Understanding the U.S. immigration system can be challenging, especially for immigrants married to U.S. citizens. To legally reside in the United States, a marriage visa is essential. This comprehensive guide covers the marriage visa process for immigrants abroad and those already in the U.S., as well as the laws governing this process, common issues that may arise, and the importance of professional legal assistance. Discover how to apply for a marriage visa and the steps to obtain a marriage visa in this detailed guide.
Alien Relative Petition (Form I-130)
The first step in the marriage visa process for an immigrant abroad is for the U.S. citizen spouse to file an alien relative petition (Form I-130) with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition establishes the relationship between the U.S. citizen and the immigrant spouse. Once the I-130 is approved, the case moves to the Department of State’s National Visa Center (NVC).
National Visa Center’s Role in the Marriage Visa Process
The NVC handles the paperwork and processing for the marriage visa application. When the NVC receives the approved I-130, it assigns a case number and sends an invoice for the immigrant visa application fees. The immigrant spouse must submit the required documents, including an affidavit of support from the U.S. citizen spouse, police clearance certificates, and copies of other relevant documents such as birth certificates, marriage certificate, and passport. In addition, the immigrant spouse must complete the online DS-260 visa application form.
Overcoming Potential Issues: Criminal History and Overstays
If the immigrant spouse has a criminal record or has previously overstayed in the U.S., these issues may affect the marriage visa process. Each case is unique, so it is crucial to consult with an immigration attorney to evaluate your specific situation and guide you through the process.
Consular Interviews and Document Preparation for a Marriage Visa
Preparing for the consular interview is a critical step in the marriage visa process. Applicants should gather evidence to demonstrate the bona fide nature of their marriage, such as joint financial statements, photographs, and correspondence. It is also essential to review the specific requirements of the U.S. consulate where the interview will take place, as different consulates may have varying document requirements and procedures.
Adjustment of Status for Immigrant Spouses
Immigrant spouses who are already in the U.S. may be eligible for adjustment of status, which allows them to obtain a Green Card without leaving the country. This process depends on several factors, such as the manner in which the immigrant entered the U.S. To determine eligibility for adjustment of status, consult an immigration attorney or review the USCIS guidelines.
Employment Authorization and Advance Parole for Immigrant Spouses
While the adjustment of status application is pending, the immigrant spouse may apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and Advance Parole, which allows them to work legally in the U.S. and travel internationally without jeopardizing their adjustment of status application.
National Visa Center Review and Consular Processing
Once the NVC has received all necessary documents for the marriage visa application, it reviews the case to ensure completeness. If everything is in order, the NVC forwards the case to the appropriate U.S. consulate in the immigrant spouse’s home country. The immigrant spouse must undergo a medical examination and attend a consular interview, where they will present evidence to prove the authenticity of the marriage. If approved, the immigrant spouse will receive a visa packet and their passport with the marriage visa.
Provisional Residence vs. Permanent Green Card for Immigrant Spouses
If the couple has been married for less than two years, the immigrant spouse will be granted conditional permanent residence, which is valid for two years. Within the 90 days 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. This process involves providing further evidence of the ongoing, bona fide nature of the marriage.
If the couple has been married for more than two years, the immigrant spouse will receive a permanent Green Card, which is valid for ten years and renewable. The permanent Green Card holder may eventually apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization, subject to meeting eligibility requirements.
The marriage visa process can be complex and time-consuming, with various requirements and potential pitfalls. An experienced immigration attorney can provide valuable guidance and support throughout the process, ensuring that all necessary documentation is submitted and deadlines are met. They can also assist in addressing any complications that may arise, such as criminal history, prior overstays, or other issues that could impact the outcome of the marriage visa application.
Allow the skilled team at Oltarsh & Associates, P.C. to lead you through the immigration process, providing you with the expertise and commitment you deserve. Call us today at 212-944-9420 to arrange a complimentary initial consultation and start your path toward obtaining the necessary legal assistance to achieve your immigration objectives. We eagerly anticipate assisting you in creating a promising future in the United States.