ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS THROUGH MARRIAGE
Marriage-based adjustment of status is a process that allows the foreign spouse of a U.S. citizen to obtain permanent residency (a green card) without having to leave the United States. Below we will explore the adjustment of status process, including:
- Eligibility criteria for marriage-based adjustment of status
- Required forms and supporting documents
- The step-by-step application process
- Preparing for the green card interview
- Possible challenges and tips for a successful application
Eligibility Criteria for Marriage-Based Adjustment of Status
To be eligible for marriage-based adjustment of status, the following criteria must be met:
- Valid marriage: The applicant must be legally married to a U.S. citizen. The marriage must be bona fide, meaning it was entered into in good faith and not solely for immigration purposes.
- U.S. citizen spouse: The applicant’s spouse must be a U.S. citizen.
- Lawful entry: The applicant must have entered the United States legally, typically with a valid visa or through the Visa Waiver Program. In most cases, individuals who entered the country without inspection (illegally) are not eligible for adjustment of status.
- No immigration violations: The applicant must not have committed any immigration violations, such as overstaying a visa, working without authorization, or having a previous removal order.
- No inadmissibility grounds: The applicant must not be inadmissible to the United States due to criminal history, health reasons, or other factors that would make them ineligible for a green card.
Required Forms and Supporting Documents
To apply for marriage-based adjustment of status, the following forms and supporting documents must be submitted to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS):
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: This form is the primary application for adjustment of status. The applicant must provide information about their immigration history, personal background, and eligibility for a green card.
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: The U.S. citizen spouse must file this form to establish the family relationship and demonstrate their willingness to sponsor their foreign spouse.
- Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary: This form, completed by the foreign spouse, provides additional biographical information to support the Form I-130.
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support: The U.S. citizen spouse must complete this form to prove that they have the financial means to support their foreign spouse and prevent them from becoming a public charge.
- Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record: The applicant must undergo a medical examination by a USCIS-designated civil surgeon and submit the completed form as part of their application.
- Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (optional): If the applicant wishes to travel outside the United States during the adjustment of status process, they should file this form to obtain an advance parole document.
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (optional): If the applicant wants to work in the United States while their adjustment of status application is pending, they should file this form to obtain an employment authorization document.
In addition to the required forms, the applicant must submit supporting documents such as:
- Proof of the U.S. citizen spouse’s citizenship (e.g., birth certificate, passport, or naturalization certificate)
- Marriage certificate
- Proof of the termination of any previous marriages, if applicable (e.g., divorce decree or death certificate)
- Passport-style photographs of both spouses
Step-by-Step Adjustment of Status Process for a Marriage-Based Green Card
The marriage-based adjustment of status application process generally involves the following steps:
- Gather required forms and supporting documents: Collect all necessary forms and documents mentioned in the previous section. Ensure that you complete each form accurately and gather all required supporting documentation.
- File the I-130 and I-130A: The U.S. citizen spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and the foreign spouse must complete Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary. These forms can be filed together with the I-485 or separately.
- Submit the I-485 application package: File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with all required supporting documents and applicable fees. If you choose to file Forms I-131 and I-765 for travel and work authorization, include them in the same package.
- Attend the biometrics appointment: After filing the I-485, the applicant will receive a notice for a biometrics appointment. Attend this appointment to have fingerprints, photographs, and signatures taken for background checks and document processing.
- Receive work and travel authorization: If you applied for work and travel authorization using Forms I-131 and I-765, you should receive your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole (AP) within 90 to 180 days from the date of filing.
- Prepare for the green card interview: USCIS will schedule an interview for the applicant and their U.S. citizen spouse. Use this time to gather additional supporting documents and prepare for potential interview questions.
- Attend the green card interview: Both spouses must attend the interview at the designated USCIS office. During the interview, a USCIS officer will assess the validity of your marriage and your eligibility for adjustment of status.
- Receive the decision: After the interview, USCIS will make a decision on your adjustment of status application. If approved, the applicant will receive their green card, granting them permanent residency in the United States.
Preparing for the Green Card Interview
The green card interview is a crucial part of the marriage-based adjustment of status process. To prepare, consider the following tips:
- Organize your documents: Bring all original documents and copies to the interview, including the marriage certificate, proof of the U.S. citizen spouse’s citizenship, and any other documents you submitted with your application.
- Review your application: Familiarize yourself with the information you provided on your I-485, I-130, and I-130A forms, as the USCIS officer may ask questions about the details.
- Practice answering common interview questions: Research typical marriage-based green card interview questions and practice your responses. Be prepared to discuss your relationship, marriage, and plans for the future.
- Dress appropriately: Dress professionally for the interview, as this shows respect for the process and can leave a positive impression on the USCIS officer.
- Remain calm and honest: Answer all questions truthfully and calmly. If you do not know the answer to a question, it is better to admit that you do not know rather than providing false information.
Possible Challenges and Tips for a Successful Application
Navigating the marriage-based adjustment of status process can be complex and challenging. Here are some potential challenges and tips to help ensure a successful application:
- Proving the bona fide nature of the marriage: USCIS will closely scrutinize your marriage to ensure it is genuine. Provide strong evidence of your relationship, such as joint financial documents, lease agreements, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family who can vouch for the authenticity of your relationship. See section below for more details.
