Green Card (if any)
- Birth certificate of the beneficiary/alien
- Passport of the beneficiary/alien, including the I-94 card (if any)
- Marriage certificate
- Marriage photograph
- Four photographs of the beneficiary/alien (passport size, green card photograph)
- Two photographs of the petitioner/U.S. citizen (passport size)
- Divorce papers for each spouse if applicable
- Birth certificate of each child belonging to each party, if any
- lPrior USCIS papers
- Medical evaluation of the beneficiary
Financial documents of the petitioner, including all tax returns for the previous three years, job letters, pay stubs of the last two months, and a bank statement. Once all of the documentation is submitted the USCIS will begin processing the application and start their investigation. The USCIS will schedule an interview, which is intended to determine whether the marriage was entered into in good faith and not merely a sham intended to get the alien a green card. The USCIS takes fraudulent marriages seriously and accordingly requires applicants to provide supporting documents to show that the marriage is valid. Each couple must prove to the immigration officials that they have lived together and are in a genuine marital relationship. It cannot be overstressed that each couple must always tell the truth during the interview. Lying in a marriage interview could not only result in the denial of the petition, it could lead to a conviction for perjury.
The USCIS will look for evidence that is consistent with a typical married couple. The USCIS takes a very traditional view of marriage. The documentation provided should support the history of the relationship and your current life together, such as wedding and other photographs, joint bank statements, bills, joint tax returns, joint bills, joint leases, letters from your friends and family that would serve as testimonials about your relationship, and so forth.
At the interview, be prepared to answer numerous detailed and wide ranging personal questions. Here are two examples of questions you can expect to be asked during the interview: What color is your spouse's toothbrush? What color is the carpeting in your living room? If you have ever been arrested, it is particularly important that you have an attorney present at the interview.
If the examiner is not convinced that the marriage is non-fraudulent a second more detailed interview will be scheduled. At the second interview, which is known as a Stokes Interview, you and your spouse will be interviewed separately so that the interviewer can later compare the answers for consistency.
If the USCIS grants you a green card and you have been married for less than two years, you will receive a conditional green card or what is commonly called a temporary green card. In such a case, the conditional status may be removed by both the sponsoring spouse and the sponsored spouse filing a form I-751 (petition to remove the conditional basis on residence) within 90 days of the second anniversary of the marriage. The USCIS may require a second interview in which both parties would need to appear.
Although the sponsored spouse needs the cooperation of the sponsoring spouse to have the temporary green card turned into a permanent green card, there are two exceptions to this rule. First being, if the sponsored spouse is being physically abused by the sponsoring spouse and has started a divorce action due to the abuse, the sponsored spouse may proceed without the sponsored spouse under the “Battered Spouse” exception. Second being, if your marriage ended up in a divorce, then you can file without your spouse, but you must prove that your marriage was a bonda fide marriage.
Once the “conditional” status is removed, the sponsored spouse will have a green card and be eligible for U.S. Citizenship after three years of marriage or 4 years and 9 months if not married.
For more information, call us at (718) 625-0800 for a free consultation.