Adjustment of Status
Immigration Lawyer in Novato, Marin County

Consular Processing Overview by Castro Law Near San Francisco, CA

Adjustment of Status

Would you like to get your green card through marriage to your spouse?  This can be done if he or she is a U.S. citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR).  If you are lawfully in the United States and have now married, you may be eligible to file an adjustment of status application.  This overview discusses the list of the relevant forms, timing and the cost for an adjustment of status application.

Marriage to a U.S. Citizen

If you married a U.S. citizen, then you are fall within the immediate relative category. When you are in this category, then there is no waiting period because there are no per country limitations.  Final adjudication of your application may take anywhere between six months and two years.

 

On a related point, it does not matter whether your U.S. citizen spouse acquired citizenship status by birth in the United States or naturalization.  The timing of this application does not change based on how citizenship status was acquired.

Marriage to a Lawful Permanent Resident (Green Card Holder)

You are in the family second-preference category if you married a lawful permanent resident.  This means that you will likely have a waiting period after starting your application.  This is because demand in this category can be greater than the supply of visas/green cards available.  The waiting period in this category is between six months and two years.  Final adjudication of your application may take between two and three years.

This waiting period is a result of annual per country limitations on how many people can enter the United States in certain categories. The Immigration and Nationality Act Section 1153 defines these categories.  It also defines how the visas are allocated.

It is also the case that certain countries have a greater demand to enter the United States than others.  For example, if you married a lawful permanent resident from Mexico, you will have a longer waiting period than if you married a lawful permanent resident from Brazil.

 

Necessary Biographic Documents For The Adjustment Of Status Application

Both parties must prove their identity, citizenship and relationship to each other. The petitioner is the party with legal status in the U.S. and his or her spouse is the applicant. The petitioner can either be a lawful permanent resident (green card holder) or U.S. citizen.

The petitioner must submit:
• Proof of status in the U.S. (a copy of both sides of your valid green card, copy of your U.S. birth certificate or copy of your U.S. naturalization certificate);
• Two identical passport-size photos; and
• Name change documents, if applicable.

The applicant must submit:
• A certified copy of his or her birth certificate;
• A certified copy of the couple’s marriage certificate (regardless of whether you married in the U.S. or overseas);
• Copy of the biographic pages of your foreign passport;
• Copy of the current visa stamp showing lawful entry to the United States;
• I-94 arrival/departure record;
• Copy of all expired visas;
• Two identical passport-size photos;
• Criminal history, if applicable; and
• Name change documents, if applicable.

If either party was married before, a certified copy of a divorce decree is required.

All foreign documents must be translated to English by a competent translator who can attest to his or her ability in the two languages.

Filing Fees For The Adjustment Of Status Application

The forms and government filing fees are as follows:

• Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative ($535);
• Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Optional form. $575, with certain age/application variations);
• Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status ($1,225, with certain age variations);
• Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (fee to be negotiated with medical doctor);
• Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization ($0 if filed simultaneously with the above-listed forms);
• Form I-864, Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA ($0);
• Form I-864A, Contract between Sponsor and Household Member ($0 – if applicable); and
• Form I-944, Declaration of Self-Sufficiency ($0).

As you can see, not all forms have filing fees. Also, please note that depending on your circumstances, not all of these forms are required.

Additional Required Documents For A Green Card Based On Marriage

The petitioner must submit evidence of his or her finances with Form I-864, the Affidavit of Support. Documents include:
• Three years of most recent federal tax returns with W-2s;
• Recent paystubs to evidence a stable work history;
• Dated and signed letter from the petitioner’s employer confirming employment, title/role, and the actual earnings per week/month/year.

If the petitioner cannot show annual earnings above the federal poverty guidelines for the quantity of people in his or her household, the couple will need a co-sponsor. The co-sponsor must have earnings that meet the federal threshold.

This co-sponsor can be a family member, friend or colleague. A co-sponsor must submit the following:
• Proof of status in the U.S. (a copy of both sides of your valid green card, copy of your U.S. birth certificate or copy of your naturalization certificate);
• Three years of most recent federal tax returns with W-2s;
• Recent paystubs to evidence a stable work history; and
• Dated and signed letter from the co-sponsor’s employer confirming employment, title/role, and the actual earnings per week/month/year.

Documents For The Green Card Interview

After submission of all documents, you can expect to be scheduled for an interview at your local U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. The applicant must submit:
• His or her medical exam results in a closed envelope (if not previously submitted);
• Petitioner’s updated financial evidence due to the lengthy wait between initial filing of financial evidence and the actual interview (subsequent year’s tax return, updated letter from the employer, additional paystubs or evidence of an additional or new job).

Finally, you should bring original biographic documents to the interview. The USCIS officer will compare these with the copies you submitted with the filing of your application.

Conclusion

If you are lawfully in the United States, you may be eligible to apply for adjustment of status after marriage to either a U.S. lawful permanent resident or a U.S. citizen. The required evidence is quite similar. But, the time it takes to get the green card will differ depending on the status of your spouse.

The filing fees do not change based on whether petitioner is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. However, the U.S. government does periodically changes the form and fee requirements. The values indicated above are current as of January 2021.

It goes without saying that this marriage should be a legitimate one, not entered into for purposes of acquiring legal status in the United States.

It is always wise to consult with an experienced immigration attorney to assess your circumstances and determine the best path towards acquiring status through marriage. This article is intended to provide a general overview. We would be happy to assist you with any questions you may have.

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