Definition: A Green Card is the authorization issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to signify that the holder has been granted permanent residency status in the United States. This means that the "Green Card" holder has the rights and privileges accorded to a citizen of the United States.
There are different ways to get a Green Card. Green Card through family has different categories. You can also get a Green Card through a job, through refugee or asylum status and other means, as specified by the USCIS.
A foreign-born person, who is a fiancé(e) or wife/husband of a U.S. citizen can become a U. S. resident via the Green Card Through Family – Special Categories of Family. If you are a fiancé(e), you can apply for a K-1 visa (K Nonimmigrant) (K-2 if with children) or a K-3 visa for foreign spouse. The U.S. citizen fiancé(e), on the other hand, files a Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) for the intended spouse or Form I-130 for foreign spouse.
When the visa has been granted and the foreign fiancé(e) or spouse is already in the U.S., he or she has to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence and Adjust Status, so that the status could be adjusted as a permanent resident in the U.S.
Note: While getting a U.S. visa through this category has been simplified, it is still quite a long process before you can get a Green Card. Foremost is to pass the eligibility criteria.
Your eligibility to receive a Green Card as a K-nonimmigrant visa fiancé(e) or spouse depends on whether or not you meet these requirements:
- You have been petitioned by a U.S. citizen either as a fiancé(e) or spouse
- You were able to enter the United States on a K-Nonimmigrant visa
- You have met the requirements to marry your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days after arrival in the U.S. as a holder of a K-1 visa
- You are eligible to adjust your status as the spouse of a U.S. citizen
- There is an immigrant visa that is available immediately
- You are capable of being admitted to the United States
Green Card application process
Assuming that you have already arrived in the United States as the fiancé(e) (K-1 visa) or spouse (K-3 visa) of a U.S. citizen, the first thing you need to do is to file for an adjustment of status using Form I-485. This is done so that you may apply for a Green Card and legally stay in the country.
- If you are in the U.S. as a K-1 visa holder – Fiancé(e)
Your application for an adjustment of status should be done after your marriage. The law states that you have to marry your U.S. citizen fiancé(e) within 90 days after you have arrived in the U.S. using a K-1 visa. Failure to get married during the given time period means that you'll have to return to your country of origin. There is no other means to adjust your status.
- If you are already the spouse of a U.S. citizen and used a K-3 visa, you have to file for adjustment of status as soon as you arrive in the U.S. The condition here is that you can only seek the adjustment based on the U.S. citizen spouse who petitioned you through a K-3 status.
Note: While your adjustment status is pending, you can apply for an extension of your K-3 status every two years.
Supporting evidence to submit together with Form I-485
Together with Form I-485, Adjustment of Status Form, you have to submit all the following documents:
- Two photos (passport style)
- Fully-filled up Form G-325A for your biographic information
- Copy of a photo ID issued by your government
- Copy of your birth certificate
- Copy of passport page showing the nonimmigrant visa
- Copy of passport page with entry (admission) or parole stamp
- Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record that is issued by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP)
- Evidence of your marriage (within 90 days for K-1 visa holders) to a U.S. citizen
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record, if needed
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (check the new form)
- Copy of approved Form I-130 or Form I-797, Notice of Action, if Form I-130 is pending (for K-3 visa holder)
- Copies of any other approved application or waiver you have had in relation with your application for K status (Approved Form I-129F, Form I-601, Application for Waiver of Excludability, etc.)
- Proof of payment of all applicable fees
Conditions for medical examination
If you have undergone medical examination before your K nonimmigrant admission, you do not need to get another medical examination when you file your adjustment request, provided that:
- You filed Form I-485 within one year of your medical examination that's been done overseas
- You do not have a Class A medical condition (communicable diseases such as tuberculosis)
- You have a Class A medical condition but received a waiver of inadmissibility and that you have complied with the waiver's conditions and terms
Even if you were not required to get a new medical examination, it is a must that you show evidence that you have received all the required vaccinations. If your vaccination record (DS 3025) was not completed and made part of the original medical examination report from overseas, you have to complete your vaccination report via a designated civil surgeon. If this is the case, you have to submit Part 1 (Information About You), Part 2 (vaccination chart) and Part 5 (Civil Surgeon's Certification) that is in Form I-693. The information will be placed in an envelope and sealed by the civil surgeon and submitted unopened.
