First of all, congratulations on your marriage and finding someone you want to spend the rest of your life with. We know it cannot be easy, seeing as your spouse is all the way in the US and you’re outside.
The good news is that the US government has provided visas that let couples stay together permanently in the US. That sounds nice, but it is not as easy as it seems; the application process is a long, daunting one.
If you have a US citizen or green card holder spouse, you have the privilege of applying for a marriage green card. This green card gives you the liberty to live and work freely in the United States without fear of deportation. However, before you apply, there are a few things you should know about applying for this immigration benefit.
The Meaning of “Spouse” According to the USCIS
The USCIS, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, is in charge of marriage green cards. Every petition, form, and document you submit will be going to the USCIS as well as the National Visa Center.
This immigration authority body has its own definition of whom it sees as a spouse and who it listens to. Thus, according to the USCIS, a spouse is one who is legally married – that is, in a relationship recognized by law as marriage.
To the USCIS, you are not a spouse if you merely live together; therefore, such does not qualify for a green card. In marriages where there’s more than one wife or husband (polygamy), only the first spouse qualifies for immigration.
On the other hand, the USCIS may recognize common-law spouses as legal couples if the laws of the country where the marriage occurred do. A common-law couple is one where a man and woman enter into marriage without a religious or civil ceremony.
Filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
The first step in the application process for a marriage green card is filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The US citizen or permanent resident will file this form with the USCIS, which is part of the Department of Homeland Security.
However, the filing of this petition or even its approval does not automatically give the alien spouse any immigration status. The USCIS will generally approve this petition if the couple can establish a qualifying relationship between them.
Once the USCIS approves the petition, the foreign spouse may then apply to become a lawful permanent resident or green card holder. If the foreign spouse is already living in the United States, they can apply to have their immigration status changed.
However, the immediacy of that depends on if there is a visa available; it always is for the US citizen spouse. Spouses of green card holders will need to wait a few months to years before a visa becomes available.
Meanwhile, there is no minimum age set for a US petitioner filing this petition for a spouse. Nevertheless, they must be eighteen years old at least and be domicile (resident) in the US to sign Form I-864, Affidavit of Support. This form is one of the required forms when applying for an immigrant visa for a spouse or US sponsor’s relatives.
What Fees are to be Paid During the Application?
The US government charges fees for filing Form I-130, and DS-260, as well as medical examination and required vaccinations. Other fees you may pay include charges for translations, photocopies, and obtaining the needed documents for the application. You should also budget for the cost of traveling to the US consulate for your interview, which varies according to country.
After the petition has been approved by the USCIS, the latter will forward the application to the National Visa Center. The NVC will then assign the petition a case number and instruct the applicant to fill out Form DS-261. This form lets you choose an address and agent; you won’t need it if you already have an attorney.
Next, the NVC will start pre-processing your case by giving you and your US sponsor instructions to pay the required fees. After you have paid the fees, the NVC will request that you submit the required immigrant visa documents.
These fees are not refundable and are to be paid for each intending immigrant, their age regardless. The NVC will provide the applicant with instructions on what fees to pay as well as when and where.
Herman Legal Group in Atlanta: How Can We Help?
Having your own immigration lawyer will save you from a lot of hiccups involved in marriage green card applications. Herman Legal Group has a team of qualified, experienced, and empathetic lawyers with a commitment to excellence. Through our help, you can familiarize yourself with how US immigration works, the right forms to fill out, and more.
We are based in different states across the US and also outside, so you can find us in Atlanta. To have a consultation with us, you can book online or call us at +1-216-696-6170.
Applying for a US immigration status like a marriage green card can be daunting and complicated if you’re not familiar with the process. By working with an experienced immigration attorney, you have a better chance of meeting the USCIS’s and NVC’s requirements.