The process of getting a green card through marriage involves filing a number of different petitions, obtaining medical clearance, gathering supporting documents and attending an interview with an immigration officer. If you are working in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa and recently married a U.S. citizen and you want to remain in the U.S., in most cases you can get a green card through a process called adjustment of status. This involves filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative and an I-485 application adjust status to a green card, often at the same time.
You can start the process by completing and filing the following forms with all requested supporting documentation, photos and filing fees. Each form has separate requirements for supporting documentation, so make sure to carefully read the instructions of each form to ascertain what to include. Forms and filing fees are subject to change and can be found at the USCIS website.
- I-130 Petition for Alien Relative – This petition seeks to determine whether you and your U.S. citizen spouse have the required qualifying relationship. A legitimate or bona fide marriage is defined as one where you intend to establish a life together and you did not marry for the purpose of obtaining a green card.
- G-325A, Biographic Information – Form G-325A provides biographic information about you and your spouse.
- I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status – This is the petition that will adjust your status from nonimmigrant to green card holder. The I-485 application (Adjustment of Status) is the final step of the permanent residence process. An AOS application is filed by someone who is physically in the United States and wants to adjust his or her non-immigrant status to immigrant status without having to return to their home country. Adjustment of Status applications can be filed concurrently with the I-130 petition.
- I-864, Affidavit of Support – This petition is submitted as part of the I-485 adjustment application and establishes that your spouse makes enough money to support your household at 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. You will need to provide your spouse’s income information as well as tax returns and IRS transcripts. You may also use your income to supplement if your spouse does not meet the threshold.
- I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record – This petition proves to the U.S. government that you have received all required vaccinations and do not have any diseases or other health issues that would make you ineligible for a green card.
Normally you will also file for work authorization (I-765) and for advance parole (I-131) to ensure you can continue to work even if your nonimmigrant status expires and to allow you to travel without abandoning the adjustment of status application.
Work and Travel Considerations for Nonimmigrant Visa Holders Adjusting Status
If you are on an H-1B or L-1 visa you can renew your nonimmigrant visa even after you have filed for the adjustment of status and you will be able to travel freely on your visa without issue while the adjustment of status is pending. Normally people who apply to adjust status cannot leave the U.S. while the adjustment is pending, unless they file an I-131 advance parole document. However, for H-1B and L-1 visa holders, they are permitted to travel on these visas without advance parole and without abandoning their adjustment of status. If you have an H-1B or L-1 visa and have also applied for advance parole, you should make sure to re-enter on the visa and not on the advance parole document, as if you enter on the advance parole document you will be admitted as a parolee and your nonimmigrant visa may be cancelled. Another benefit you will have as an H-1B or L-1 visa holder is that these visas allow for dual intent, meaning you can enter the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa even though you have demonstrated the intent to reside in the U.S. permanently
The ease of visa renewal and travel for H-1B and L visa holders who have filed for adjustment of status can be contrasted to many other nonimmigrant visas which require a showing of nonimmigrant intent, such as an E-2 or TN visa. If you are working in the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa that does not allow for dual intent you should carefully plan the filing of the adjustment of status, as you will not be able to renew your visa or travel on that visa once the I-485 is filed, as this filing demonstrates that you intend to immigrate to the U.S. permanently and therefore you do not have the nonimmigrant intent required to qualify for many nonimmigrant visas. For example, if you are in the U.S. on E-2 status and you marry a U.S. citizen and file for adjustment of status you will not be able to renew your E-2 visa, although you can remain in the U.S. on E-2 status. However, once your status expires you will be in the U.S. in a period of stay authorized by the filing of the adjustment application and if you want to work and travel, you will need to file for work authorization and for an advance parole document.
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