Updated: Mar 28, 2020
First things first: Congratulations!
After the I do's, the next big to-do for international couples to tackle is preparing and filing their marriage-based green card application.
Depending on where the couple is living, there are different filing options available. Couples living in the United States may file an I-130 petition and Adjustment of Status application after the wedding. Married couples living abroad may file their I-130 petition with USCIS and then submit their remaining documents for processing overseas by the US consulate nearest to where they live, called consular processing. If applying within the United States and filing an Adjustment of Status application, you should consult with an immigration attorney to ensure that you are eligible to file your green card application at that time and are in a qualifying dual-intent immigration status, which allows you to have both non-immigrant (temporary) and immigrant (permanent) intent to reside in the United States.
Based on new USCIS rules, filing at an improper time or in an improper status can be considered immigration fraud.
Applying within the US
If you apply for an Adjustment of Status within the US, applicants will receive temporary work and travel permits after approximately 6 months while the green card application is pending. The temporary work permit is called an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) and the temporary travel permit is called an Advance Parole (AP). Unless applicants have separate work authorization through another visa, they will not be able to work in the United States until they receive their EAD card. In addition, only applicants in certain non-immigrant visa statuses (H-1B, O-1, L-1, for example) are allowed to travel outside the US before their Advance Parole Document is approved. For applicants that must be able to work while their green cards are pending, we strongly recommend filing a separate work visa application before proceeding with the green card application.
Applying from Overseas
Applicants applying from overseas have a different application process. These applicants will not receive any interim benefits from the US while their applications are pending. Once their I-130 petitions are approved, these applicants must submit a variety of documents to the National Visa Center, who will then evaluate these documents and send them to the appropriate US consulate once finalized. Applicants then will have a green card interview at the US consulate, where they will receive an Immigrant Visa passport stamp and a packet of documents, which they will hand to the US Customs and Border Patrol officer (unopened) upon arriving in the US. These applicants will then receive their green cards via mail within approximately 4-6 weeks. In the meantime, they may use their Immigrant Visa stamps to begin working in the US and travel overseas.
The filing timelines for green card application varies. However, on average, marriage-based green card applications are taking between 12 to 18 months to be processed. In order to best plan ahead, Adomat Immigration recommends beginning the process as soon as possible in order to accommodate for potential delays or slower processing.
To schedule a consultation or to kick-off your marriage-based green card process, please contact Ayla Adomat, Esq. at firstname.lastname@example.org.