The Marriage Green Card
for clients of law191 - the Community Law Office of Andrew Bartlett

fI help married couples through the adjustment or consular process, and we work as a team.

And the process works smoothly and easily whether you are close to the offices - San Rafael, Oakland and Palo Alto in the San Francisco Bay Area, or if you are far far away and we work together through Skype or phone and the internet.


Being a team means you have a go with the forms so that names, dates and addresses are all correct. And you gather all the evidence we need. Then we review everything, build the packet and stay with you through the process. This shared effort keeps the fees low, and works - whether you are local in the Bay Area or far away.

This is a very detailed page. Why bother with all of this? Immigration are paranoid about marriage fraud. They don't know you and only spend a short time with you at interview. All they know is what you show them.

So unless you want to risk finding yourself in the frame and under suspicion, you take the time to make a good clear packet that shows yours is a real marriage. No shortcuts. And then you don't have to ruin the first few months of marriage, stressed out worrying about what will happen at interview.

You can find more information about what we do here

if you are consular processing and not adjusting status, there are minor differences. Initially you only file the I-130 and the new I-130A (beware - people used to file G-325a instead) along with the evidence of a credible marriage. And the evidence will be different in character, as you will not yet be living together in the marital home. Financial and other issues are dealt with once the I-130 has been approved and the case has moved to the NVC (National Visa Center) for the consular processing.

The Marriage Green Card - A Checklist

This is a reminder checklist so you don't need to take notes in meetings.
Remember you just have to have a go. We will work together to complete the application.

You should focus on names, addresses and dates.



All forms should be completed using Acrobat Reader (download here). Do not use the PDF reader that comes with your computer. The forms require Acrobat Reader. If you don't see a 2-dimensional barcode at the bottom of the I-864, you know you are using the wrong software.

Click the blue link for each form. This will take you to the USCIS page for the latest version. Then download the form itself. Do not edit it in the browser.

All of these forms (except maybe the I-131) are in the adjustment packet. You don't pay extra for Advance Parole or an Employment Card. Everything is covered in the fee you pay USCIS.

The Medical Examination

The applicant is required to take a medical examination from a government-approved doctor. You can find a doctor using USCIS's online civil surgeon locator. Before you go, you should download form I-693 and complete the first few lines of biographical information. You will take this form to the doctor. Shop around. Ask how much a doctor charges and also how long they will take to produce their report. When you get the sealed white envelope containing the report do NOT open it

The Visa Petition

The I-130 is the application by the citizen/LPR for a visa to be made available for their relative. If your spouse can adjust, then we file it in a packet along with all the other forms and evidence. If you need to do Consular Processing, then we only file the I-130/I-130A in the first instance.

Read the I-130 instructions PDF very carefully as it includes a section on specific requirements for spousal applications.

Background Checks

We used to file G-325As for both spouses. Now the petitioner's background is in the extended I-130 and the beneficiary's history is in the I-130A supplementary form. This is all used for the background checks. Make sure you account for all your time over the last 5 years. They want to make sure you weren't in jail. So, you will include periods when you were studying, and also periods where you were unemployed or a homemaker.

Advance Parole

This is useful for some clients. It allows you to make an emergency trip abroad without abandoning the application. If you include this form, then you get a "combo card" combined Employment/Advance Parole card. Beware that this does not protect you from other grounds of inadmissibility if you depart and try to return, so it needs to be handled with great care. Many people don't even include this form in the application.

The Adjustment Application

For the alien spouse this is the most important form. They will ask you questions about it at interview. Read and understand each question before you answer it. Even if the answer is obviously "no."

The Employment Form

This will allow you to get proof of status - in order to work, get a social security card or a driver license between 60 and 90 days after you file the application. And it will be valid a whole year - or until the green card is approved or denied. Note that if you receive an RFE (request for evidence) on your application, the employment card will be delayed.

