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I married a U.S. citizen and I want to adjust my status. What do I have to do to get a green card? How long does it take to get a marriage based green card?

By November 25, 2019March 16th, 2021Family Immigration, Immigration
Wills & Estate Planning

If you married a U.S. citizen and plan to apply for your green card, one option is to adjust your status in the United States. Generally, to be able to adjust your status in the United States, you must currently be in the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa (Not Visa Waiver or ESTA), although there are some exceptions to this rule for immediate relatives of U.S. citizens.  The advantage of the adjustment of status process is that you can apply for a green card without having to return to your home country and you can stay in the United States with your spouse. Please click here for more information how to apply for a Green Card when you are outside the United States. Please note, that if you entered into the United States on a non-immigrant visa and you married a U.S. citizen within 90 days of your arrival and you want to adjust your status, the immigration officer may presume that you lied about your intentions when you entered the country. Please see more information about the 90-day rule regarding fraud and willful misrepresentation when you click here. This is a complicated area so you should seek counsel if this fact pattern applies to you.

Please note that the application fees listed below are current cost as of the day of posting. The Department of State has proposed changes to fees that could go into effect soon. For more information about the changes in fees, please click here.

What forms do I have to file to adjust my status? How much does it cost? Does my spouse have to file forms as well?

You have to file Form I-485. For most applicants, the filing fee for this form is $1,140 and the Biometric Services Fee is $85.

Your U.S. spouse will have to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien relative) and Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support). The filing fee for form I-130 is $535. There is no filing fee for form I-864.

What is the biometrics appointment?

After you file form I-485 with USCIS, you will receive a notice for your biometrics services appointment at a local USCIS office to provide your fingerprint, photograph, and signature. This notice will include date, time and location of this appointment. The purpose of this appointment is to confirm your identity and to run certain security and background checks. If the date or time does not work for you, you may reschedule your appointment, however we do not recommend this as it may result in delays in processing your application.

Can I work while my green card application is pending?

You may apply for work authorization while your green card application is pending. You may apply for your work authorization simultaneously with your green card application, or you may request it at a later time. You can only start working in the U.S. after you receive the work authorization card.

Please click here to find more information about when your work authorization expires and when you should apply for a renewal.

Can I travel wile my green card application is pending?

You may apply for an Advance Parole travel document that enables you to travel outside the United States without abandoning your green card application. If you leave the United States without an Advance Parole document that is valid for the entire time you will be outside the United States, you will not be able to reenter the United States and your green card application will be deemed to be abandoned. However, if you hold an H or L-1 status, you may travel outside the U.S. while your Adjustment of Status application is pending if you are coming to the U.S. to resume employment with the same H-1B employer and you are in possession of a valid H/L-1 visa.

Emergency Advance Parole document

If you have an extremely urgent situation, you may request an emergency Advance Parole document. You should bring the completed and signed application for Advance Parole, the Advance Parole filing fee, evidence that there is an emergency (such as medical documentation or death certificate) and two passport photographs to a local USCIS office. USCIS reviews emergency Advance Parole applications on case-by-case basis and the USCIS field office director has discretion to grant or deny the application.

Can my Advance Parole application be expedited?

You can also request to expedite your Advance Parole application in certain situations, such as when there is an emergency situation in your family, or for example if there is a threatened severe financial loss to a company or person. This is a different situation than applying for an emergency advance parole document. In case you want to expedite your application, you will have to attach a written request explaining the emergency and why you are requesting the expedited processing. USCIS considers all expedite requests on a case-by-case basis and has the sole discretion to grant or deny your request.

What is the medical examination? Why is it required? When should I file it?

On November 1, 2018 USCIS updated its policy regarding the validity of the medical exams. Previously the exams were only valid for one year, however under the new policy, the medical exam will remain valid for two years. The green card applicant is required to submit Form I-693 (Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination) no more than 60 days before filing the underlying adjustment of status application. While most green card applications are decided in under 2 years, there have been significant processing delays recently and if your green card application ends up pending for more than 2 years, you will have to obtain and submit new I-693 form.

When will I have my interview? What can I expect at the green card interview?

You and your U.S. citizen spouse will have to personally appear at the interview. USCIS will send you a notice together with the date, time, and location of your interview. You will have to bring originals of all the documents you submitted with your I-485 application along with the documents listed on the interview notice. You will have to answer all the questions under oath or affirmation.

Please click here to find more information about a green card interview. If the officer approves the case at the interview, you should receive the green card within a few weeks. Sometimes an officer will not approve the green card petition immediately at the interview but will indicate that they need more time to issue a decision or the officer may also issue a Request for Evidence or call you for a second interview.

Can I apply for U.S. citizenship? What are the benefits? When can I apply?

There are many benefits of having U.S. citizenship. For example, you can vote in Federal and State elections, you can petition for your family members to come to the United States and you can apply for Federal jobs. Please see our blog post that discusses the benefits of being a U.S. citizen.  You can apply for citizenship after 3 years if your petition is based on a spousal petition and 5 years in other situations.

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