Whether your spouse is in the US or still located abroad, Christine Troy is dedicated to re-uniting families and keeping them together. I have handled hundreds of marriage based green card cases around the globe, using both the adjustment of status and consular processing methods. My cases have included complex issues such as criminal arrests and/or convictions, unlawful presence in the United States, affidavit of support requirements, language issues and three or ten year bars. For all cases, I work very hard with my clients to ensure they can fully document the realities and legitimacies of their relationship and to minimize delay and stress while increasing the chance of approval up front.
Is there more than one way to apply for the green card?
Yes. There are actually two available options that allow a US citizen spouse to obtain a green card via that relationship: adjustment of status in the United States orimmigrant processing through a U.S. consulate abroad.
My Spouse is in the United States. How do we apply for a Green Card?
When the US citizen spouse is already in the United States, he or she is normally but not always eligible to remain here and file for a green card in country. This process is called Adjustment of Status. I highly recommend that you file this case using a competent immigration attorney. Procedures are as follows:
- After the marriage is finalized, the immigrant petition (I-130) and green card application is filed with DHS. The applicant can also ask for work authorization and permission to travel internationally at this time. These documents take at least 90 days to obtain.
- DHS cashes your filing fee checks and starts to process the application. Within several weeks, the applicant attends fingerprint appointment. DHS will then run the person's name and prints through numerous federal and international databases.
- DHS schedules an interview at the applicant's local DHS office. A "normal" interview can last anywhere from ten minutes to an hour. The officer will evaluate the relationship's validity and ensure that the applicant is not otherwise barred from obtaining a green card. The officer can approve the green card on the spot, ask for additional evidence or hold for additional research or interview. Sometimes the DHS officer will schedule a second interview for the couple (a fraud interview). Where fraud claims are raised, DHS may also make a site visit to a couple's home or place of employment.
- If the couple has been married under two years by the time of their DHS interview, the foreign spouse receives a green card that expires after two years. Directly before the two-year anniversary of that interview, both spouses must apply to have the conditions removed and the person will receive a permanent status at that time. It is very important that this application is timely filed, or the person's status terminates on the green card expiration date.
- If the couple separates after receiving the two year green card, he or she can still apply for a permanent green card, as long as the marriage was entered into in good faith. In this situation, there are very specific filing deadlines as the divorce must be finalized in order for DHS to approve the permanent green card. It is important to speak with your attorney immediately if a divorce is imminent.
My Spouse is in a foreign country. How do we apply for a Green Card?
When the foreign spouse is outside of the United States, obtaining a green card is called Consular Processing. It is a three step process that involves two federal agencies and a consular interview. For this reason, it is a fairly complex process with changing rules, regulations and preferences. Working with a competent immigration attorney can ensure that processing is handled as expeditiously and clearly as possible.
- The sponsoring spouse files the immigrant petition (I-130) with DHS and requests consular processing for the foreign spouse. This process currently takes about 5-6 months but processing times can alter at any time.
- DHS forwards the petition to the National Visa Center for security checks and other processing. The couple files new legal forms, pays new fees and submits numerous original documents. Essentially, the NVC acts as the secretary for all US consulates around the world. This agency is fairly disorganized and processing times are inconsistent. I review and organize documents carefully in an attempt to streamline processing through the NVC.
- The NVC forwards the petition to the U.S. Consulate in the spouse's home country. Processing times vary by consulate. The interview normally happens within 1-4 months after file transfer but can be shorter or longer, depending upon the US consulate.
- The US consulate gives last minute instructions (medical exam, photos, etc.) The spouse goes to interview and normally within two weeks, is given an immigrant visa. Upon entry to the United States, he or she is processed for a green card at the port of entry.
I have a same-sex partner. Are there different procedures for obtaining a green card?
No! The process for obtaining a marriage based green card is the same for heterosexual and same-sex couples. As long as the marriage is recognized as legal in the US state or foreign country where it takes place, the green card application may proceed.
Why would we hire an attorney to handle our case?
In my professional opinion, every couple should hire a competent immigration attorney to handle the green card process. (And I do not say this for every visa category.) Your immigration attorney will analyze the applicant's eligibility for the benefit, fully vet the case for any issues or potential problems, and determine if and where the green card application may be filed.
For example, people often contact my office asking if the time and place of marriage (inside or outside the U.S.) makes a difference to their spouse's immigration status or ability to enter or remain in the United States while the green card application is pending. My answer is an emphatic YES. There are many important factors, including intention upon entry, processing times, unlawful presence and entering on the wrong visa that determine which process is the best for your case. Failure to analyze your case fully up front can result in denial and removal of the foreign spouse from the United States. For this reason, I highly recommend that the couple has a full consultation with a competent immigration attorney before getting married or embarking on this application process.
I have successfully obtained green cards for complex marriage cases, with out of status issues, prior separations and prior marriages to U.S. Citizens. Additionally, I work carefully with clients to ensure that the case is processed as quickly as possible, all questions are answered and all issues addressed in a clear, concise manner. Via these efforts, many of my clients, particularly in consular processing cases, are able to save months of valuable time and to be reunited with their spouse much sooner than anticipated.