A Green Card allows a non-citizen to live and work in the United States indefinitely. One of the most common ways to get a Green Card is to apply through an “immediate relative”.
Under U.S. immigration laws, an immediate relative is:
- The spouse of a U.S. citizen;
- The parent of an adult U.S. citizen;
- The minor child of a U.S. citizen.
As a general rule, a Green Card applicant must prove to have always abided immigration regulations. Overstaying a Visa or working without authorization can prevent an immigrant from getting a Green Card.
However, Visa overstay and unauthorized employment are forgiven for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens that apply for a Green Card without leaving the United States. The process is called “adjustment of status”.
How do you apply for adjustment of status for a spouse?
An application for adjustment of status is made by concurrently filing Form I-130 and Form I-485 with USCIS.
The I-130 petition must be filed with:
- 1 passport picture of each spouse;
- 1 check for the filing fee (currently $535) made to U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
- Marriage certificate;
- Birth certificate of the U.S. citizen spouse;
- Divorce decree (if any) for each spouse.
USCIS also expects documents to prove that the marriage was entered into in good faith. I always recommend to my clients to bring this category of items with them at the interview.
Such evidence includes:
- Joint tax returns;
- Joint bank accounts;
- Joint lease;
- Evidence of trips taken together;
- A dozen pictures taken together in different times and places;
- Two or three affidavits of reputable individuals that have known you as a couple.
The I-485 application must be filed with:
- 2 passport pictures of the non-citizen spouse;
- 1 check for the filing fee (currently $1,225) made to U.S. Department of Homeland Security;
- Birth certificate translated into English;
- Form I-94;
- Passport page of the non-citizen spouse;
- Sealed envelope from a designated USCIS Civil Surgeon.
Moreover, the I-485 must be filed with an extra form, the I-864 Affidavit of Support.
Form I-864 must be filed with:
- Last federal tax return;
- Last 3 paychecks;
- W-2 Form.
When filing Form I-485, it is also possible to request (for no extra fee) both a temporary work authorization (Form I-765) and travel document (Form I-131).
Timeline of the adjustment of status process
After the Forms are filed, USCIS will send a receipt notice for each form filed. After another couple of weeks, USCIS will send an appointment letter for biometrics to be taken.
After approximately 3 months, USCIS will approve the work and travel authorization.
The interview will be schedule after approximately 6 to 10 months, depending on the workload of the local USCIS office. The applicant is allowed to bring an immigration lawyer to attend the interview.
Please also read my other blog about the most common Green Card interview questions.