Your Roadmap to a US Green Card: Marriage Edition

Obtaining a U.S. marriage-based green card involves several steps. Keep in mind that immigration policies may change, so it’s important to check for the most up-to-date information. Here are general strategies to obtain a U.S. marriage-based green card:

  • Eligibility Check:
    • Ensure that you and your spouse meet the eligibility criteria. Both parties must be legally married and the marriage must be recognized as valid by U.S. law.
  • Petition Filing:
    • The U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
  • Approval of Petition:
    • Once the I-130 petition is approved, it establishes the qualifying relationship between the U.S. citizen and the foreign spouse.
  • Visa Availability:
    • Check the visa bulletin to determine when a visa number becomes available. This depends on the visa category and the country of origin.
  • Filing the Green Card Application:
    • After the visa number becomes available, the foreign spouse can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.
  • Biometrics and Interview:
    • Attend a biometrics appointment and an interview with USCIS. The interview is crucial and both spouses may be interviewed to determine the legitimacy of the marriage.
  • Conditional Green Card:
    • If the marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, a conditional green card is issued. A joint petition (Form I-751) to remove conditions must be filed within the 90 days before the card expires.
  • Permanent Green Card:
    • If the marriage is more than two years old at the time of approval, a permanent green card is issued.
  • Naturalization (Optional):
    • After holding a green card for a certain period, the foreign spouse may choose to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization.
  • Legal Assistance:
    • Consider seeking legal advice to navigate the process, especially if there are complex issues or concerns.

What is the difference between IR-1 and CR-1 visas?

The IR-1 and CR-1 visas are both immigrant visas for spouses of U.S. citizens, but they differ in terms of the timing of issuance of the permanent resident status. Here are the key differences:

  • IR-1 Visa (Immediate Relative – Spouse):
    • The IR-1 visa is issued to spouses of U.S. citizens whose marriages have been ongoing for more than two years.
    • This visa leads to the issuance of a permanent (10-year) green card upon entry into the United States.
    • The immigrant spouse becomes a permanent resident immediately upon arrival in the U.S., and the green card is not conditional.
  • CR-1 Visa (Conditional Resident – Spouse):
    • The CR-1 visa is issued to spouses of U.S. citizens whose marriages are less than two years old.
    • This visa also leads to the issuance of a green card, but it is initially conditional and valid for two years.
    • Within the 90-day period before the conditional green card expires, the couple must jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove the conditions and obtain a permanent green card.

In summary, the main distinction between the IR-1 and CR-1 visas is based on the duration of the marriage. If the marriage is more than two years old at the time of the immigrant visa application, the spouse may receive an IR-1 visa with a permanent green card upon entry. If the marriage is less than two years old, the spouse may receive a CR-1 visa with a conditional green card, and the conditions must be later removed through a joint petition.

How to prove that the marriage is real?

Proving the authenticity of a marriage is crucial when applying for a U.S. marriage-based green card. U.S. immigration authorities carefully scrutinize the validity of the marriage to prevent fraudulent attempts to gain immigration benefits. Here are some ways to provide evidence that your marriage is genuine:

  • Documentation of Relationship:
    • Marriage Certificate: Provide a copy of the official marriage certificate.
    • Photos: Include photographs of the couple together at various stages of the relationship, with family and friends, and during significant events.
  • Financial Documents:
    • Joint Bank Accounts: If applicable, provide evidence of joint bank accounts and transactions.
    • Joint Tax Returns: Submit joint tax returns as proof of financial co-mingling.
  • Shared Assets and Liabilities:
    • Property Ownership: Provide documentation if you own property together.
    • Joint Leases or Mortgages: Submit copies of leases or mortgages that both spouses are named on.
  • Communication Records:
    • Emails and Letters: Include emails and letters exchanged between the couple.
    • Phone Records: Provide call logs or phone records showing communication between spouses.
  • Affidavits from Family and Friends:
    • Obtain affidavits from family members, friends, or colleagues who can attest to the authenticity of the relationship. These should include details about how the couple met and their observations of the relationship.
  • Social Media:
    • Provide evidence of social media interactions, such as screenshots of shared posts, comments, or messages.
  • Travel Records:
    • Include records of joint travel, such as boarding passes, itineraries, or hotel reservations.
  • Birth Certificates of Children:
    • If applicable, provide birth certificates of any children born to the couple.
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864):
    • Submit the Affidavit of Support, which is a legal commitment from the sponsoring spouse to financially support the immigrant spouse.
  • Documentation of Time Spent Together:
    • Include any documentation that shows the couple spending time together, such as event tickets, vacation itineraries, or joint memberships.

It’s important to provide a diverse range of evidence that spans the entire duration of the relationship. USCIS may request additional documentation during the application process, so be prepared to furnish more information if needed. Additionally, honesty and consistency in responses during interviews are crucial to establishing the credibility of the marriage.

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