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Obtaining a Green Card through Marriage – Part 3

Part 3: Consular Processing

Please see the flowchart on our website, which provides the general steps involved with the consular processing procedure. [Link].  Part 3 of this series will provide further details on the process and important things to consider when dealing with USCIS and National Visa Center (NVC).

I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

The first step in the consular processing procedure is filing the I-130, Petition for Alien Relative with USCIS.  As discussed in Part 2, the I-130 is the immigrant petition field to establish your bona fide relationship with your spouse.  Thus, when you file the Form I-130, you must provide documentation showing that you are legally married, all prior marriages have been terminated, and that you are in a legitimate marriage.

When it comes to providing supporting documents regarding your legitimate marriage, USCIS does not use the same criteria as those cases filed under Adjustment of Status.  In consular processing cases, it will be important to show communication, trips taken together, and other documents that will establish your relationship.  Some additional examples of these supporting documents can be further discussed on a case by case basis with your attorney.

Unlike the Adjustment of Status process, you and your spouse do not need to attend an interview together.  USCIS will evaluate the documents you provided and make a determination.  The typical processing time vary from 5 – 12 months.  If the case is approved, they will forward the case to NVC for further processing.

NVC Processing

It will typically take 30 – 60 days for NVC to receive the case from USCIS.  When they do, you will receive an e-mail containing login information for the NVC online portal.  Within this portal, you will pay the needed fees and submit the required forms and supporting documents.

Before you can complete anything within the portal, the visa application fee ($325) and affidavit of support fee ($120) must be paid.  After the payments are received, you can then begin completing and submitting the need forms, which include the DS-260 and I-864.

The DS-260 form is completed within the NVC portal and can be very time-consuming.  The form asks for an extensive amount of information regarding your spouse, including all residences since the age of 16, employment history since the age of 16, family information, travel history, social media information, and much more.

It is crucial to carefully review all the information on the DS-260 before you submit to NVC.  After the form is submitted, no changes can be made.

The Affidavit of Support (I-864) is not completed on the portal but can be found on the USCIS website.  This form is provided to establish your ability to support your spouse financially.  The I-864 will be completed and signed by you, the Petitioning spouse, and uploaded to the portal along with the needed supporting documents.

Please see the I-864, Affidavit of support section within Part 2 for more information on the form and your options if your income does not meet the HHS poverty guideline: [Link]

Supporting Documents (aka Civil Documents)

The Department of State provides a list of the required documents on their website. These documents include

  • Birth certificate;
  • Marriage certificate;
  • Documentation of prior marriage termination;
  • Police Certificates for any country (excluding the US) where you have lived for 12 months or more or have EVER been arrested;
  • Military records;
  • Copy of passport biographic page; and
  • Any court and prison records if your spouse has ever been arrested.

When compiling the documents, be sure the documents are consistent with those listed in the Reciprocity Schedule.  This is available on the DOS website as well and will explain the types of documents are accepted by NVC.

Please note that if you submit a document, for example, a Birth certificate that does not meet the standards set forth in the Reciprocity Schedule, NVC will reject the submitted document and notify you by sending you a message within the online portal.

The Interview

After NVC confirms that all the documents have been received, which they will typically notify you via e-mail.  They will then forward the case the consulate abroad for the final steps. This process could take 30 – 60 days.

After the consulate receives the case, they will schedule an interview for your spouse.  Please be aware that appointments are scheduled based on availability.  Thus, this could take a few weeks to a few months.

Your spouse will then receive an e-mail notifying him/her of the scheduled appointment and will provide further instructions.  Please note that each consulate is different and have different policies and procedures.  Be sure you read everything that the consulate sends and follow the instructions.

Typically, this is the time that your spouse will need to get his/her medical exam completed.  This completed exam will be brought to the interview along with the originals of all the supporting documents submitted within the NVC portal.  Please note that you will also need to bring a copy of each document just in case the officer requests a copy.  If you do not have one, the Officer could keep the original and you will not likely get it back.

As discussed in Part 2, USCIS implemented the public charge rule.  For more on this rule, please see our website: https://www.patellegal.com/the-dawn-of-a-new-era-becoming-familiar-with-the-new-public-charge-rule/.

However, because of a recent Court ruling the public charge rule is not currently in effect, although it is possible it may go back into effect at some point in the future. See https://www.patellegal.com/ny-district-court-issues-nationwide-injunction-and-temporary-stay-on-trumps-unlawful-public-charge-rule/

If the public charge rule is reinstated, it is possible that the consulate might request that you complete the Public Charge Questionnaire (DS-5540).  This form is similar to the I-944 form mentioned in Part 2, which the consulate will use to evaluate your spouse’s assets, medical insurance, financial status, education, skills, etc. to see if they are likely to become a public charge in the US.

During the interview, the Officer will ask questions from the submitted forms (DS-260 and I-864) and questions regarding your relationship.  Some of these questions can include:

  • What is your current address?
  • How did you meet?
  • Where was the wedding?
  • Who attended your wedding?
  • How often do you communicate with your spouse?
  • When is your spouse’s birthday?
  • How did he propose?

If the Officer approves the immigrant visa, they will take your spouse’s passport and return it to them after the visa is printed.

Obtaining the Green Card

After your spouse receives the passport with the visa, he/she can travel to the US.  However, before leaving, it is recommended that you pay the USCIS Immigrant fee ($220).  This will be paid on the USCIS website.  This fee covers the cost of printing the green card and USCIS processing, filing, and maintaining immigrant visa packets.  If your spouse leaves before paying this fee, the fee can be paid upon his/her arrival; but this would likely delay the processing of the green card.

Typically, your spouse will receive their green card within 30 – 90 days after entry in the US.  As discussed within Part 2, if you have been married for less than 2 years, your spouse will receive a conditional green card.  This green card will only be valid for 2 years.

In order for your spouse to obtain the 10-year green card, you will need to remove the conditions.  To do this, you will need to file an I-751 with USCIS within 90 days prior to the green card expiring.

If you and your spouse have been married for over 2 years, he/she will receive a 10-year green card.  No additional application will need to be filed (excluding a renewal application near the end of the 10 years).

If you have any further questions regarding the adjustment of status process, please do not hesitate to contact us.  To book a consultation, please contact our office at 972-650-6848 or cprescott@patellegal.com.

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