How to Get a Green Card as a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen
Spouses normally receive Green Cards (permanent resident cards) faster than any applicants under the family-based Green Card category, especially if the spouse has been petitioned by a U.S. citizen. The process is longer if the petitioner is also a Green Card holder. Here are some scenarios on how to go about filing for a Green Card application.
If the spouse is already in the United States, Form I-130 and Form I-485 could be filed at the same time. This is called concurrent filing and is allowed by the USCIS since visa numbers are readily available for spouses of U.S. citizens.
In case the spouse is still living outside the United States at the time that the National Visa Center (NVC) assigns the visa number, your petition and the visa number for the spouse will be sent by the NVC to the nearest consulate or embassy that has jurisdiction over the location of your spouse. The embassy can provide the necessary information on how he or she could complete the consular process.
If you are a permanent resident/Green Card holder yourself and your spouse is not included in your personal Green Card notice of approval, you have to file Form I-130. When you receive approval of your petition from the USCIS, you have to wait for a visa number to be available. This could take some time as the government limits the annual number of visas awarded to spouses of Green Card holders. On the average, the approval of Form I-130 could take six or more months.
How to Prepare for the Green Card Interview
After you have passed all the required processes, it will take three months after you have filed the application with the USCIS before you are scheduled for a Green Card interview. This is another hurdle that you have to prepare for properly. Failure to provide the proper information during the interview could cause a delay in your case's approval or worse, could mean denial of your application. This is the final phase before you get a Green Card so you have to prepare for it.
The Green Card interview gives the USCIS the opportunity to ensure that your relationship is real and that all the documentation that you sent checks out against what you are personally saying. This is also a way of checking your original documents against the copies that you sent.
Preparation phase guidelines
- Punctuality is a must. It is best to arrive at least 30-45 minutes before your scheduled appointment. You and your partner will be interviewed at the same time.
- This is a formal interview so dress conservatively and formally. Do not wear anything unnecessary. Dress like you are going for a job interview. Likewise, remember that you will be in a federal building and will go through a metal detector and security check.
- Listen and respond to all the questions that will be given by the USCIS official. The time is limited so you should keep your answers short and to the point.
- Do not guess about anything as this could cause a denial. It is all right to say that you do not remember rather than guessing the answer.
- Should the USCIS officer suspect that your marriage does not seem real during the interview, he has the option to separate you and conduct an interview individually. The questions asked by the official are not tricky but there are some questions that could indicate that the couple do not know each other very well.
- Bring the proper documents with you for your Green Card interview; preferably one set of original documents and one set of duplicate copies. During the interview, you are expected to have certain documents that could prove that your marriage is valid. This could include birth certificates, wedding photos, wedding invitations, statements of joint bank accounts, photos of the two of you together during special occasions or lease on properties showing both your names. Other proofs could be letters showing your constant communication, phone bills, plane tickets, family events which both of you attended, shared insurance policies and sworn statements from people you both know attesting to your marriage.
- Go through all the supporting documents that you will bring with you. Make sure that everything is under yours and your spouse's name. You will receive a Green Card interview notice that will also tell you the required documents you should bring, so make sure that you follow the list, which could be exhaustive.
Common questions during a Green Card interview
You do not have to memorize anything during your Green Card interview. Basically, this is a test to check the validity of your marriage and to show how well you understand and know each other, thus hesitations and guessing could trigger an anomaly. Questions range from a number of things that should be familiar to you both, such as:
- Your address
- People living at your address
- Your cellphone number
- The number of your spouse's cellphone
- Date of birth of your spouse
- How you met your spouse/date when you met your spouse/place where you met your spouse
- First call to him or her after your first meeting
- Date when you next saw each other
- What you did to him/her during the second meeting
- With whom and where your spouse lived when you first met
- Did your spouse ever go to see where you were staying?
- His/her place of work when you first met
- His/her type of work
- Spouse's salary
- Spouse's work schedule
- If both of you are working, are your salaries deposited in one bank account?
- Bank account that you use
- Did your spouse own a car when you first met? What color, model, etc.?
- Are you still driving/using the same car?
- If not, when did you change cars?
- How much do you still need to pay off your car? How much is the monthly payment for the car?
- How long did you two date before you got married?
- When did you decide to get married?
- Was there a marriage proposal?
- Who proposed and where and when did it happen?
- Did the two of you live together before you got married? If yes, how long, where and when?
- When did you move together?
- Date of your marriage
- Number of wedding guests
- Food and beverages served during your wedding reception
- Did you go on a honeymoon? Where?
- Was it a honeymoon package? Who bought it? How did you purchase it?
