BY MADDY RAMETTA
What You Need to Know About Marriage Based Green Cards
Immediate relatives (in this case a spouse) of a citizen of the United States or a permanent resident are eligible to become a lawful permanent resident viand receive a green card. A green card, or permanent residence, allows you to legally live in the United States as a resident, and eventually apply for U.S. citizenship (if you are married to a U.S. citizen). If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident living in the U.S. you can apply for this permanent status, through a process called adjustment of status. If you live out of the country but still seek permanent resident status through marriage, you can follow a pathway called consular processing.
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS
When living or being present in the U.S., you are eligible for a green card through adjustment of status, if you meet some eligibility requirements. The first is that you have been inspected and admitted or inspected and paroled by a U.S. immigration officer. This means that you entered the United States in a legal way. To be eligible to go through this process, you must be sure to avoid entering the United States unlawfully in any way.
ISSUES THAT COULD PREVENT ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS
Situations that could prevent you from being eligible for adjustment of status include entering and working unlawfully in the country, or failure to maintain lawful status since entry to the country. If you are applying for permanent resident through U.S. citizen spouse (as opposed to a U.S. permanent resident spouse) you can still qualify for a green card even if your lawful status has expired or you have worked without authorization, as long as you entered the U.S. legally.
ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS PROCESS
Aside from meeting these requirements, you are also required to fill out various forms, like Form I-485, and file these forms in the correct place. Your petition will be approved or denied, and you will them move towards your interview. Most permanent residents have to wait 5 years to apply for U.S. citizenship. However, those who achieved their residence through their U.S. citizen spouse can apply after only 3 as long as they are still with the spouse they got their residence through.
If you are not eligible for adjustment of status or must/would like to apply outside of the U.S, you will need to go through the process of consular processing. As a spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, you your spouse must file a Form I-130 for you, which starts the process. From there, your petition will be either approved or denied, and you will move forward in the process toward your interview. The next step involves another application that must be submitted to the U.S. Visa Center. It is very important to notify the U.S. Visa Center of any changes to your petition, as various small details may affect your status.
FINANCIAL SPONSOR/AFFIDAVIT OF SUPPORT
For either of these two options to be right for you, you and your spouse must meet some additional requirements. These include being lawfully married to the beneficiary and proving that your spouse will provide support for you and has the means to support you. This is known as a “Affidavit of Support” or “Financial Affidavit.” Whether your spouse’s income qualifies to support you depends on the size of your household and the current federal poverty guidelines. Your spouse must also prove that they live primarily in the United States. There is a cost that comes with applying for a marriage based green card for both parties, and sponsorship is usually required.
Either of these processes can be lengthy and complicated. From start to finish, the process will most likely last anywhere from a year to three years. Each process requires detailed steps and requirements, so it is best to work with an immigration attorney to ensure that you meet all requirements and fulfill all the required steps. If you have any questions or need any help with your green card or immigration status, do not hesitate to contact the Law Firm of Gian-Franco Melendez, LLC to speak with an experienced immigration attorney about your options.