What Supporting Documents Do You Need for a U.S. Marriage Green Card?
A marriage green card allows a foreign spouse of a U.S citizen or green card holder to live and work in the United States. The green card gives the foreign spouse permanent resident status which may be changed after three years by applying for U.S. citizenship.
However, attaining U.S. citizenship is not mandatory despite the immigrant being eligible after three years of being a permanent resident.
The process of applying for a United States marriage green card involves presenting a number of documents to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). These documents help verify information given in the petitions and applications required, and to prove eligibility for the marriage green card.
This article explains the marriage green card application process so that you may understand the documents that are required in the various stages of the process, situations, and citizenship status of the U.S spouse.
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The Marriage-Based Green Card Application Process
The marriage-based green card application process may include four different processes, depending on the location of the spouse seeking the green card, and the status of their U.S based spouse. Here is a breakdown of the four different ways of applying for a marriage green card:
Immigrant Spouse Living In The United States, Married to a U.S Citizen
If the couple lives in the U.S and one of them is a US citizen, the sponsoring spouse is required to file Form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative. This form contains details that are required to establish that the couple is indeed in a relationship. The spouse seeking the marriage green card is required to file Form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. These two forms can be filed and sent to the USCIS at the same time; a process commonly referred to as concurrent filling.
Immigrant Spouse Living In The United States, Married To A U.S Green Card Holder
The first step in the application for a marriage-based green card in this situation is the filing of Form I-130. The duly filled form will be submitted to the USCIS. The second step requires the spouse seeking the green card to file Form I-485 to adjust their status since they are already living in the U.S. These two forms cannot be filed concurrently; concurrent filing is only applicable if one of the spouses is a citizen of the United States.
Foreign Spouse Living Abroad, Married To A U.S Citizen
When a U.S citizen marries a foreign national living abroad, the green card application process is different. This green card application alternative is commonly referred to as consular processing. The sponsoring spouse files Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative to the USCIS. The goal of this petition is to prove the authenticity of the relationship. The USCIS will notify the sponsor of the receipt of the application in a matter of weeks, and if they require any further information, they will send a Request For Evidence (RFE) to the sponsor.
After a successful petition, the USCIS will send the application to the National Visa Center (NVC) under the U.S. State Department. At NVC, the officers will decide whether the beneficiary should be invited for a green card interview. The NVC compiles all the required documentation for the case and assigns a specific number to the case for easy identification. Since the beneficiary lives abroad, the case is transferred to the U.S Embassy or Consulate of their country.
DS-260 And DS-261
After receiving the case identification number from the NVC, the spouse seeking the green card will file Form DS-261, Online Choice of Address and Agent, and submit it to the embassy or consulate. The form entails details of the beneficiary’s contact preferences that will enable the Embassy or Consulate to contact them. The next form to be filed is DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application after paying the required fees to the State Department. The beneficiary will be notified after submitting the form online. This confirmation page should be printed as it will be presented to the interviewing officer during their green card interview.
Form I-864 And DS-5540
The U.S government needs to be assured of the financial independence of an immigrant intending to immigrate to the United States. Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and Form DS-5540 Public Charge Questionnaire can be filed to provide evidence of financial capabilities this green card application requires.
The Green Card Interview
Once a decision to invite the spouse seeking the green card for an interview is made, they will be required to have a medical examination report from a doctor approved by the State Department. If the interview is successful, the applicant will have their visa stamped on their passports. The visa allows them to travel to the United States. A physical green card is then mailed to the couple’s address in the United States within 2-3 weeks, and after paying the required fees to the USCIS.
Foreign Spouse Living Abroad, Married To A U.S Green Card Holder
In this situation, the green card application begins with the sponsoring spouse filing Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative. This form is mailed to the USCIS for the consular processing green card application to begin. The form establishes the relationship of the couple, and once approved, the case is transferred to the NVC.
At the NVC, a case number is created to identify the case throughout the remaining process. The number is shared with the applicant who must use it in the subsequent applications whenever it is required.
Next, the green card application process begins and usually takes time until when the State Department can determine that there is a green card slot available. The NVC will then determine whether the beneficiary qualifies for an interview with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate of their country of residence.
The spouse seeking the marriage-based green card will be required to file Form DS-261 to provide the U.S. Embassy with contact information on how best the embassy can communicate with them through the process. This form is followed by the beneficiary filing Form I-260 for their immigrant visa application. To prove their financial independence, Form I-864, and Form DS-5540 must be filed by the applicant. The former is the affidavit of support form while the latter is the Public Charge Questionnaire.
Once the NVC determines that the applicant qualifies for a visa interview, they will transfer the applicant’s case to the US Embassy or Consulate of their country of residence. Prior to the interview, the applicant will be required to have a medical examination done by a doctor approved by the State Department. Some countries may also require that the applicant gets their fingerprints taken.
If the interview is successful, the visa will be stamped on the applicant’s passport. The beneficiary will now be eligible to travel to the United States. The official marriage-based green card will be mailed to the physical address of the couple in the United States.
