The Complete Guide to Adjustment of Status Through Marriage
BASICS OF ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS THROUGH MARRIAGE TO A U.S. CITIZEN
If you are a foreign national who has married a United States citizen or lawful permanent resident and you are presently residing in the U.S. through legal means, your marital relationship might qualify you for lawful permanent resident status through an immigrant visa, also known as a green card. The process to get it in this manner is called adjustment of status through marriage.
No matter your circumstance, applying for an adjustment of status and filing for a marriage-based green card to become a lawful permanent resident can be an overwhelming task. Here, Austin immigration lawyer Michael G. Murray, P.A., guides you through the steps to follow and what to expect when looking to apply for a green card through marriage.
WHO CAN APPLY FOR ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS?
If you are a foreign national married to a U.S. citizen or vice versa, who entered the U.S through the visa waiver program, you can easily apply for an adjustment of status and get a marriage-based green card to live in the States with the status of lawful permanent residence. But things that matter in applying for a green card include your background check. If the foreign spouse comes to the U.S. without a lawful means or has a criminal record, it will be against the immigration laws, and the process would be strict for them. Moreover, there would be fewer chances of getting your application accepted.
Additionally, your marriage shouldn’t be for migration status. Although many couples do this and successfully adjust their status, there are some conditions for it.
Please read the eligibility criteria to apply for adjustment of status application.
MARRIAGE-BASED ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS — SPOUSE ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS
Under U.S. family immigration laws, a foreign national’s marriage to a U.S. citizen automatically categorizes them as their spouse’s “immediate relative.” In most cases, this means that they are eligible for a green card as soon as they can complete the adjustment of the status process. However, there are a few exceptions to be aware of, and both you and your spouse must meet several criteria to be eligible for adjustment.
The primary requirements are that a foreign spouse must meet as follows:
- Be physically present in the U.S.; this includes both current and expired non-immigrant status.
- Have most recently entered the U.S. through legal means. If you are in the U.S. on an overstayed visa, you may still qualify; the only requirement is that you initially entered the United States with a valid visa or visa waiver.
- Be deemed admissible to the United States – potentially disqualifying factors include having a criminal history.
If you or your spouse is not eligible to adjust status through marriage based on the above requirements, you may have other options to obtain permanent residence. If the foreign spouse is not physically present in the U.S. or did not enter the U.S. through legal means or have an unlawful presence, they might have the ability to obtain residence in the United States through immigrant visa processing.
Additionally, if the foreign spouse is inadmissible to the U.S. as an outcome of previous criminal offenses, they might have the ability to request a waiver for those premises of inadmissibility. Consulting an experienced immigration law attorney is the best way to determine your eligibility for these options and whether they’re the right choice for your unique situation.
While the above requirements apply to all types of adjustments to the status of a foreign citizen, there’s one significant factor that only applies when someone is applying through marriage to become a lawful permanent resident. To qualify, the married couple must prove that their marriage is “bona fide” and was not entered for the sole purpose of immigration benefits. For most couples, this is relatively easy to prove, but it requires locating and supplying extensive documentation during the adjustment of status application and interview processes. Additionally, you will have to navigate through many red flags that United States Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) officials look for when reviewing marriage-based immigration petitions.
LIST OF DOCUMENTS TO ADJUST STATUS FOR MARRIAGE-BASED GREEN CARD
The process of adjusting status requires filing a comprehensive set of forms, files, and documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services – USCIS highlighting the authenticity of the marital relationship in addition to the foreign spouse candidate’s eligibility.
There are two primary forms that must be filed with the adjustment of the status application. These include:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
Other supplementary forms to file include:
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record.
- Form I-864 Affidavit of Support.
To show or maintain work eligibility and the right to travel abroad (specifically if the foreign national spouse will not continue to keep their non-immigrant status or is not in existing non-immigrant status), additional forms to be submitted may include:
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization.
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document.
It’s important to keep in mind that once an application has been submitted, the foreign national spouse candidate might not have the ability to leave the U.S. until advance parole is available. If the candidate does need to leave the U.S. while the application is pending before advance parole is available, USCIS may believe that they have given up their application to adjust status. This, among many other potential scenarios, is why it’s always a good idea to speak with an attorney prior to making any immigration-related decisions. Your attorney will guide you through the process and help you navigate through the most suitable immigration visa options.
ADJUST STATUS THROUGH MARRIAGE CHECKLIST
In addition to the above documents, you will be required to submit several types of records to support the information detailed in your application to adjust your status to permanent resident. These are submitted primarily for the purpose of proving the legitimacy of the marriage to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, USCIS officer who will review your application, while others establish the identity and admissibility of the foreign national applicant.
