Military service members may be deployed outside the country for different reasons. While stationed abroad, they may find the love of their lives, resulting in a marriage.
If you are one of the many U.S. military service members in a similar situation, this article has everything you need to know about sponsoring your foreign spouse for a green card.
When you return to the U.S. after deployment, you might want to bring your spouse with you so that you start a life together. The best way to do this is by getting a marriage green card for your foreign spouse.
This type of green card allows your spouse to reside and work anywhere across the U.S. despite being a non-American. If the spouse continues to hold the green card while still in the U.S. and married to you, he/she may be granted citizenship after 3-5 years. However, there are various steps you will need to follow before starting the application process.
How To Get A Green Card For The Spouse Of A U.S. Armed Forces Service Member
The whole process entails four significant steps. They include:
· Establishing validity for your marriage
· Applying for the green card (if you meet all the requirements)
· Attending a USCIS interview
· Waiting for the approval
What Are The USCIS Requirements For This Application?
Generally, you have to ensure that your spouse meets the qualifications for a marriage-based green card. The sponsoring spouse must be a United States citizen or be residing in the U.S. permanently with a valid green card. You must accept all your spouse’s financial responsibilities and earn above the poverty guidelines to sustain your household’s size. Lastly, you must have no criminal records for some crimes like kidnapping, sexual assault, false imprisonment, among others.
The spouses applying for the green card must provide their foreign identities and their current immigration status to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Also, they must not have committed certain crimes like drug trafficking and aggravated felonies. Spouses who have violated immigration laws are not eligible for the application, though they may seek waivers.
Both spouses must prove their marriage’s authenticity and verify that they have terminated any previous marriage(s). Lastly, they must submit any supporting document, e.g., a birth certificate or a police criminal record where applicable.
What If My Spouse Lives In The United States Undocumented?
Any spouse who entered and continued living in the U.S. undocumented must seek a Parole in Place (PIP) to qualify for a green card based on their marriage to a member of the U.S. armed forces. PIP allows spouses of U.S. military personnel to apply for a green card while still in the U.S.
However, the relationship itself does not guarantee a PIP; the spouse must possess no criminal conviction barring him/her from qualifying for a green card.
By applying for PIP, you notify the United States government that you have been living in the U.S. undocumented. It is advisable to consult an experienced U.S. immigration lawyer from a reputable law firm for professional legal advice if you fear that your PIP application might be rejected.
How Do I Apply For The Green Card?
The application process varies; it is always advisable to consider the factors involved before starting any paperwork. The factors which affect this application process are:
· If the sponsoring spouse holds a green card or he/she is a U.S. citizen.
· Whether the applying spouse is residing inside or outside of the U.S.
The Right Process To Follow
If both of you reside in the U.S., you will file an Adjustment of Status form, also known as Form I-485, without the foreign spouse necessarily leaving the United States. This option only applies to permanent residents’ spouses, provided they maintain a valid immigration status before their applications are approved.
U.S. citizens’ spouses do not need to preserve any valid immigration status while waiting for their applications’ approval. Spouses living in the U.S. are also free to file the required forms concurrently in a process known as Concurrent Filing.
What Is Concurrent Filing?
Concurrent filing involves filing your initial I- 130 petitions and your form l- 485 (Adjustment of Status) together. Since the applicant is already living within the United States, the process is easier, and the marriage-based green card is processed faster.
Documents Needed During Concurrent Filing
For successful concurrent filing, you need the following forms:
· A Petition for Alien Relative.
· A Supplemental Information Form
· Your Adjustment of Status Form
· A document to support your financial status.
· A medical examination report from a USCIS-approved doctor
USCIS requests the applying spouse to adhere to a biometrics appointment routine as an administrative procedure for security checks. It is done almost a month after your filing. Mostly, the appointment is scheduled at any convenient USCIS office at your location. The USCIS sends you an RFE, also known as Request For Evidence if they need additional information regarding your application.
What Happens When My Concurrent Filing Goes Through?
If your Concurrent Filing gets approved, you will receive an interview notice, including the location of the green card interview, date, and time. It takes approximately one year for your concurrent filing to get reviewed and approved/rejected.
The interview is held at your local USCIS office, with both spouses required to attend. The U.S. citizen spouse is only exempted from attending the interview if he/she is on active duty.
In that case, the applying spouse must bring to the interview proof that the partner is on an assignment with the U.S. armed forces. The evidence might be a letter from the commanding officer or photocopies of the official orders.
The interview is conducted by a USCIS officer who approves your application for a lawful permanent resident card if satisfied that your marriage is genuine. Your green arrives between 2-3 weeks from the final approval (if you reside in the U.S.) or after you come to the U.S. (for foreign spouses living abroad).
However, if the applying spouse lives outside the U.S., the procedure is a little bit different. He/she must follow a process known as Consular Processing. The foreign spouse applies for the marriage-based green card through a U.S. consulate or embassy in this process.
Consular Processing Steps And Procedures
The USCIS will have to determine if you qualify for the application for a permanent resident card. If you are ineligible, this government agency may reject the petition with a notice indicating the cause of the denial and if it is possible to appeal the decision.
If the petition is approved, the USCIS sends the approved petition to the Department of State’s National Visa Center.
The National Visa Center (NVC) notifies both the petitioner and the beneficiary after receiving the petition and when the petitioner’s visa number is available. The notification also includes when to submit the filing fees alongside supporting documents. The consular office schedules the interview once you get your visa.
How Is The Interview Conducted?
Your spouse must be well prepared for the interview held at the U.S. embassy. He/she must have completed a medical examination with a doctor approved by the State Department. The U.S. Embassy or Consulate delivers the passport to the petitioner’s address after obtaining an approved visa stamp.
The embassy also conducts background checks on the applicant after taking their fingerprints. If your spouse meets the above requirements, he/she is free to attend the green card interview. The interview takes place at the embassy or consulate on the instructed date, time, and location.
When Do I Receive My Green Card?
The Green Card is sent to your mail upon your arrival to the United States, provided you have cleared the USCIS Immigration Fee. You should contact the USCIS Center if you do not receive your Green Card within 45 days of your arrival in the United States. If you fail to pay the fee, the USCIS will not send you the green card.
How Long Does The Whole Process Take?
Applicants should expect to wait from 10 to 38 months, excluding possible delays, depending on the process they follow. Generally, the process takes a shorter period for U.S. citizens’ spouses than permanent residents’ spouses since the latter have to wait for a visa number before starting the application for permanent residence.
How Much Will I Pay For The Card?
The cost depends on the country of residence of the applying spouse. The U.S. government charges applicants between $1,200 and $1,760 for a green card, depending on the category you may be eligible for. The applicant pays the medical examination fee, which costs between $100 and $500.
What Is A Conditional Green Card?
It is a document issued by the USCIS to provide non-Americans married to U.S. citizens a two-year residency permit. If the marriage is less than two years, the non-American spouse receives a CR1 green card. During this time, the couple must apply to attend a second USCIS interview to remove the conditions since the conditional card expires in two years.
For a spouse married to a U.S. citizen for more than two years, the USCIS issues a permanent residence card whose validity runs for ten years. Its renewal is much simple since it requires no marriage re-authentication.
What Happens After I Receive My Green Card?
After receiving your marriage-based green card, you are free to apply for naturalization after 3 to 5 years, in what is commonly known as the naturalization process. If your application for U.S. citizenship is approved, it will be followed by a citizenship interview and an oath of allegiance ceremony. The naturalization process is the last immigration process you’ll have to go through with the USCIS on your path to citizenship. Later, you may apply to sponsor your family members for a green card, given that you are now a member of a U.S. military family.