This sponsored column is by James Montana, Esq., the principal of Steelyard LLC, an immigration-focused law firm located in Arlington, Virginia. The legal information given here is general in nature. If you want legal advice, contact him for an appointment.
By James Montana, Esq.
Just married! There’s just one hitch: no proper immigration papers. What should you do now? Everyone says that your new bride (or groom) should get a green card without any difficulty. But you’re worried. You’ve looked at the forms and they look… difficult. You’re worried about making a mistake. What should you do now?
The sensible answer is to call a lawyer, but I’m going to point you in the direction of the appropriate forms so you can DIY if you want to. Please call a lawyer, though. It’s in your own financial interest. Lawyers get paid by the hour, and it takes many delightfully lucrative hours to get you out of trouble after you finish your Belushi impression.
- I enjoy crushing beer cans against my forehead, so obviously I don’t want a lawyer. What should I do now?
Assuming you are eligible, you file a long ton of paperwork and supporting documentation. The foreign spouse will be fingerprinted. Three to four months later, the foreign spouse should receive a work permit. Six to twelve months later, you will both be interviewed by a government official. If that interview goes well, you’ll get a green card. If it doesn’t… well, you’re headed to Immigration Court, which is worse than Double Secret Probation and a heck of lot more expensive. More information about that to come in a subsequent column.
If you make a paperwork mistake or forget to enclose a supporting document, the government will helpfully remind you of this with a written Request for Evidence. Even if you respond instantly, a Request for Evidence will delay adjudication of your case by two to three months.
If you mess up your response to a Request for Evidence, the government may (or may not) send you another Request for Evidence. Uncle Sam is fully within his rights to keep your application fee — a cool $1,760 — and tell you to try again. You should have hired a lawyer the first time.
- I don’t care! I think this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture on somebody’s part.
If you’re going to do this yourself, you should read these forms (and their accompanying instructions) carefully. Any immigration lawyer you speak to should be able to tell you what these forms are, in coma-inducing detail, without opening his laptop. If he can’t, enjoy the free coffee and walk away.
- Form I-130: Petition for Alien Relative
- Form I-130A: Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary
- Form I-131: Application for Travel Document
- Form I-485: Application for Adjustment of Status
- Form I-693: Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
- Form I-765: Application for Employment Authorization
- Form I-864: Affidavit of Support under Section 213A of the INA
- I gave my love a cherry that had no stone. Does that prove that we’re married?
The government knows that cherries have stones and chickens have bones. So, how are you going to convince the government that your love story has no end?
Amateurs think that the answer is photographs. It isn’t. Rank amateurs think the answer is boudoir photographs. That really, really isn’t. (You think I’m kidding? Once a year, like clockwork… )
Professionals know that the answer is commingling of finances. Joint monthly bank account statements, joint leases, joint tax returns, life insurance policies, health insurance policies, wills, utility bills, a family cell phone plan. Get it all together. Make a table of contents. Use tabs. Government adjudicators really appreciate tabs.
- There were blanks in that gun. I didn’t do anything!
Has your spouse ever committed any crime at all, even one that was not prosecuted, even one where the record was later expunged? Stop and call a lawyer. You can be put into deportation proceedings for stealing a candy bar. (Not my client, but I have seen it with my own eyes.)
How did your spouse get here? We treat people who crossed the border very, very differently from people who overstayed visas. If your spouse walked across the border, stop and call a lawyer.
Did your spouse do any side work while on a visitor visa? Did your spouse ever use questionable documents? Ever apply for asylum? Ever have a driver’s license issued under questionable circumstances? You know what to do. Let’s do it.