While marrying a U.S. citizen makes you eligible for an immigrant visa and enables you to obtain a green card, the process is not automatic. The steps you take before, during, and immediately after your marriage can have either a positive or negative effect on your immigration status.
An experienced immigration attorney could help you review your options and choose the best strategy for your situation. This article will briefly review common issues you should consider when migrating to the United States through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Where Should You Get Married?
Your wedding location will be a critical factor in determining which immigration avenue you will use to obtain your green card. If you marry in the U.S., you may be able to remain in the country and apply for a green card. However, if you marry outside the United States, you may process your immigrant visa through the local consulate.
While you cannot immigrate to the United States until you have completed the consular visa processing, this route can be quicker than seeking a visa through U.S.-based adjustment of status. The consular visa processing route could also provide you with employment authorization faster and can allow you the flexibility of continued international travel during the pendency of your visa application.
If you apply for adjustment of status from within the United States, any trip abroad could be considered an abandonment of your residency application. Therefore, it is advisable to consult with your immigration attorney before traveling internationally.
Eligibility for a Marriage-Based Green Card
Your spouse will file a petition for your immigration and probably serve as your sponsor. That means you must both meet specific eligibility requirements. Your sponsor will need to meet specific income guidelines in order to sign a legal contract with the U.S. government that guarantees financial support for you.
If your spouse does not meet these qualifications, you may need to find someone else to jointly serve in that role. In some cases, your income—as the applicant—can be used to meet the income guidelines for sponsorship.
Preparation And Document Collection for Your Immigrant Visa Process
Suppose your marriage takes place outside the U.S. In that case, it is wise to have an immigration attorney confirm that the U.S. government recognizes the marriage. Likewise, you should check in with an immigration attorney to ensure that you collect all necessary documents and certifications in advance of your immigrant visa application. This preparation will ensure you avoid costly mistakes that could delay your case processing.
You should be prepared to demonstrate that your marriage relationship is genuine. Photos showing the two of you together during courtship, a joint lease, jointly-filed taxes, joint bank account statements, or witness statements are some of the types of evidence you might use to demonstrate that your marriage is not just a ploy to gain immigration status. These documents do not all need to be filed at the beginning of the application process. Still, you should have a substantial set of good faith marriage proof by the date of your interview.
The Appearance of Fraud Could Ruin Your Chances of Approval
One of the most unforgivable sins in the immigration process is to say or do something that appears fraudulent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the agency believes you lied or misrepresented information to get a visa, you could not only lose your current visa but could also be barred from obtaining another in the future.
Suppose you would like to marry within the U.S. In that case, you must take care to follow the provisions of the temporary visa allowing you to be in the country. USCIS penalizes persons who misrepresent the reason for their visits and temporary stays in the United States. If USCIS finds any hint of deceit in your application, it could deny your permanent visa.
Depending on the situation, you may want to apply for a K-1 fiancé.
An Immigration Attorney Could Help You Avoid Problems When Marrying a U.S. Citizen
While the rest of the world views a wedding engagement as a cause for celebration, USCIS tends to view marriage as a potential scam to take advantage of immigration provisions. Therefore, it is wise to prepare evidence carefully to demonstrate that your intent is genuine.
The U.S. government publishes processing times for adjustment of status at https://egov.uscis.gov/processing-times/ and consular immigrant visa processing on each consulate website. Therefore, a properly filed application for adjustment of status will significantly optimize processing times. Often, applicants who choose to prepare their applications through unqualified paralegals or notarios face delayed processing or problematic rejections of their applications.
An experienced immigration lawyer could help you determine the best timing and location for your wedding and guide you through the immigration process to avoid common pitfalls. Contact us now for a free consultation to learn how the Law Offices of Robert M. Bell, P.A. could assist in your situation.