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How to get a green card for marriage: six basic steps

You are already married and ready to start a life together in the USA. However, if one of the spouses is a foreign citizen, you must first apply for a green card on the basis of marriage. Here are the 6 steps you need to take to do this.

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The first step in this process is to apply for an immigrant visa, notes Ask ellis. There are two types of immigrant visas for spouses living abroad:

  • Conditional Resident Spouse Visa (CR-1): visa of the spouse - conditional resident;
  • Immediate Relative Spouse Visa (IR-1): Visa of the spouse - the next of kin.

The processes are the same for applying for any of these visas. The only difference between the two is how much time you are married. You have the right to conditional living if you have been married for less than two years. You get a green card without conditions as the next of kin (IR) if you got married more than two years ago. A conditional resident (CR) will have to take an additional step in order to remove the conditionality from its status.

Only a US citizen can apply for a CR or IR visa for a foreign spouse. Permanent Residents of the United States may apply for a foreign spouse in a different, much longer process. Your unmarried children under the age of 21 can be included in separate green card applications.

In the past, couples applied for a K-3 visa, which allowed a foreign citizen to enter the country to join their spouse, a US citizen, while a green card application was being considered. But the processing time has increased significantly: now you are likely to wait for K-3 as much as the green card itself, in addition, you will incur additional costs. Therefore, it is better to avoid this option and focus completely on the process of obtaining a green card.

Ready to get started? The process for obtaining a visa for a spouse consists of 6 steps.

1. US citizen applying for a visa

The goal of this step is to prove that your marriage is valid and real. Your spouse, “US citizen” (also called “sponsor” or “applicant”), is applying I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). You, the foreign spouse, are known as the “beneficiary” in this process.

The package of documents should include two forms, registration fees (535 dollars), 2 color passport photographs of you / your spouse, as well as:

  • a copy of the marriage certificate;
  • divorce certificates from previous marriages;
  • confirmation of any name changes;
  • proof that your spouse is a U.S. citizen, usually with a birth certificate, US passport, or naturalization certificate.

In addition to these documents, it is also necessary to provide evidence that your marriage is real (also known as good faith marriage). You must provide one or more confirmations:

  • joint bank account statements;
  • joint lease or documents proving joint ownership of property;
  • birth certificates of common children;
  • any other documents confirming your permanent union (for example, general accounts).

Detailed documentation instructions can be found. here (6-7 pages).

Send the completed package of documents by mail to USCIS. Within a couple of weeks, you should receive a notification by mail from USCIS of the receipt of your application. Typically, decisions are made 7-11 months.

2. You are waiting for USCIS notification of approval of the application

USCIS will send your spouse a decision and send the approved application to the National Visa Application Center (NVC) of the Department of State. The approval notice is also known as I-797, Notice of Action. If 130-30 days have passed since you received the I-45 approval notice and you have not received a response from NVC (by email or regular mail), contact NVC to verify that your case has been transferred to them.

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NVC will give you the number you need later. Since you are the closest relative, your visa number will be immediately available, and your case will be reviewed immediately after receiving it. In a few months, your case will be transferred to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your country.

3. Fill out the DS-261 form

Once the NVC tells you the case number, you can file DS-261. This is a simple form that does not require payment and can be completed online. here. To send it, you will need your case number. After applying, you will need to pay 445 US dollars (for the next stage of the process) through the same portal. Just click Fee Payment here. To pay you will again need your case number.

4. Apply for an immigrant visa

Once your payment has passed, you will be able to submit a form DS-260 for immigrant visa. The DS-260 form is also completed online. Remember to print a confirmation page when you go to the last screen. You will need to take him for an interview at the consulate. As before, you will receive a notification confirming receipt of your application.

Now you have to submit your supporting documents at NVC. Package includes: completed form I-864 Affidavit of Support, which is the promise of your spouse or spouse to support you financially. Supporting documents are downloaded online, sent by e-mail or regular mail to NVC. You can find out which method applies to you, here. The review process for your NVC application will take approximately 3-6 months. Once this happens, your case will be referred to the US Embassy or Consulate in your country.

5. Attend an interview at a consulate

You will receive a meeting notice indicating the time, date and place of your interview. The notice will also contain other instructions, for example, what documents to bring and how to schedule a medical examination or submit biometric (fingerprint) data. Once you receive an interview notification, plan the following:

  • Medical examination. You must have a medical examination before the date of the interview. The examination should be carried out by a doctor authorized by the State Department. You will be given guidance on how to find an approved doctor. Bring your past vaccination records to your appointment. If you do not have all the necessary vaccinations (or you cannot provide records), you will need to get vaccinated. At the end of the examination, the doctor will give you a sealed envelope with the results. Do not open this envelope! If you want to get a copy of the notes, ask your doctor for one. You will take this sealed envelope for an interview.
  • Submission of biometric data. It's pretty simple: you are photographed and fingerprinted. Many embassies or consulates require applicants to schedule biometric data before an interview. Some consulates take fingerprints during the interview - this will be indicated in your notice.

Now you are ready for an interview! This is one of the last steps in the process. Your notice will indicate whether telephones are allowed at your consulate. Do not pick up the phone if they are prohibited.

After the meeting, the consular officer will complete the processing of the application and make a decision. You will be issued a visa package if you receive a green card. Please note that the sponsor spouse does not participate in this interview, only the foreign spouse or spouse who will receive the green card. If approved, you will leave your passport at the consulate so that you can put a visa stamp on it. Your passport will be returned by courier (for the services of which you have already paid) or you can pick it up personally at the issuing center (depending on the country). This can take from a couple of days to a week.

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6. Enter the United States

Hand over the visa package to the customs and border guard (CBP) at the point of entry. A CBP staff member will ask you questions and review the documents contained in the visa application. You will then be admitted to the United States as a permanent or conditional permanent resident. To receive a physical green card, you must pay the USCIS immigration fee (220 dollars). A green card is usually sent by mail (to your US address) a few weeks after your arrival in the country.

Here are the main expenses:

  • Form I-130 submission - $ 535;
  • DS-260 form submission - $ 325;
  • Form I-864 submission - $ 120;
  • medical examination - up to $ 200;
  • green card registration - $ 220;
  • total cost - $ 1400.

Expect the whole process to take 11-19 months.

Recall that in December 2019 the price of immigration services is expected to increase - a check of the financial situation over a two-year period has established that the current fees to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services "do not reimburse the full cost of providing legal and naturalization services" to USCIS. The government predicts that without increasing funding, the agency’s average annual deficit will amount to 1,2 billion. What exactly will rise in price, read in our material.

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