Applying for a US Green Card based on marriage to US citizen?
As if getting married isn’t stressful enough, the process to obtain permanent residence for one’s spouse can take it to an entirely different level. Follow these simple tips, however, and you should be able to navigate the process in no time.
- document your application thoroughly
- bring updated documents to the interview
- bring a photo album
- make sure your tax returns are accurate
- request an interpreter
- enter into a fraudulent marriage
- send originals
- miss the interview
- mail without being able to track it
- worry about giving the “wrong” answer
Do document your application thoroughly
Unfortunately, when requesting a green card based on marriage, US Citizenship and Immigration Services will presume that the marriage is entered into for green card purposes only and its up to you to prove them wrong. Send as many documents as you have showing that you and your spouse live at the same address, share a life together, and have a genuine relationship that was not entered into to obtain permanent residence.
Do bring updated documents to the interview
The USCIS Officer interviewing you will want proof that you still live in a marital relationship on the day of your appointment. Even if you submitted documents with your application, make sure to bring updated versions, such as recent bills, joint bank account statements, or insurance policies.
Do bring a photo album
USCIS wants to see all of your photos arranged in a photo album, starting with your wedding day and including photos from vacations, family get-togethers, holidays, etc. If you only keep your photos online or on your phone, then print them out and put an album together for your interview. Your interviewer will want to keep two photos – one of your wedding day and another everyday photo. Make sure you have copies of all the photos safely at home!
Do make sure your tax returns are accurate
Review your tax returns to make sure you filed “Married” every single year that you were. It does not matter if you filed separately or jointly, but you cannot file as single or head of household. Also be sure that you reported all of your income (even if paid in cash), and that you were allowed to claim any dependants that appear on your return. File amended tax returns to correct any mistakes prior to filing your application with USCIS to make sure there is enough time for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to process them.
Do request an interpreter
Most USCIS offices will either provide an interpreter or allow you to bring one of your own. Read the instructions that come on your appointment notice to see how these requests are handled at your local office. Some languages require a request made in advance, or are not available in all offices. If your English is not very strong, or you have trouble speaking it when you are nervous, don’t hesitate to ask for an interpreter. As long as it is obvious that you and your spouse are able to communicate, it will not hurt your application to have the interview in a different language.
Do not enter into a fraudulent marriage
This particular area of immigration law tends to see high levels of fraud, and USCIS is well aware of that. All marriages are presumed fraudulent until proven otherwise. Some of the questions you will be asked can be tricky, even if people do live together. If you enter into a fraudulent marriage and USCIS realizes, it is going to be very difficult for you to fight the deportation proceedings that will ensue, or to obtain a visa later on, even if based on a legitimate relationship.
Do not send originals
You should never send originals to USCIS unless the form instructions specifically require it. In the case of a marriage-based green card application, you should not send originals of your supporting evidence. Make copies of everything and bring the originals to the interview, so that the officer can compare them.
Do not miss the interview
If one or both of you can’t attend the interview, make sure to send in a request for a rescheduling as far in advance as possible. You must document the request showing that you have a legitimate reason for being unable to appear. Also remember that you must both appear, or risk having the application denied and having to start all over again.
Do not mail without being able to track it
Use a trackable method, such as US Postal Service Certified Mail, to send in your application. That way, you will be able to prove to USCIS the date on which it was received if they are delaying processing your case. You will also be able to track the application, and the checks for the filing fees you included, if the package gets lost.
Do not worry about giving the “wrong” answer
USCIS is not here to judge your marriage, only to make sure that you have a legitimate relationship. If neither of you want children, for example, don’t worry that revealing this will cause a problem. As long as it is evident that you have had conversations about these topics and that you agree on your decision, you will be fine.
Remember to be as honest and accurate as possible in your answers, both on the forms and during your interview. Ensure that you are able to have the interview in a language you understand. Make sure your case is well documented, and you and your spouse will be living in the US worry free in no time!