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Green Cards through marriage

Green Card Marriage (Revisited)

From Jennifer Leavitt-Wipf,
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'Til Death Do Us Part

Sure, we have lots of information on green card marriage on our site. But a great deal has changed in the past few years. Leading immigration attorney Carl Shusterman gives you the low down in his recent question & answer session with us on:

Getting a green card through marriage

Jennifer Wipf: Greetings. I'm about to turn moderation on, so you won't be able to talk to each other. But you may continue to do so after the official Q&A.

Please remember that all questions and answers must be considered as general, and replies cannot be construed as legal advice. Welcome everyone, welcome Carl.

Carl Shusterman: Hello everyone. When we had our first chat on Born Abroad on September 20, 1999, it was entitled "'Til Death Do Us Part: Marriage and the Green Card." Now, during the past 3 1/2 years there have been a lot of changes in laws and procedures regarding obtaining permanent residence through marriage. I hope in tonight's chat we can cover the basics and also some of the updated rules. So without further ado, let's get to the questions!

Question #1: What forms do I need to file with the USCIS (formerly INS, BCIS) for my petition? I came from the UK for a visit, married a woman I met 3 months later, now what?

Carl Shusterman: Here are some of the basic forms you will need:

Form I-130 is a petition for alien relative. You need to attach proof of your spouse's US citizenship (e.g. birth certificate, Certificate of Naturalization, etc.), your marriage certificate, and if there were prior marriages, the documents that terminated these marriages, (e.g. divorce decree, death certificate, etc.).

All documents submitted to the USCIS (formerly INS, BCIS) should be certified copies. I do not recommend that you send original copies to the USCIS. Along with this form, both you and your spouse need to submit biographic information forms with each of your pictures attached. Also, you should submit form I-485, an application for adjustment of status to permanent resident.

Subsidiary forms include form I-468 (ADIT), form I-765, application for employment authorization and, if you are eligible, form I-131, application for travel document.

In addition, your spouse needs to complete an affidavit of support (form I-864) on your behalf. The affidavit of support needs to be accompanied by your spouse's last three income tax returns. If your spouse does not make enough money to support you, there needs to be another affidavit of support submitted by a co-sponsor. These are the basic forms for receiving a green card through marriage in the United States. Depending on the facts of your particular case, other forms and documents may be required. But remember to include a check for filing fees, which are between $600-$700, when you file your application.

All of the forms listed above may be downloaded from

Question #2: I filed with the INS and now it's the BCIS. Does this change or delay things? Do the waiting/processing times remain accurate?

Carl Shusterman: So far, the difference between the INS and the BCIS is just a change in name. The waiting times remain the same and may be viewed at These waiting times are not listed on the BCIS Web site.

Question #3: I am a US Citizen, married my husband in 1999. He was out of status in the US. He had entered without inspection. In 2001 my husband become a landed immigrant of Canada. He left the US and I filed for his papers. The visa petition got approved. He had his interview at the US Consulate in Montreal, where he was asked for a waiver for unlawful presence. My husband presented the waiver at the time he was asked. How long these waivers take to process? I just gave birth to our child and really need my husband to be here as soon as possible. What can we do?

Carl Shusterman: The amount of time that it takes a US consulate abroad to make a decision on an application for an immigrant visa varies widely. Where a waiver is involved, the consulate (which is part of the State Department), must forward the waiver application to the appropriate BCIS office (which is part of the Department of Homeland Security) for adjudication. It is always best to inquire with the consulate as to how long the process will take with a waiver for unlawful presence. It is better if this inquiry occurs before the person leaves the United States. However, in this case, you should call the US Consulate in Montreal in order to get the estimate of how long this process may take.

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