The Supporting Documents
The four different marriage-based green card application processes require similar government forms and documents to be filed. These forms are:
- Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-864 Affidavit of support
- Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment Of Status
- Form DS-260 Immigrant Visa Application
- Form DS-261 Online Choice of Address and Agent
- Form 5540 Public Charge Questionnaire
While submitting these forms, there are other supporting documents that both the sponsor and the beneficiary must provide in various stages of the application process. These documents help the US government to verify the information provided in the forms and to assess the eligibility of the applicants in the various stages of the green card application process. Here, we discuss these documents, when they are required, and the specific individual who submits them to the US government.
Documents That Accompany Form I-130 Petition For Alien Relative
This form is filed by the sponsoring spouse. Different documents are required from a sponsoring spouse who is a U.S Citizen and from a spouse who is a permanent resident (green card holder).
Documents Required for A US Citizen Sponsoring Spouse
The US citizen will be required to submit documents as proof of citizenship. These documents include the following:
- A U.S birth certificate
- A Valid U.S passport
- A certificate of citizenship
- A naturalization certificate
- A consular report if they were born abroad
The marriage green card sponsor will also need to prove the validity of their marriage. In this case, a marriage certificate is an ideal proof. However, to prove the authenticity of the marriage, the sponsor may be required to submit other documents such as joint bank account statements, a joint lease, and photos of the couple. These documents are necessary to help the USCIS validate the relationship.
If the US citizen spouse was in a previous relationship, they have to provide evidence that their previous relationship no longer exists. Divorce papers can be submitted as evidence if the couple was divorced. In case of death, a death certificate of the former spouse should be provided. If the sponsor was in an illegal marriage that was nullified, annulments may be issued as evidence.
If the sponsor ever changed their name in the past, they would be required to provide a court order for the change of names or adoption papers. A marriage certificate is usually sufficient evidence of change of names, although the other attachments provide support to the marriage certificate.
Documents Required For A US Permanent Resident Sponsoring Spouse
A US green card holder, also known as a permanent resident, will need to provide the following documents to prove their citizenship status:
- The green card (permanent resident card)
- Passport of their original home country with the stamped US temporary permanent residence
If the permanent resident sponsoring spouse was in a previous marriage, they are also required to prove that the marriage is no longer existent with divorce papers, death certificate, or annulments as evidence. If the spouse had a change of names, they would also be required to submit court orders for the same, or adoption papers.
The most important document is the marriage certificate that proves the sponsor’s relationship to the spouse seeking the green card. To further support the marriage certificate as evidence, the sponsor may provide joint bank account statements or other relevant documents.
Documents Required For The Beneficiary
A birth certificate is one of the documents the beneficiary needs to provide to prove their citizenship. If the birth certificate is written in a foreign language other than English, it should be translated into English by a certified translator.
A marriage certificate proves that there is indeed a marriage relationship between the sponsor and beneficiary. Additional documents such as joint bank account statements may be needed to show the couple’s commitment to the relationship. If any of the couples were in a previous marriage, they need to show evidence that the marriage ended by attaching documents such as divorce papers, annulments, or death certificate of the former spouses.
Documents That Accompany Form I-485, Application To Register Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status
Also known as the green card application, this form is filed by the green card-seeking spouse who resides in the United States. This form initiates the process of changing their immigration status to that of a permanent resident.
Documents required as proof of nationality include a birth certificate and a passport issued by their home country. The immigrant spouse will also need proof of their lawful entry into the United States by providing the US visa that granted them entry into the country, and their I-94 travel record.
The I-94 keeps records of the immigrant’s movements into and out of the U.S. The immigrant spouse must also show that they abide by the laws of the country by attaching their police records, court proceedings records, and prison records.
If the immigrant spouse made any violations of the immigration laws that led to their deportation, they will be required to provide the deportation documents to the U.S. government. The government will decide whether the immigrant can be allowed back into the country depending on the type of immigration violation they committed.
Deportation documents may not be easily accessed from outside the United States because the deportee must submit a request to the court that heard their deportation case in the US. Alternatively, the immigrant may request the U.S. government to release their immigration records under the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA).
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Documents Accompanying DS-260, Online Green Card Application Form
An immigrant spouse seeking a green card from their home country must file this form alongside other supporting documents.
As proof of nationality, the applicant should provide their birth certificate and passport of their country of origin. They will also need to provide proof of their relationship with the sponsor by providing their marriage certificate. If the immigrant spouse had terminated a previous marriage, divorce papers, death certificate of the spouse, or annulments must be provided as evidence to support their claim.
Immigrant Spouse In Active Duty Or A Veteran
If the immigrant spouse served or is currently serving in the U.S. military or any other country, they are required to provide evidence of the same. The documents will include the following:
- DD-214 for an applicant who has served in the US military
- Other US Military documents
- Any military records for service in the military of any other county
The applicant must also provide a police clearance form that shows their previous convictions if any. If the spouse seeking the green card previously violated immigration laws resulting in their deportation, they have to provide deportation documents that may be obtained from the court where the case was heard.
