Green Card and Immigration Basics
What is USCIS?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the government agency that oversees legal immigration to the United States. USCIS is primarily responsible for approving green cards, naturalization, work permits, travel permits, and other “immigration benefits.”
What is a green card?
A “green card,” issued by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), provides proof of lawful permanent resident status, with authorization to live and work anywhere in the United States. Most green cards must be renewed every 10 years, but conditional green cards based on marriage that was entered into within 2 years must be replaced after the first 2 years.
What is a lawful permanent resident?
A lawful permanent resident, also known as a “green card holder,” is a foreign national authorized to live and work anywhere in the United States, sponsor certain relatives for their green cards, and ultimately apply for U.S. citizenship.
What is conditional permanent residence?
A conditional green card is valid for only 2 years, and the designation “CR1” on the physical card stands for “conditional resident.” A conditional green card holder must file Form I-751 to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent 10-year green card. In most cases, a conditional green card is issued to a spouse who has been married for less than 2 years when their green card was first approved.
Why would a green card application be denied?
A green card application may be denied by the U.S. government for several reasons, including but not limited to mistakes on the required forms, missing documents, insufficient financial resources, or failure to demonstrate eligibility.
Can I work in the U.S. while waiting for my green card?
Anyone with a valid work visa (an H-1B or L-1 visa) can usually continue working in the United States even while applying for a U.S. green card. Otherwise, green card applicants aren’t allowed to start working in the United States until they obtain a work permit by filing Form I-765.
What is the Visa Bulletin?
The Visa Bulletin, issued monthly by the U.S. Department of State, shows which green card applications can move forward based on when the I-130 petition priority date, which is the date when the I-130 was originally filed. The visa bulletin exists because Congress caps the number of green cards issued each year in certain categories, which has created severe backlogs for certain nationalities, though certain exceptions do apply when there is cross-chargeability available.
What is biometric screening?
During a biometric screening, a government representative records an individual’s fingerprints and takes their photos and signature to check government records for any serious criminal history or relevant prior immigration violations. The biometrics appointment is typically short and straightforward.
Marriage-Based Green Cards
What is a marriage-based green card?
Most U.S. citizens and U.S. green card holders are entitled by law to sponsor their spouses for a green card, also known as “permanent residence status.” The total cost, wait time, and other details of the marriage-based green card process vary based on several factors to include current USCIS/DOS fees, current processing times, and whether the case will be processed inside of the U.S. or outside of the U.S.
How long after my marriage can I apply for a green card?
You can apply for your green card as soon as you have the marriage certificate. Although it is very beneficial to consult with an immigration attorney first, as they will be able to advise you based on your unique circumstances that involve your immigration status, your immigration entry/exit history, and your health/criminal history background.
What documents do I need for a marriage-based green card?
The required documents for a marriage-based green card can vary by situation, but in general, the couple must provide evidence such as proof that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, a copy of their marriage certificate, evidence that the marriage is authentic, evidence that the sponsoring spouse can financially support the spouse seeking a green card, and a medical examination for the foreign spouse.
What is the difference between a fiancé visa and a marriage visa?
A K-1, or “fiancé visa,” is a temporary visa available only to the fiancés of U.S. citizens living outside the United States who intend to get married within 90 days of arriving in the United States. A marriage-based green card is available to spouses of both U.S. citizens and U.S. green card holders, whether living in the United States or abroad, and ultimately provides permanent residence.
What are the income requirements for a marriage visa?
To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the applicant must have a U.S. financial sponsor (usually the sponsoring spouse, or a joint sponsor in certain circumstances) who certifies in an Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) that their annual income is at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines (100% for military sponsors). The exact minimum income required depends on where the sponsor lives, the size of their household, and other factors.
How should I prepare for my marriage-based green card interview?
The final step in the marriage-based green card process is the interview, where the interviewing officer’s primary goal is to assess the authenticity of the marriage. Marriage-based green card interview questions can focus on the history of the couple’s relationship and their daily activities and plans as a married couple.
How do we prove our marriage is real or “bona fide”?
A “bona fide” marriage means 2 people who intend to build a future together and did not marry only for immigration purposes. Evidence of an authentic marriage can include joint financial documents, evidence of living together (cohabitation), tickets, and photos from trips taken together, among others.
When can I visit my spouse in the United States?
Although a spouse seeking a green card from abroad can technically visit their spouse in the United States on a tourist visa, doing so is generally discouraged. Not only do immigration officers often deny entry to the United States upon learning of the tourist’s pending green card application, but “misrepresenting” one’s intentions for visiting could also jeopardize the application.
As promised, here’s some bonus information that you may not know about:
What is an Affidavit of Support (I-864)?
Most green card applicants must have a U.S. sponsor who accepts financial responsibility upon arriving in the United States. An “Affidavit of Support” (Form I-864) is essentially a contract between the financial sponsor and the U.S. government, where the financial sponsor demonstrates that they meet the government’s income requirements.
The sponsor, or joint sponsor, must be the following criteria: a U.S. citizen or green card holder; 18 years or older; reside in the U.S. or a U.S. territory; earn at least 125% of the poverty guideline (exceptions available with ownership of assets); and be willing to accept liability (or joint liability with a joint sponsor) for financially supporting the green card applicant.
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