The Affidavit of Support

The petitioner has to complete this form. Even if you get a joint sponsor because your income is not above the required threshold (see the Federal Poverty Guidelines for the income threshold for your household size. A joint sponsor will need to complete and sign another copy of the form. Also if a family member is part of the application - e.g. if the sponsor files taxes jointly with her spouse - you may also need to complete the I-864a


The Evidence

We will be collecting together ALL the evidence listed below. You may hear people say "you don't need this or that" but it isn't a matter of need. We want to make sure the officers who look at your application have everything they might need, clearly presented and well organized.

Do not spend a fortune on translations. Do not get papers notarized. We'll talk about translations when we meet. And remember, you keep all originals to show at interview. Only copies are sent with your application.

Passport photos

The service require a passport photo from each of you. You will include two photographs each. Make sure you have written your name and date of birth on the back of each photograph.

Marriage Certificate
We need to show that you are married. So we need a copy of your official marriage certificate. In California this is blue and issued by the county. The souvenir certificate you may get at the ceremony is not sufficient.

Previous Marriages
If either of you have been married before, we need proof that the marriage ended, either through divorce or death. If this document is not in English, it will need to be translated. See above.

Petitioner Proof of Citizenship/Residence
If the petitioner is a citizen, we need to give evidence. For natural born citizens, this will be birth certificate and a copy of the BIO page of your passport. If you were naturalized, then we will need a copy of your naturalization certificatefront and back copy of their green card.

Beneficiary Civil Documents
The beneficiary (the foreign born applicant) will need to provide birth certificate (and translation). Also we will need their proof that they came here lawfully - the I-94. This may be an old white card attached to their passport. Nowadays you don't get a white card, but go online to the CBP's I-94 site, and get (print) your record.

Beneficiary Court Papers
If the foreign spouse has had any issue with law enforcement here or abroad, we are going to need the court papers showing how the case was resolved. Assume they will know. If this is a problem, let's talk about it.

Letters of Support
Mom does not do fraud. Nor do your long-time friends. So, letters of support are very powerful evidence. People who step up and sat they know you and that they know you are married. These should be old-fashioned signed letters that say three things. (1) Who the person is - your mom says she is your mom. (2) How they know the other person, and (3) anything else they want to say. And if they are not happy with the relationship, they can say that or be neutral.

Documentary Evidence of Relationship
USCIS are paranoid about marriage fraud. And they don't know you, so the only way they can satisfy themselves you are real, is through the evidence you give them. If you have been married for a while, you should have plenty of proof - lease in both names, utility bills, car insurance, bank accounts, life insurance (benificiary) - all the things that show your lives are "commingled." If you only just married and have not been living together, then we are looking for evidence of your relationship, and any early steps you have taken to share your life together.

A Photographic Record
Choose 15-25 photographs spanning your relationship (only 1 or 2 wedding photos). The best photos include friends and family members. Pictures of the two of you at various tourist landmarks get tired very quickly - frauds can create an impressive set of these very quickly. But families do not do fraud. You both don't have to be in all the pictures. Your spouse with your mom, dad, brother, sister etc is a great piece of evidence. If you have microsoft word, then create a document with the photos in it, one photo per page, with the date, the place/event as a title, then under the photo a caption listing who is in the picture. Don't say "this is us with Jimmy" rather "this is us with my brother Jimmy." Don't worry if you can't do this on the computer. pen paper and sellotape works just as well.

Proof of Current Income
Each sponsor of the affidavit of support needs to provide this. If you are employed, get a letter on headed notepaper from your employer saying how long you have worked there, and that it isn't probationary or temporary work. Also, bring your latest payslip - as long as it has a "year to date" field. If it doesn't, we'll need to collect more slips. If you are self-employed, we will need to prove that you are an established business, and show what your business income is. Estimated taxes help here. We will talk in detail about this.

Proof of Taxes Paid
Each sponsor of the affidavit of support needs to provide this. I like clients to go to the IRS webpage and get tax RETURN transcripts for the last three years. It is free and they send it in the mail. Otherwise you need to provide copies of W-2 and your federal tax return for the most recent tax year. If you didn't have to pay taxes, then you will write a letter to that effect to include in the packet.