Marriage Status Adjustment Checklist
Most evidence establishing the legitimacy of the marriage should be provided when filing the USCIS Form I-130 petition. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following:
- Pictures of the couple together and with family and friends at numerous events and occasions
- Proof that the couple has combined assets, such as joint bank account statements or joint credit card bills
- Copies of mail sent to the couple at the couple’s joint residence
- Proof that both partners have named the other as a beneficiary in any life insurance policies
- Proof of joint health insurance or car insurance coverage
Additional documentation may be required when filing Form I-485 in order to establish the foreign national applicant’s admissibility. These include the following:
- Two current passport-style photos of the applicant
- A copy of the applicant’s government-issued photo ID, such as a passport
- A copy of the applicant’s long-form birth certificate
- Evidence that the applicant was checked by an immigration officer before last entering the United States
- Documentation of the applicant’s immigration category
- A copy of the certified marriage certificate and, if applicable, evidence of the termination of any prior marriages for either spouse
- Certified records for any criminal charges or convictions that the applicant has received
The exact records that are required depend on the unique circumstances of each case. An attorney can help you determine what to include with your marriage-based green card application for the best odds of approval.
HOW TO SUBMIT AN ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS APPLICATION?
Here are the steps of the adjustment of the status process.
1- Submit The Application Form to USCIS
To apply for a green card, you need to file Form I-130 & I-485 form issued by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration service and submit them to the department with all supporting documents (mentioned above).
The purpose of the Form I-130 petition for Alien is to prove that you are a U.S citizen married to a foreign green card holder, which needs to be submitted before the application for permanent residence. However, if the U.S. citizen didn’t submit it, you can submit it on the same day.
2- Receive Receipt Notices
After 2-3 weeks of green card application submission, the foreign spouse will receive receipt notices. If the foreign spouse does not have an Alien, it will assign them. These receipt notices are very important and will be used to deal with immigration and permanent residence matters with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and check the application status online.
3- Biometric Appointment Schedule
After 2 to 3 weeks of receiving the Receipt Notices, the foreign partner will receive the biometrics appointment details. USCIS will schedule the appointment at a local USCIS field office or any Application Support Office. The officer will take the pictures and fingerprints of the foreign spouse to run the necessary background checks.
4- OPTIONAL – Evidence Request
If your application has any mistakes or has inadequate documentation, the USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence – REF. Inadequate documents or incorrect information will stop your application for a green card from being processed. So, it would be best to be careful this time to submit the correct information with all necessary documents.
The REF will contain details of what documents and information they need and the deadlines to submit it, preferably at the same time. If you can’t fulfill the requirements of REF, your application will be denied at this stage.
The process of filling out a marriage-based green card application can be complicated. However, if you consult with an immigration attorney or law firm with expertise in U.S. immigration matters for legal advice, things will become easier.
5- Interview Notice.
Here comes the most important step, the interview. You will receive an interview notice from USCIS on the pending adjustments of the application. The notice will also have details of the necessary documents you and your spouse need to take with you to the interview.
There are two purposes of this interview,
- To ensure that both spouses don’t marry for an immigration benefit and have legitimate marital relationships.
- To ensure that the foreign spouse’s background is free from criminal records that can make him/her ineligible for the green card and didn’t enter the U.S. illegally.
Once the interview is done, you will have to wait for the approval notice.
Be Careful About…
Once you file the status adjustment application, the foreign spouse can’t leave the United States. If the foreign spouse needs to leave the U.S. before advance parole is issued, the USCIS will consider their green card application withdrawn or denied.
Check Your Case Status
When USCIS make a decision on your application, you will receive a written official notice from them. However, before that, you can check your application status online on the USCIS website. To check the status of your Form I-485, you can also make a call to the USCIS contact center at 800-375-5283.
While making the call, make sure you have the necessary information about your application, such as your receipt number, A-Number, name, and date of birth. The representative will ask you for this information to locate it in the database and will inform you about the status.
APPLICATION COST FOR STATUS ADJUSTMENT THROUGH MARRIAGE
To complete your adjustment of status process, you’ll be required to pay several different fees, beginning with any costs related to your initial petition. To adjust your status through marriage, you’ll generally pay $535 to submit your I-130 petition.
After your petition is authorized, you’ll pay an additional fee to submit Form I-485. The fee for most candidates is $1,140 plus an $85 biometrics charge. However, both the filing cost and the biometrics cost are waived if you’re submitting Form I-485 as a refugee.
If you choose to work with an attorney, you will also want to prepare for the cost of paying the attorney’s fees. However, while this may appear to increase the total cost of your adjustment, your attorney will help you make the process as efficient as possible, greatly reducing the likelihood of costly errors delaying and complicating the process.
STATUS ADJUSTMENT THROUGH MARRIAGE TIMELINE
Pursuing a permanent resident card through this can be a slow process, and the specific timeline to get a green card and adjust status through marriage will depend on a range of factors. If the U.S.-based spouse is a green card holder, the process generally takes no less than two years, while the process is usually completed in about a year when the spouse is a U.S. citizen. This timeline takes all steps of the process into account, such as the USCIS interview, biometrics appointment, and waiting periods while officials review your files.
The processing time likewise varies based on where you apply from, and you can look at your closest USCIS office’s processing times for a better idea of your potential timeline. If you’re concerned that your application is taking too long, you can also check your case’s status online.
Ultimately, the length of your adjustment timeline depends on whether you have a skilled immigration lawyer assisting you. When you seek the services of Austin immigration attorney Michael G. Murray, P.A., he will work diligently to make sure that your application is filed properly from the start so you can begin the rest of your life with your spouse in the United States as soon as possible. Contact his law firm today to get started.