Written by attorney Kwao Amegashie

The Immigration Process After Marriage.

Dear Alien, This is a follow up to our phone conversation in which you informed me you will, likely, soon marry your US citizen fiancé and sought advice about the immigration process once you marry. Below is a brief summary of the whole process follows. To be eligible for legal permanent residence in the United States (US), an alien’s US citizen spouse must file an I-130 and related forms on his or her behalf. While the alien must also file an I-485 and related forms. Since you legally entered the US, you and your spouse may file your applications together (at one time), in what is called a “one-step" process. Note that in the application process, the US citizen spouse is the “petitioner" and the alien spouse, the “beneficiary". You can find the needed forms at the USCIS site: Note that you, the beneficiary must submit to a required medical exam. The result of the exam must be given to you in a sealed envelope. It must not be opened. The medical exam must be conducted by a USCIS approved clinic. You will find the list of approved clinics at: Your application must be supported with: (i) a copy of your marriage certificate; (ii) a copy of all divorce decrees for each of you, if applicable; (iii) a copy of your US citizen spouses’ birth or naturalization certificate; (iv) two passport size pictures of each of you; (v) a copy of the beneficiary’s I-94 card and a copy of the visa page of his/her passport; (vi) a copy of the US citizen’s tax return and W-2 forms for the most recent year, and, (vii) the sealed result of the medical exam the clinic handed to you. All the appropriate forms must be properly filled, supported with all the required documents and mailed, with the appropriate filing fee, to the appropriate USCIS address. The USCIS will, upon receipt, issue formal receipts for each application received. Later, they will schedule the alien for his/her biometrics appointment. The alien must submit to biometrics if s/he wants to proceed with the process. The information gathered is used to perform a background check on the alien. If s/he has no criminal history, the USCIS will issue the alien a work permit 90 days from the date of receipt of the initial application. After that, the USCIS will transfer the file to the local USCIS office in your city of residence for alien and spouse to be scheduled for an interview. The local USCIS will invite you and your spouse to their office, on a specified date and time, to be interviewed. The purpose of the interview is to determine whether your marriage is a genuine one. Note that you and your spouse may be separated for the interview. Usually, the interviewing officer’s first request is for the driver’s license or ID of each of you to see if you share a common address. Note that you must be prepared to fully explain why your IDs do reflect a common address if that is a fact. The officer will proceed with the interview with questions about your family life. The interviewing officer will record your responses to later compare to see if they correspond. Note that the USCIS will conclude that your marriage is not legitimate if a simple question like “what is the color of your husband/wife’s car?" elicits conflicting colors in response. Also, a few officers may call in-laws or other family members to ask if they are aware of the marriage. All this, in an effort to help the USCIS determine whether your marriage is legitimate. In addition, the officer will expect you to submit documents to show that the two of you have a shared life. Documents that may be submitted, as evidence of shared life may include, but is not limited to: (a) copies of your current tax returns; (b) Life Insurance Records; (c) Employment Records; (d) Auto Insurance Records; (e) copies of titles showing joint ownership of cars, house(s), boat(s), etc.; (f) copies of joint leases; (g) copies of the birth certificates of all children born as a result of the marriage; (h) religious records confirming your relationship; (i) Bank Statements of joint and/or separate accounts; (j) joint Credit Card statements; (k) copies of bills from utility, house phone, gas, electric, cable, cell phone, etc., showing a shared address ; (l) sample pictures of you, as a couple, beyond your wedding date, e.g. celebration of significant events, social events etc.; (m) affidavits from family members, friends and/or co-workers, who are willing to attest to the relationship. Note that the more documents you have to show as evidence of a shared life, the better. After the interview, the USCIS reserves the right to make an unannounced visit to your residence to be sure you share a residence. Your applications will be approved if the USCIS is convinced your marriage is a bona fide one. The application will be denied, if the USCIS is not convinced the marriage is a bona fide one and initiate removal proceedings against the alien. Note that there are other penalties for each of you if the USCIS is able to prove that the marriage was a sham one. Once your application is approved, you will become a conditional legal permanent resident of the US for two years. A conditional permanent resident is required to submit a Petition to Removal Conditions on Residence (Form I-751) within the 90 day period immediately preceding the second anniversary of the date on which the alien became a conditional permanent resident. The application must be jointly filed with the US citizen spouse unless certain conditions exist for a waiver. For example, if divorced from your spouse, you may file the application before the time frame stated once divorce is finalized. Note that the application must, again, be supported with evidence of a shared life. Upon filing the application, the USCIS will issue a formal receipt extending the validity of the alien’s “green card" for a year while they process the application. The USCIS may approve the application without calling you for another interview or may schedule you for another one. If called for an interview, the USCIS will again, ask questions to be sure your marriage was legitimate. You will receive a new “green card", valid for 10 years if the USCIS is convinced that your marriage was a bona fide one. The application will be denied if they are not convinced that the marriage was a bona fide one and initiate removal proceedings against the alien spouse. Good luck.

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