Marriage-Based Immigration Lawyers in Houston Walk Beside You as You Navigate the Green Card Process
Finding love is an exciting time, but that excitement can turn to apprehension quickly if getting married means that you may have to immigrate to another country. Marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident means that you may be eligible to pursue your own residency status, but it’s not a guarantee. There are specific rules and eligibility criteria that must be met, and the process can take months to go through. Keep reading to find out what the requirements are to come to the United States on a spousal visa and other information you need to know.
Marriage-based immigration is a common way that people come into the United States but commonly doesn’t mean easy. Meeting with an immigration lawyer in Houston who can ensure that your paperwork is done correctly and that you’re prepared for each step of the process is crucial. Call the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC in Houston to find out more.
What Are the Requirements for a Spouse to Immigrate to the United States?
To immigrate to the United States under a spousal visa, your spouse must be either an American citizen or a permanent Green Card holder. You will need a copy of your current marriage certificate and a copy of any documentation involving other marriages, divorces, deaths of a spouse, or annulments for either spouse. Both parties must also be able to provide documentation of any and all name changes.
The sponsoring spouse will need to provide proof of citizenship or permanent residency. This can be done with any of the following paperwork:
- A U.S. birth certificate
- A U.S. Consular Report of Birth Abroad
- A U.S. passport
- A certificate of citizenship
- A certificate of naturalization
- A foreign passport that shows permanent U.S. residency
- A Green Card
Keep in mind that how long you have been married can determine whether you receive permanent residence status or condition residence. If you have been married for less than 2 years at the time your application is approved, you will be issued a conditional Green Card and have to apply for unconditional permanent status later on.
Do You Have to Go Through an Interview Process to Show Your Marriage Is Legitimate?
To be eligible for marriage-based immigration, you have to be in what the government refers to as a “bona fide marriage.” This means that the marriage is a true relationship-based marriage and wasn’t entered into just for the sake of immigration. In addition to providing support documentation, such as evidence of joint finances, proof that you have been living together as a married couple, and statements from those close to you, you will have to go through a Green Card marriage interview.
This interview is usually the last step in being approved for marriage-based immigration, and it’s designed to ensure that the marriage is legitimate. The interview commonly includes questions about:
- The history of your relationship, from first meeting to marriage
- What your marriage looks like on a day-to-day basis
- Your spouse’s preferences or quirks
- How you have navigated marital challenges
- What your plans are for the future
It’s common to be worried about the interview process, but if your marriage is legitimate, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. No one expects you to know every single thing about your spouse or to have documented every moment of your relationship. If you or your spouse is concerned about the interview, talking with an immigration attorney may be able to help assuage your fears.
Every couple who applies for marriage-based immigration has to go through this step, which means these attorneys have plenty of experience helping people through this step. We can talk with you about common questions you might get at the interview and how to prepare and have any appropriate documentation with you so you’re confident when the time comes.
What Is the Difference Between a Spousal Visa and a Fiancé Visa?
A spousal visa, more commonly referred to as conditional permanent residency or a conditional Green Card, is used when a couple is already married and one spouse is immigrating into the country. A fiancé visa, also known as a K-1 visa, is for when a couple is engaged but has not yet married. To be eligible for a fiance visa, you must be planning to get married within 90 days of entrance to the United States. As with a Green Card, you can work lawfully in the United States with a K-1 visa as long as you apply for employment authorization.
What Happens If the Relationship Ends After Getting a Spousal or Fiancé Visa?
If you have been admitted to the United States on a marriage-based Green Card or a K-1 visa, you may wonder what happens if you break up before the marriage is complete or if you end up getting divorced. If you have a marriage-based Green Card and have already gone through the conditional residency period and been accepted for permanent residency, the divorce doesn’t change anything about your immigration status. However, if you divorce before the 2-year conditional waiting period, you will have to file for a waiver to be able to apply for permanent residency. This is because your spouse is supposed to sign the petition for permanent residency with you at the end of the 2 years as a joint petition.
If you come to the United States on a K-1 visa and do not get married within 90 days, you could face deportation. However, a waiver may also be an option in this case. Due to the tighter timeline, it’s important to meet with an immigration attorney and discuss your options as soon as possible after the breakup to ensure there is enough time to apply for the waiver.
What Is the Good Faith Marriage Waiver?
A good faith marriage waiver is an option you can use to continue to be able to stay in the United States and be granted permanent residency even if the relationship didn’t work out. This waiver is applicable to situations where the marriage or engagement has ended before the 2-year residency period is up as well as for those who are victims of intimate partner violence or who would face “excessive hardship” if they had to go back to their home country. If you believe that one of these situations applies to you, it’s important to speak with an immigration attorney as soon as possible to ensure the waiver is filled out correctly and on time.
What Are My Options If My Application Is Denied?
Unfortunately, marriage Green Card applications can be and sometimes are denied. It’s a common misconception that being married to a U.S. citizen automatically means that your Green Card petition will be approved, but this isn’t the case. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services office has the final say when it comes to who is granted an immigrant visa, and this includes situations involving marriage-based immigration or a fiancé visa.
Your petition could be denied for many reasons, but some common ones are:
- The government does not believe that you are in a bona fide marriage
- You have a criminal record that keeps you from being eligible
- The paperwork is incomplete or not accurate
- You didn’t pass the in-person interview
- Your spouse wasn’t able to show that they were a U.S. citizen or permanent resident
While having your marriage-based immigration petition denied can be disheartening, there are options. An immigration attorney can help you understand why your application was denied and if you are able to appeal or resubmit the application again. It’s important to keep in mind that it is very possible to face deportation procedures if your petition is denied, so it’s something to take seriously. It’s crucial to work with an experienced attorney and to schedule a meeting as soon as you know that your application has been denied so that you can take action quickly.
You don’t have to go through the immigration process alone, and the Law Office of Shelle-Ann Simon, PLLC is here to help. Our legal team has years of experience helping clients with immigration cases, including spousal and fiancé visas. Call 281-606-0800 today to schedule your first appointment. An attorney will talk with you about your specific circumstances and where you are in the immigration process to help you determine which option is right for you and help you take the next steps.