A U.S. citizen may sponsor his alien spouse for a green card by filing Form I-130 petition with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services or USCIS. Since the spouse of a U.S. citizen is considered an “immediate relative” for immigration purposes, a visa number is immediately available.
This means that the alien spouse who is already in the United States may right away apply for adjustment of status to lawful permanent residence by concurrently filing a Form I-485 application with the U.S. citizen spouse’s I-130 petition. An alien spouse who lives outside the U.S. will have to apply for an immigrant visa at a U.S. consulate abroad.
In order to be eligible for the immigration benefit as a spouse of a U.S. citizen, the marriage must have been entered into in good faith. The parties must present evidence that they have entered into the marriage with the intent of establishing a life together as husband and wife.
If the USCIS finds that the parties married for the purpose of circumventing immigration laws, the USCIS will find the marriage fraudulent and deny the immigrant petition filed for the alien spouse.
At the adjustment interview both the U.S. citizen and the alien spouse will have to appear before a USCIS officer. It is imperative that before the interview, the parties gather evidence showing the bona fides of their marriage. These include joint tax returns, joint bank account statements, lease agreements, joint mortgage statements, life insurance beneficiary designation, mail showing same residential address, cell phone bills, and photographs.
In some cases, the spouses may not have some of these documents available. Other couples might have to temporarily live separately because of their work while others are unable to get a joint lease or joint bank account because the alien spouse does not have a social security number.
In these situations, the spouses should look into presenting other documents which are readily available to them. These could include evidence of trips taken together such as hotel reservations, tickets and photos, joint gym and other memberships, bills or letters listing both spouses and addressed to both of them, among others.
In case the other spouse is not included in the checking account or if the other spouse is not included in the lease agreement, evidence may include a printout that the other spouse is issuing checks for half of the rent.
There are no rules as to how much evidence would be sufficient, so in case the USCIS officer is not satisfied with the evidence given or would much rather hear from the spouses themselves, the couple must be prepared to be questioned thoroughly.
At the interview, the couple must remember to always tell the truth and answer the questions without guessing or unnecessarily giving too many details.
The couple must also try to be calm and focused throughout the interview, which could take an hour or even more. Needless to state, adequate preparation by the spouses is valuable. A lawyer can help the spouses prepare for the interview in addition to representing them at the interview itself.
One of our former clients was the beneficiary of a petition by her U.S. citizen spouse, who was over 20 years her senior. At her visa interview, she gave a few inconsistent answers which led the consul to deny her immigrant visa application. She was not assisted by an attorney at that time. She later retained our firm and we helped her appeal the visa denial. We were able to establish the “bona fides” of their marriage and she eventually got her green card.
(Editor’s Note: REUBEN S. SEGURITAN has been practicing law for over 30 years. For more information, log on to his website www.seguritan.com or call 212-695-5281.)