Congratulations on your marriage! Now that you’ve married a U.S. citizen, you’re probably wondering what comes next. U.S. citizens can apply for a foreign-born spouse to move to, or remain in, the U.S. to live permanently. Obtaining a marriage green card is a three-step process.
- Apply for a “marriage-based” immigrant visa by establishing your marital relationship
- Apply for your green card
- Attend the green card interview
To establish your marital relationship, you will need to provide a marriage certificate. But aside from the basics, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services wants to ensure that your marriage isn’t one of convenience or a “green card marriage.” To establish the validity of your marriage, you’ll need to provide documentation showing the intermingling of your lives. Collect things such as:
- Documents such as join leases or property ownership
- Joint bank or investment accounts
- Photos together with you and your spouse together with other family/friends in different location on different dates
- Joint mortgage statements
- Joint health or auto policies
- Life insurance policies listing one another as your primary beneficiaries
- Original copies of letters or cards from family, co-workers, friends, and employers showing both of you at the same address
- Letters of support from family and friends attesting to the validity of the marriage and their support for the green card for the immigrant spouse
The documents you’ll need to apply for a marriage green card include the following:
- Birth certificates for each spouse
- Proof of US citizen spouse’s US citizenship in form of US birth certificate, US passport, or US Certification of Naturalization
- Marriage certificate for this marriage
- Divorce certificates for each spouse for any prior marriage
- Police and/or court documents if either spouse has a criminal history. The US citizen will probably not have to submit the court records, but s/he should discuss the criminal history with the attorney before filing. The immigrant spouse MUST submit any criminal records, and must discuss the criminal history with an attorney.
- Previous immigration violation records if applicable
- Current or expired U.S. visas if applicable
- Immigrant spouse’s I-94
- US citizen’s financial documents showing ability to support immigrant spouse. In some cases, the immigrant’s assets and income can be used to show ability to support him/herself.
- Since USCIS instituted Form I-944 Declaration of Self-Sufficiency, the documents required to prove that the immigrant will not become a “public charge” have drastically increased. The documents now include the US citizen’s taxes and proof of income, the US citizen’s assets that will be available to the immigrant, proof of the immigrant’s debts, proof of the immigrants use of public benefits. I am still working on creating a list of documents that families will need to successfully complete Form I-944. Stay tuned for that list.
The final step is the green card interview. A USCIS officer will ask questions to determine the authenticity of your marriage. You must be prepared to discuss all of the documentation you’ve already submitted, and you should bring additional documentation that you have accumulated in the months between filing and the USCIS interview.
Applying for a marriage green card can be a stressful, confusing, and lengthy process. You don’t want to make mistakes that may jeopardize your application, so it’s a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration law attorney before you file your application with the USCIS. I’ve been helping couples around the world with this process for years. Even if you have complicated issues like a criminal history or prior immigration violations, I’d love to help you.