- How long did you travel to reach your honeymoon destination?
- Who pays the mortgage or rent? How do you pay it (by mail or personally)?
- Address of landlord
- Which company holds your property mortgage?
- Number of bedrooms in your home
- Location of the bedrooms in your home
- The size of the bed you and your spouse share
- What furniture items are inside your bedroom? Describe them.
- Color of your bedroom curtain
- Who has cooking duties?
During the interview, do not be overly talkative. As the time is limited, give only direct answers to the questions asked by the official. Remember that the immigration official has received training to understand body language and interpret the interactions of couples.
Here are the steps of what actually happens during a Green Card interview.
- When you arrive at the interview venue, the security guard will ask for your appointment letter and you go through the standard inspection routine. Cellphone with cameras are not allowed to be brought inside the building. You will be asked to go to the interview waiting area where you will again present your appointment letter. Go to your seat and wait for your name to be called.
- You will be ushered to the desk of the USCIS official who will check your IDs. You will also be asked to take oaths that you will tell the truth. If you have an immigration attorney with you, he or she will be permitted to join you and your spouse.
- The immigration officer will then check your identification documents (original copies), such as your birth certificates, marriage certificate and passports. From the information on the documents, the officer will be asking you questions before he or she inquires about your married life and ask you to present proof.
- The immigration officer will also ask to see the tax return of your U.S. citizen spouse and Form I-864, Affidavit of Support.
- If you pass, the officer will approve your case. The officer will stamp the immigrant spouse's passport with a validity of 30 days. This stamp already functions like a Green Card and the immigrant spouse can be allowed to travel outside of the United States or apply for work. The 30-day period stamped on the passport is the waiting period for the actual Green Card to be mailed to you. As mentioned before, if your marriage is less than two years old, you will receive a conditional status of two years. Three months before the conditional period expires, you and your spouse should apply to have the conditions removed. Failure to do so can mean the revocation of your Green Card.
The venue for the Green Card interview depends on the process you are using when you apply for a Green Card (you are already in the U.S. or still in your home country). If you are still living overseas, it will be a consular processing, which means that the interview will be conducted at a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country. Your U.S. citizen spouse may not attend the interview, although it would be better if your spouse is also present. If your U.S. citizen spouse cannot attend and/or the consular officials have doubts about the validity of your marriage, your spouse could be interviewed separately in the U.S.
If you are already in the United States, the interview will be conducted in a designated USCIS office. In this case, you and your spouse are required to attend the interview.
The questions will not feel tricky or difficult if your marriage is legitimate, so there is nothing to fear. Nevertheless, you have to prepare and make sure that both of you remember the details of how you met, the events that happened and your relationship before and during your married life. If you pass this hurdle, approval for an immigrant visa or permanent residence will be given during the interview.
However, if most of your answers are contradictory, or you cannot remember a lot of details about your relationship, it can trigger suspicion from the immigration official. In this case, you and your spouse will be interviewed separately. This is called a fraud interview.
During a fraud interview, the two spouses will be asked the same questions separately. After the interview, the immigration official will compare the two sets of answers. If your answers match up, you would not have any problem. If there are many discrepancies, then your case, in all probability, will be denied. If the foreign spouse is already in the United States, he or she will be under removal proceedings for possible deportation. There is still a chance to appeal your case with an immigration judge.
Despite being granted a Green Card after you've passed the Green Card interview, you may still receive a conditional instead of a permanent resident approval. This happens when your marriage to the U.S. citizen is less than two years old at the time that your Green Card was approved. The conditional status is valid for two years. Three months or 90 days before the end of the two-year conditional period, you and your spouse should jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence. This form should prove that your marriage continued during the conditional period and you are now asking the government to convert your residence from conditional to permanent. Together with the form, you have to submit new documents as proof that you still live together and share financial and other married life responsibilities, covering the most recent two years of your being married.
The USCIS will review your application and require both of you to attend another interview. Once the official determines that you marriage is valid, you will be reissued a Green Card, but now you will receive permanent status and the conditions will be removed.
Getting a Green Card is a long process. Knowing what is involved in the process will help you plan methodically. Always get help from experts and be ready to submit all your personal documents, translated into English and certified. Follow all the given guidelines and gather all the documents the USCIS requires. Before the Green Card interview, you and your spouse should seriously review/recall the details of your relationship to prepare for the meeting. During the interview, do remain calm and collected and answer the questions without hesitation. Relax, keep calm and do not talk back.
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