Change of Status: By Marriage to U.S. Citizen
For a non-resident, the hurdles to permanent status in the U.S. can seem overwhelming. Many factors determine how a non-resident must proceed through the bureaucratic minefield. Because so many variables need to be considered, many potential U.S. residents seek the counsel of an experienced immigration attorney. Having that experience behind you to guide your efforts can be a source of greater peace of mind. Some may think that marrying a U.S. citizen or green card holder allows one to breeze through the process without all the headaches of other paths. However, although marrying a permanent resident is one of the fastest paths to permanent residence, it isn’t without complexity. In this article we will illustrate some of the things you need to think about and act on along your journey to permanent residence. This text will only cover a marriage between a foreign non-resident and a U.S. Citizen. We will cover marriage to a green card holder in a different article.
Timing the Process is Crucial
The most basic rule that an immigration officer will follow is the 90 day rule. They will by default assume that if you apply for a green card before you have been in the U.S. for 90 days since your last entry, you are willfully misrepresenting your reason for entering the United States. There are several factors that can make this more challenging to calculate including the type of visa the applicant entered the country with. We recommend consulting a qualified immigration attorney to review your specific case.
Building a Strong Body of Evidence
U.S. immigration rules are made to ensure the integrity of the process of becoming a permanent resident. The process attempts to verify the eligibility of a potential permanent resident. Obviously, fraudulent immigration or immigration by persons deemed inadmissible because of criminal records or activity are paramount. And so, it is advisable that the candidate for status adjustment (going from non-resident to permanent resident) not draw negative attention to themselves by following the proper steps. Here are some tips to consider when applying for permanent residency by marriage.
Proving a Marriage is Bona Fide
In order to minimize the possibility of immigration fraud, immigration officials look for certain signals that the marriage between the non-resident and the citizen is bona fide. Simply having a marriage certificate is not enough to build confidence in your application. It is also suggested that you have strong supporting evidence that the marriage is legitimate like old love letters, shared bank accounts and other financial co-mingling. Birth certificates of children born in the U.S. are powerful indicators of a legitimate marriage. Of course, it is expected that a married couple live together.
Preparing the Forms for Adjustment of Status
All of this information gathering and planning is in anticipation of filling out two of the most important forms in the process. The spouse that is a U.S. citizen will fill out the I-130 and the non-resident spouse will fill out the I-485. There are other forms as well and we again strongly advise that you get assistance with these as they are quite long and it is easy to miss a detail and have the whole thing sent back to you.
The Home Stretch
Assuming that your application is approved you will be schedule for the final phase, the interview with an immigration official. In a future article, we will walk you through what to expect and have advice to help you gain your permanent residence.