When a United States Citizen marries a foreign visitor / student / employee or any other individual who entered the United States with inspection, s/he can petition the foreign spouse without the spouse having to leave the United States. In other words, the foreign spouse need not leave the United States and return to their country of origin in order to have their green card processed.
The couple must provide sufficient documentary evidence to substantiate the bona fides / legitimacy of their marriage. Basically, they have the onus of proving to immigration authorities that they did not enter the marriage merely to secure a green card for the foreign spouse. The process involves numerous forms and documentary evidence. Some forms of evidence include, but are not limited to, the following:
Petitioning a spouse also requires that the United States Spouse meet certain income guidelines established by United States Citizenship and Immigration Service [USCIS.] In the event that the spouse does not meet income guidelines, they would enlist a Joint Sponsor to satisfy the income requirements for sponsoring a foreign spouse. The Joint Sponsor, along with the intial sponsor, should submit the following:
The foreign spouse is also required to undergo a thorough medical examination. The immigration medicals are conducted by civil surgeons who have been certified by USCIS. A list of local certified civil surgeons may be obtained online by simply entering your zip code at the USCIS website.
Once USCIS has evaluated the forms and documents submitted, the local immigration office will call the couple in for an interview. Both the husband and wife are asked questions about their relationship and perhaps questions about the documents they have submitted. They may also be asked to present updated information from the time they submitted their initial package. Updated information may include joint bank statements; recent photographs; etc.
The entire process typically takes four to five months before finalization subject to the complexity of the case. The latter time frame is applicable when all the forms have been duly executed, accurately completed and comprehensive package is submitted to immigration officials. Any medical; criminal; and/ or security issues will also cause delays in processing and may require a special waiver to be filed. Once USCIS determines that the couple is genuine in their motives, the foreign husband or wife is granted a green card.