What to Expect in Marriage Based Green Card Application
A succinct summary of the green card (lawful permanent residence) process when applying based on Marriage to a US citizen spouse.
Step 1: Collection of Documents - Day 1This is the most difficult and important phase. Often times our foreign nationals do not have all the necessary documents in hand. They have to request these documents from a family member back home. These are the documents which are "must haves" and have a long lead time:
1. Birth Certificate (and certified translation)
2. Marriage Certificate (if any and certified translation)
3. Divorce Decrees for any and all prior marriages
4. Birth Certificates for all children, stepchildren and adopted children
5. Copies of Prior Filings
If you are one of our very prepared clients, you will come to your Case Start meeting with these documents and all other "homework" ready. In advance of your meeting, we will grant you and your spouse login access to our secure file sharing system. This lets you upload the evidence as it becomes available and keeps everyone informed.
Step 2: Document Signing - Day 14We collected all of your documents and/or information Day 1. We may have had a "homework" check-in date at Day 7. We send you documents via Federal Express marked with "sign here" tabs. You will have a chance to review all of your petitions and applications forms necessary for your application. You will meet with the attorney at this time to set out a timeline. We will make sure to address any inconsistencies with any prior filings at this stage and make sure we address those proactively.
Step 3: Submission to USCIS - Day 21We have diligently prepared your petitions and applications; Your application package has been peer reviewed by another attorney in our office to ensure there are no errors, no inconsistencies and no missing documentation. You have received a client review set with all of the revisions you requested. We take a color scan of the petition package for your records and ours. We send off your petition packages to the USCIS via Federal Express overnight service. We will share a PDF copy of your petition package electronically with you in real time using a secure file sharing system.
Step 4: Receipt Notices from the USCIS - Day 30We receive receipt notices for each petition/application filed for you. You also receive a copy directly from the USCIS. We share the correspondence with you via our secure file sharing system. We put your case numbers into our online portfolio to keep track of the activity on your petitions.
Step 5: Biometrics Appointment - Day 60-90Our foreign national will be invited to come to a local Application Support Center to have biometrics taken. Biometrics includes fingerprints, signature and photograph. Look good on picture day, because this is the picture that will appear on your travel document, employment authorization document and green card! This shouldn't take more than 30 minutes. We discourage you from missing this appointment!
Step 6: Employment and Travel Authorization Documents Arrive - Day 180Unceremoniously, your employment and travel documents arrive in the mail around the 180th day after filing of your petitions and starting on our journey together. If your processing time is longer, it is because you didn't include something in that original filing package that the USCIS considers "initial evidence". Failure to submit all required "initial evidence" back in the beginning will halt all processing of all of your applications until you respond to the USCIS Requests for Evidence. The great thing about this stage is that now you can 1) apply for a Social Security Number and a 2) Driver's License. Your public transportation days are nearing an end!
Once you have your Employment Authorization Document in hand, you will make a personal visit to the local Social Security Office to apply for a Social Security Number and the MVA or DMV.
Step 7: Interview at the USCIS - Day 365Now you and your honey will be invited to an interview at the local USCIS office. Assuming your evidence is strong and you have your trusty lawyer sitting by your side, you should be interviewed together. Togetherness reduces the stress level of the interview. If you have some challenging facts i.e. your evidence is weak, you have an immigration history that hints of "alternate facts" or actual fraud, or your public records don't match your statements, then you could have separate interviews. That can add to your stress level.
For more on the interview, see: What Happens at a Marriage Based, Green Card Interview?
Step 8: Approval of Green CardIf you had a successful interview, your documentation was complete and your fingerprints and name check cleared, you may receive your green card in the mail in the month or two following your interview. If you don't receive a response within that time, it indicates that something is missing and they are preparing a Request for Evidence or Notice of Intent to Deny your application. If you receive that type of request, then you will have 30-87 days to provide the missing evidence/information. Assuming you are a Glinsmann client, we have outlined any possible sources of delay. If your petitions are issue-free, then we expect an approval without further USCIS generated requests.
Assuming you are approved, you will receive a conditional green card that will expire in 2 years if your marriage is less than 2 years old. If your marriage is over 2 years old , you will receive permanent residence.