Frequently Asked Questions

The Timeline
Every USCIS office has a different timeline, depending on how overworked they are. However, some things are predictable. You will get a biometrics appointment about a month after you file. You will get approval for advance parole and your employment card within 60-90 days. But if there is an RFE - a request for evidence - then everything stops until they get your response. In the Bay Area, green card applications usually are processed through to interview in 4-5 months.

The Cost
You have to write a check to the US Department of Homeland Security for $1760. This includes the cost of the I-130. All other forms are included in the price. If you previously filed an I-129F fiance visa, then you don't file an I-130 and don't pay the $535 for that, so your fee is $1225. You will also have to pay the civil surgeon for the medical - between $200 and $400. If you are working with me, then you know that your lawyer fee is $530.

The Employment Card
The employment card is valid for a year and is issued within 90 days of your application - unless delayed by an RFE. It is there to protect you against delays by USCIS because of a full interview calendar. Often you get your interview and your green card almost at the same time as the employment card arrives. If you get approved advance parole, you get a combo-card, allowing you to work AND travel.

Interview Questions
You cannot predict interview questions in advance. But you know that the officer is looking at whether there are any hidden inadmissibility issues, and whether there is any suggestion of marriage fraud. I give you a mock interview close to the time, so you get comfortable with talking about yourself in an adversarial (but not hostile) situation. I don't attend interviews unless there are sensitive issues. I believe that people do better as a couple without someone else hovering in the background.

When should I marry?
You marry when you want to marry. You are not marrying for an immigration benefit, but because you want to spend your life together. If your fiance is abroad, you might want to consider a fiance visa and only marry once they arrive in the US. And if your intended comes into the US on another visa, you need to make sure there is no suggestion of misrepresentation when they are admitted. That they came in to marry. If in doubt, talk to a lawyer before you get married.

Consular Processing
Consular Processing is a slower process, but apart from possible time apart it is no more difficult than adjusting your status. In some ways it is easier. You work with USCIS to approve the I-130 petition, and then with the National Visa Center at the State Department, and finally the US Embassy in the home country.

The K-1 Fiance Visa
The fiance visa is useful if it is processed quickly. It is handled at the California and the Texas service center. You don't get to choose which, but CSC applications seem to be handled very quickly and TSC ones take a long time.

The K-3 Visa
These days, K-3 approval isn't fast enough to make it useful. You file the K-3 with your I-130, and if by some miracle it gets approved in a couple of months, then it can work like the K-1 and your spouse can come here quickly and adjust status. If it is approved at about the same time as the I-130 is approved, you are often better completing consular processing and coming into the country with a green card (and permission to work) rather than coming in to wait for an adjustment process before you can contribute to the family income.

Advance Parole
If you leave the country while an adjustment application is pending, you give up the application. Unless you leave after being approved for advance parole. However this only preserves the application, so if you have any other red flags that might make it hard for you to return, it is best to stay here whatever the emergency back home.

Conditional Green Card
Recently married couples can expect a 2 year green card in the first instance. In the three months before the two year period ends you file for the conditions to be lifted. So you should keep gathering evidence about the bona-fides of the marriage. Remember they are not judging how good your marriage is - just whether it was a fraud when you originally applied.

Entered Without Inspection (EWI)
EWI need not apply. If you were not admitted, you cannot adjust status. You file the I-130 and then try to get an I-601A stateside waiver of your unlawful entry. And once that is approved, you have to return home for an interview at the embassy. If you have deferred action - e.g. DACA - you now have the opportunity to be "admitted" so you can adjust, by making an approved advance parole short trip home. Your safe return makes you eligible to adjust status.

Overstayed/Worked without authorization
For everyone except the immediate relative of a US citizen, overstaying a visa or working without authorization makes you ineligible for adjusting your status. If your spouse is a citizen, they are not going to penalize a voter for this and make their marriage difficult.