If you are someone who is looking to marry a U.S. citizen, then you eventually will need to apply for a green card. Getting a green card is an important step towards being legally able to live and work in the United States, but it is also a step towards obtaining citizenship.
Even if you never plan to obtain citizenship, applying for a green card is a lengthy process that involves a huge amount of forms, supporting documents, and preparation. Let’s go through the green card timeline, how the process works, and everything you should expect when applying for a green card.
What Is a Green Card?
You may have heard of it, but not know exactly what it is. Holding a United States green card means that you are a lawful permanent resident of the United States (hence the official name “Lawful Permanent Resident Card”). The legal document that you submit to apply for a green card is Form I-551.
Holding a green card means that you can legally work in the United States without restrictions. Although a green card sounds comparable to a residency visa, it actually offers more freedoms than a visa does. Despite this, if you hold a green card, you still do not have all of the same rights as a U.S. citizen.
What You Need to Know
- Green cards are often conditional. If you have a green card due to your marriage to a U.S. citizen, then it will only be valid for two years. 90 days before your green card expires, you will need to file a petition to remove the conditions on your green card. If you fail to do this, you may lose your permanent resident status.
- If you are physically disabled (or under the age of 18) you will not need to sign your green card.
- Green cards expire after 10 years. This means you will either need to apply for citizenship if you are eligible, or renew your card before this time is up.
Am I Eligible for a Green Card?
Not everyone is eligible for a green card. There are specific categories that you must fit into that allow you to apply for a U.S. green card. One of these categories is marriage to a U.S. citizen.
Other categories include family, employment, refugee, crime, or abuse victim program based green cards.
Steps To Apply For A Green Card
Working with an immigration attorney is the best way to ensure you properly apply for a green card. This is because there are a variety of documents required to apply, and it is very easy to miss one.
If you want to apply for a green card, you will need to complete forms based on the purpose of your application.
Form I-485 is required for anyone who plans to apply for a green card. This is the first step, and it must be filed with the USCIS. It is the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”. Your attorney can file this for you.
If you have been married outside the country, or your family member plans to bring you over, the U.S. citizen will need to file Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”.
Depending on your situation, other forms you might need to file include:
- Form I-140: Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker
- Form I-730: Refugee/Asylee Relative Petition
- Form I-589: Application for Asylum and for Withholding of Removal
2. Biometrics Appointment
This is to have your fingerprints and photos taken. You will also need to provide the USCIS with your digital signature.
3. Immigration Interview
Your interview will be the last step of your green card process other than awaiting the decision. Your immigration interview will be filled with many questions regarding you, your spouse, your relationship, and your intentions. Working with a lawyer is recommended, as they will prepare you for this interview and rehearse questions.
Sample questions include:
- How did you meet?
- Where did your first date take place?
- How long did you date before becoming engaged?
- Who proposed? What is the story?
- What was your wedding like?
- Who attended your wedding?
- What food was served at your wedding?
- What type of ceremony did you have?
- Did you take a honeymoon?
- What roles do you each take in the household?
- What time does your partner wake up?
- Which of you likes to cook?
- Which of you likes to clean?
- What side of the bed do you sleep on?
- What pajamas does your spouse wear?
- When are your birthdays?
- What did you get each other as gifts?
4. Await the Decision
It can take anywhere from seven months to three years to obtain your green card. Typically with a marriage-based green card, as long as you can provide all the necessary documents, you will receive your green card sooner rather than later.
Tips for the Green Card Interview
The green card interview is an essential part of obtaining your green card. Here are a few tips to ensure your green card interview occurs without any hiccups.
Rather than tell the officer what you think they want to hear, tell the officer exactly what the truth is. Even if the truth is not pretty remember that every couple struggles in a marriage. Therefore, ensure that you are completely honest.
If you find a question too personal, or if you find it offensive, you can tell the officer this. Most officers will understand and move on to the next question.
Practice Your Answers
Be sure to rehearse before your interview. Even if your marriage is completely true and real, stressful situations can have you forgetting important details. The more your practice the less stressed out you will be when the interview comes.
The green card interview is the last step before obtaining your green card and being able to live with the person you love. Be honest and open about everything, and make sure your spouse remembers your favorite color.
Do You Need Help Applying For A Green Card?
If you are looking to move to the United States as a lawful permanent resident, then you will eventually need to apply for a green card. Whether you are about to begin the process, or you have received notice that your petition was denied, we can help you. Contact us as soon as possible, and our knowledgeable green card attorneys can set you on the right path with less anxiety.