Supporting Documents For Form I-864, Affidavit Of Support
This form is filed by the sponsoring spouse to prove that they can financially support their immigrant spouse. Some of the documents required for this application include the following:
- A copy of their U.S. federal income tax returns for three years preceding the application
- A letter from the sponsor’s employer if they are employed
- Payslips dating back to the past six months
If the sponsor includes their assets as part of their income, they will have to provide evidence to show ownership of the quoted assets. Such documents may include the following:
For bank account investments, the sponsor will provide the U.S. government with Certificates of Deposits (CDs), ownership documents of stocks, bonds, or other documents related to the investment accounts.
If the sponsor provides their home as an asset, they are required to also prove ownership of the home, The documents that support a home as an asset include a deed, a recent tax assessment, or appraisal of the home, mortgage documents, or documents that provide evidence of home loans acquired to purchase the property.
If the sponsor uses their vehicle as an asset, they will be required to provide evidence of their ownership. A sponsor may only use a vehicle as an asset if they have more than one vehicle. The vehicle listed as an asset in this application should be a secondary vehicle. Ownership documents include a deed or title of the car and a recent appraisal from an approved appraiser.
If the sponsor invites a financial co-sponsor in the affidavit of support, the co-sponsor will be required to provide the same supporting documents as the main sponsor.
This form is also referred to as a work permit, that allows an immigrant spouse living in the U.S. to work anywhere in the United States. The immigrant spouse applies for a work permit as they await the approval of their green card in order to earn permanent resident status. The immigrant spouse will also be required to submit various documents as proof of their eligibility.
To prove that the immigrant spouse is in the country lawfully, they must provide a valid U.S. visa, the passport of their home country, and I-94 travel records. Since a work permit is applied by an immigrant awaiting their green card, they will have to provide evidence of their pending application by attaching Notice of Action Form I-797C. The application of a work permit and a green card can be done at the same time, provided that the applicant receives the notice of action that is required for the work permit.
The immigrant will need to provide evidence of their nationality through their birth certificate, passport, or any other identification document bearing fingerprints and a photograph. The application must also be submitted with a U.S. passport-style photo.
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This document is usually filed by an immigrant spouse living in the US. It allows them to travel abroad without losing their pending green card application. While submitting an application for a travel document, the applicant must provide evidence of their identification, capturing their name, date of birth, and photograph. Such identification documents include a valid passport issued in their home country and a work permit if any. The applicant must submit a US passport-style photo for further identification
The applicant is also required to provide evidence of their immigration status by attaching their US visa, including any document issued by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services USCIS, and proof of a pending green card application (Notice of Action, Form I-797).
Form I-944 Declaration Of Self Sufficiency
The Department of Homeland Security stipulates that an immigrant living in the United States should be able to sufficiently provide for themselves. To prove this, the immigrant has to file Form I-944 for the public charge test. Evidence of their sources of income should be backed up with the following documents.
IRS Tax Return Scripts For The Recent Year
This evidence is provided by the applicant and any sponsoring household member in the affidavit of support form. If the immigrant is dependent on another person’s income tax returns, the tax return transcripts should also be included in the application.
Foreign Tax Transcripts For The Recent Year
An immigrant spouse and household members who lived abroad within the past year will provide evidence of foreign tax for the most recent year.
Evidence For Untaxable Income
Income that is not subjected to taxation includes child support, unemployment benefits from the government, and pension and retirement benefits. If the IRS tax transcript does not capture these sources, the applicant may present them to prove that they have a sustainable income.
Evidence Of Assets
If assets of the applicant or household member, both in the US and abroad, have been included in the affidavit of support, evidence of the same must be provided. These may include documents such as deeds showing ownership of the assets, recent property appraisals from a credited appraiser, mortgages, and other property loans.
Evidence Of Liabilities And Debts
Liabilities include any unavoidable expenses that the applicant incurs. These may include child support, loans, mortgages, unpaid taxes, and credit card loans. The applicant must provide evidence of clearance agreements and plans such as letters from financial institutions, loan repayment agreements, mortgage payment plans, and account statements.
Evidence Of Good Credit Report
If the applicant already has a credit card, they need to provide evidence of a good credit score. Supporting documents that can be presented as evidence include account ledgers of payment of bills and receipts. If the applicant has no credit history, they should obtain evidence from the US credit bureau.
This form is also referred to as social security statement, provided by the employer for each employee, showing their wages and taxes of the most recent year. This document is filed by applicants who were not required to provide their income tax returns of the most recent three years.
Applicants who have academic qualifications that may be useful for their work qualifications may submit supporting documents such as academic degrees, diplomas, and transcripts.
If they have special skills training and qualifications, documents such as training certificates, apprenticeship certifications, and professional licenses may be submitted. If the certificates are in a foreign language, they must be translated into English. If the certificates were attained abroad, they should be evaluated for equivalency.
These are some of the most important documents needed for a marriage green card. If you ever need help processing your application, it is advisable to contact a professional immigration lawyer. Hiring an attorney from a reputable immigration law firm comes with its own benefits.
For instance, this law expert should be able to review your application, identify any loopholes, and provide professional advice to increase the chances of your green card application being approved.
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