- Avoiding immigration violations: Ensure that you maintain a valid immigration status while your adjustment of status application is pending. Overstaying a visa or working without authorization can negatively impact your application.
- Staying up-to-date on immigration laws and policies: Immigration laws and policies can change over time. Keep yourself informed about any changes that may affect your application and consult with an immigration attorney if you have questions or concerns.
- Addressing potential inadmissibility grounds: If you have a criminal record, health issues, or other factors that could make you inadmissible, work with an immigration attorney to address these issues and prepare a strong waiver application, if applicable.
- Timely and accurate filing of forms and supporting documents: Double-check all forms for accuracy and completeness before submitting your application package. Ensure that you include all required supporting documents and submit your application within any specified deadlines.
- Maintaining patience during the process: The marriage-based adjustment of status process can be lengthy and may take several months or longer. Be prepared for potential delays and remain patient as you await the outcome of your application.
- Here are more tips to help you have a successful marriage visa case.
- Here are potential “red flags” to be aware of for a marriage visa case.
Proving the Bona Fide Nature of the Marriage
Establishing the bona fide nature of your marriage is a crucial aspect of the marriage-based adjustment of status process. USCIS will closely examine your relationship to ensure it was entered into in good faith and not solely for immigration purposes.
- Joint Financial Documents
Demonstrating financial co-mingling is a strong indicator of a bona fide marriage. Examples of joint financial documents include:
1.1. Joint bank account statements 1.2. Joint credit card statements 1.3. Joint loans (e.g., mortgage, auto loan) 1.4. Joint tax returns 1.5. Shared insurance policies (e.g., health, auto, home) 1.6. Joint investment or retirement accounts
- Shared Residence
Living together as a married couple is another important factor. To prove cohabitation, provide the following:
2.1. Joint lease agreements or mortgage statements 2.2. Utility bills in both spouses’ names 2.3. Official correspondence addressed to both spouses at the same address 2.4. Affidavits from neighbors, landlords, or roommates confirming your shared residence
- Travel and Vacation Records
Traveling together as a couple can help demonstrate the genuine nature of your relationship. Provide evidence such as:
3.1. Itineraries or tickets for flights, cruises, or other trips taken together 3.2. Hotel or Airbnb booking confirmations 3.3. Travel photos featuring both spouses 3.4. Passport stamps or visas showing joint travel
- Social and Family Integration
Integration into each other’s social and family circles is indicative of a bona fide marriage. Examples of evidence include:
4.1. Photos of your wedding, holidays, and other family events 4.2. Invitations to social events addressed to both spouses 4.3. Affidavits from friends and family members attesting to the validity of your relationship 4.4. Social media posts or messages featuring both spouses
- Children Born to or Adopted by the Couple
Having children together is a strong indication of a genuine marriage. Provide the following documents:
5.1. Birth certificates of children born to the couple 5.2. Adoption papers, if applicable 5.3. Photos of the family, including maternity photos, baby showers, birthdays, and other milestones
- Communication Records
Regular communication between spouses can help establish the bona fide nature of the marriage. Examples include:
6.1. Phone records showing calls and texts between spouses 6.2. Email or instant messaging exchanges 6.3. Letters, cards, or packages sent to each other 6.4. Screenshots of video calls or chats
- Gifts and Personal Items
Exchanging gifts and personal items can serve as evidence of a genuine relationship. Provide documentation such as:
7.1. Receipts or invoices for gifts purchased for each other 7.2. Photos of gifts or personal items exchanged 7.3. Jewelry, such as wedding or engagement rings, with accompanying receipts or appraisals
- Joint Planning and Decision-Making
Demonstrate that you make significant decisions together as a couple. Examples include:
8.1. Records of jointly planned events or projects, such as home renovations or vacation planning 8.2. Documentation of shared decisions on major life events, such as relocating, changing jobs, or family planning 8.3. Evidence of jointly attended classes, workshops, or counseling sessions (e.g., marriage counseling, parenting classes)
- Shared Responsibilities
Showing that you share responsibilities as a married couple can help prove the bona fide nature of your marriage. Provide examples such as:
9.1. Records of shared household chores or duties 9.2. Documentation of joint involvement in raising children, including school or extracurricular activities 9.3. Evidence of jointly caring for pets or other family members 9.4. Documentation of mutual support during times of illness or hardship
- Cultural and Religious Observances
Participating in each other’s cultural or religious practices can demonstrate a genuine commitment to the relationship. Examples include:
10.1. Photos or videos of religious or cultural ceremonies attended together 10.2. Records of joint membership in religious or cultural organizations 10.3. Evidence of attending religious or cultural events as a couple 10.4. Testimonials from religious or community leaders attesting to your involvement as a couple
By being well-prepared, organized, and proactive throughout the marriage-based adjustment of status process, you can improve your chances of a successful outcome and secure permanent residency in the United States. Remember, consulting with an immigration attorney can provide personalized assistance tailored to your unique needs and help you navigate this complex process.