Giselle M. Rodriguez is a Boston immigration lawyer in Jamaica Plain who helps clients with the full range of immigration challenges, including marriage visas (K-1 visas) for immigrants married to existing US citizens. Giselle is bilingual (English & Spanish). Contact Giselle for a free consultation today, or read on to learn more.
The goal: establish permanent residence in the US with the one you love
Immigration and marriage often complicate each other. Though spouses usually can get a green card after marrying a US citizen, the process involves some challenging legal steps.
If you are getting married, or recently got married, and hope to become a permanent resident of the United States, you should consider working with an immigration attorney to help you understand your legal options.
What is a “fiancé(e) visa”?
For many future green card holders, the process begins with a fiancé(e) or K-1 visa, which gives the future spouse of the United States citizen permission to travel to the US for the marriage.
The current United States citizen will first have to file USCIS’s form I-129F which allows the foreign fiancé(e) to obtain the visa at the United States consulate in their home country. A K-1 visa permits future spouses of United States citizens to come to the United States and stay for up to 90 days for the purpose of marriage.
Once you are married, you can then remain in the United States and become a permanent resident. However, if you do not get married during those 90 days, you will likely be required to leave the United States. It is also important to note that applicants must be outside of the United States and wait to receive their K-1 visa before traveling into the US.
If you are already in the United States
If you plan to marry a United States citizen and are already in the country legally, an immigration attorney can inform you of about your options and advise you on whether you can stay in the United States or should return to your home country and obtain a K-1 visa there.
If you have overstayed your visa and are in the United States hoping to marry your fiancé(e), your path to becoming a permanent resident will be more complicated. In that case you should speak to an immigration attorney in order to understand all of your legal rights, and you should do so before making any travel plans at all. If you leave the United States, depending on how long you have overstayed your visa, you could be barred from re-entry for 3 or even 10 years, according to the Immigration and Nationality Act Section 212. However, the good news is that if you have overstayed your visa but originally entered the United States lawfully, you could potentially adjust your status and become a permanent citizen. If you entered the United States illegally, your road to permanent residence could be much more complicated.
How does a marriage visa work?
People who are married to a United States citizen and live abroad will need a marriage visa to travel to the United States to become a permanent resident. For this, the United States citizen and spouse must meet the following criteria:
- The United States-based spouse is a United States citizen or a permanent resident
- You are already married to each other
- The United States citizen or permanent resident can support his or her foreign spouse financially
- The foreign spouse must be eligible for the visa, which includes having obeyed United States immigration laws
A dedicated immigration attorney can help couples through the process of applying for and receiving a marriage visa.
Obtaining a green card through marriage
Immigration and marriage do not automatically go hand-in-hand. A newly married spouse will not simply receive a green card. In order to get a green card and permanent residency, the married couple will have to go through several steps and bureaucratic hurdles to prove that their marriage is authentic. This involves applying to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
Filing Form 1-130 to prove validity of the marriage
The United States citizen will, as the first step in the process, file form 1-130, also called “petition for alien relative,” together with providing any supporting documents, such as the marriage certificate. Couples can also provide photographs of vacations, joint bank statements, and other supporting evidence to prove the validity and authenticity of their marriage.
Establishing eligibility for the marriage green card
If the foreign spouse lives in the United States, the next step will be to file form I-485, the application to register permanent residence or adjust status. This form is used to establish:
- Proof of identity and nationality of the foreign spouse
- Proof of the foreign spouse’s lawful entry to the U.S.
- Evidence that the spouse has undergone a medical examination by a USCIS-approved doctor
- Proof that the United States citizen can financially support his or her spouse
The green card interview
The last step in the process is an interview with a USCIS officer who will determine that the marriage is not fraudulent. The officer will likely ask questions about the couple’s relationship, aspects of their daily life, and any future plans that the couple might have. The foreign spouse can expect to receive his or her green card after a successful interview.
Your best step for obtaining the green card can be working with an immigration attorney who will guide you through the process and make sure all your paperwork is completed accurately and in a timely manner. The attorney can also prepare you for the green card interview.
Becoming a United States citizen after marriage
Obtaining a green card provides immigrants with some privileges, but it is not the same as having full United States citizenship. However, immigrants who are permanent residents typically have the option of applying for naturalization after three years of marriage to a United States citizen.
Call the Law Offices of Giselle M. Rodriguez Law in Jamaica Plain for help on marriage-based immigration
Like many relationships, the relationship between marriage and immigration to the United States is complicated. It’s much more complicated than most immigrants or their spouses realize. Applying for permanent residence requires a significant amount of paperwork, and the fees for marriage visas can be costly. Evan mall mistakes on the relevant documents, missing a filing deadline, or missing an appointment may cause your case to be dismissed or severely delayed.
In cases where a spouse overstayed their visa or is facing a ban on re-entering the United States, having an attorney protect a couple’s rights can make all the difference. No matter how complicated your immigration case may be, never lose hope. We understand the complicated process of obtaining permanent residency and can work tirelessly in your best interests. Contact the Law Offices of Giselle M. Rodriguez in Jamaica Plain to discuss your options.