Common Pitfalls to Look Out For When Obtaining Your Green Card Through a United States Citizen Spouse

 

 

Today we will explore a very important (and popular) way of acquiring lawful permanent residency (a Green Card) in the United States.  Let’s suppose you are a foreign national in the United States on holiday in Florida, or studying at a language school, or a transferee from a company abroad. At a Friday night Happy Hour you meet your soulmate, a United States citizen! After a whirlwind romance, you decide to take the plunge and get married. Now what? You and your spouse have decided it is better for the two of you to remain in the United States and you find yourself navigating through American Immigration Law and the vast bureaucracy which is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). According to available statistics, approximately one million U.S. Green Cards are issued annually, and the majority are issued to immediate relatives of United States Citizens, meaning spouses, parents and unmarried children under the age of twenty-one. What are some of the most common pitfalls to watch out for when obtaining your Green Card through your United States Citizen Spouse (assuming there are no legal impediments, such as a criminal conviction)? 

 

THE MARRIAGE MUST BE REAL! 

 

Your marriage must be entered into in “good faith”. This means that when you and your spouse stand at the altar, whether it is in a civil office or church, and whether you are a man and a woman or two individuals of the same sex, it is your intention to enter into a marriage union wherein both of you will be legally bound in a personal and intimate relationship. You vow to combine your lives, including but not limited to your families, your friends, and your finances.  Now, here comes the tricky part: how will you prove your intentions are real? The answer is that in order to obtain a Green Card, you will need to provide, to the satisfaction of the United States Government, what is often referred to as the “bona fides”. 

 

What are some of the most important “bona fides”?

 

Photographs:

 

There is a saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” which in this context means photographs! You will need to present photos and they must be the “real deal”. You and your spouse should take photos during vacations, while on holiday spent together with family members and friends, at birthdays, anniversaries and other family and personal gatherings, and at the wedding ceremony itself. Have a party after the wedding, wear a special outfit, decorate with flowers and remember, this is your wedding to the person you intend to spend your life with. It is a special occasion, deserving of a lot of photographs. Genuine photos that capture your relationship are the best evidence that you entered into a bona fide marriage. Make sure the photos are natural. Nothing says “fake” like staged photos (unless the photos are taken by a professional photographer as part of a formal wedding). Make sure, if you have family members and friends in the photos that you know who they are. When the Immigration Officer asks each spouse to give the full name of the people in the photographs and explain who they are, be able to say, “that’s my husband’s Uncle Sam, he’s my mother in law’s older brother”. This may seem like a lot of work but the upshot is if you take some really great photos and include them with your initial application packet, you may be approved for your Green Card without an interview.

 

Where are you living and how do you prove it?

 

You should be living under the same roof and be able to prove it; there are always exceptions such as when one spouse is living in another city finishing up an education, but we will save that for another discussion. For example, it will be helpful to have a joint lease, joint utility bills, cable bill, credit cards, bank account, and perhaps joint health insurance and car insurance. Bringing in a Last Will and Testament, leaving your possessions to your spouse, or a life insurance policy with your spouse as the beneficiary is also a good idea. And of course, the “golden ticket” is if you have a child together and can bring in a positive DNA test and a birth certificate with both spouses listed-this should stop the need for any further “bona fides”.

 

THE SPOUSE INTERVIEW! 

 

 In approximately 6-14 months after you file your application packet, you will receive an interview notice by mail or email (unless you are lucky enough to receive an approval without an interview). Prepare and practice, but remember, nothing says “fraud” like an overly rehearsed interview. My observation after attending hundreds of such interviews, is that honesty is the best policy. f both spouses are honest, the interview will not be difficult. That said, sometimes two people will describe the same event differently and sometimes this can cause doubt.  Just be prepared to tell the Immigration Officer your current address and addresses for the past five years.  Be prepared to describe where and when you met and who proposed marriage and where you were when your spouse popped the question. If you can’t remember if it was in Paris, France or Paris, Texas, then you are probably not ready for the interview.  How is your house or apartment designed? Where is the bathroom and does your shower have a curtain or a sliding glass door? Do you have any pets and who feeds them? Do you or your spouse have tattoos? Remember where they are and how many, and if your spouse has been keeping secrets from you, now is the time to come clean!

 

IN CONCLUSION, marrying a United States citizen is a common way to acquire lawful permanent residency in the United States. However, there are numerous details, and pitfalls to be careful of, not the least of which is proving that your marriage is authentic. Retaining an attorney to help you navigate through the rules and regulations is often a necessity for a smooth transition from tourist to lawful permanent resident.  Reach out to our firm and we will be happy to guide you, every step of the way.

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Common Pitfalls to Look Out For When Obtaining Your Green Card Through a United States Citizen Spouse
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    Aakarsh & Shraddha
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