Getting a Green Card in 10 not so easy lessons.
(Give or take a few hundred lessons)
This page is set up so you will have a few clues on how to get a green card for your new spouse. Please be advised that we are not lawyers nor do we really have any idea what we are talking about. We will simply tell you what Mrs. and Mrs. Webmaster had to go through in order for her to get her Green Card.
As always, read the instructions on the USCIS web site and if you feel a need, contact a competent lawyer who specializes in immigration matters.
Step one: Get married. Ok, we know this seems obvious, but you may be surprised how many people forget to do this.
Now that the humor is out of the way, you will need to download a huge pile of forms. Not just the forms for the AOS, but also forms to get a work permit and a travel parole if your spouse wishes to go back home for a visit.
To begin with, please visit the USCIS web page titled “Immigration through a Family Member.” This will explain what needs to be done and what forms you need to fill out.
Here is a list of the forms you will need:
The Form I-485. This is the big one. It is the one for the Adjustment Of Status, or Green Card.
The Form I-765. This is for a work permit. As an immigrant, you are very limited in what you can do. If you would like to work you will need to get one of these cards. Mrs. Webmaster’s took 3 months to process.
The Form G-325 Biographic Information.
The Form I-864EZ Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the Act. This appears to be a new version of the form we had to fill out.
(There are other versions as well. Please read the directions in regards to the I-864, the I-864A, The I-864P and the I-864W to see what applies for your situation)
Once you get your work permit, you will need to get a Social Security card. I would recommend visiting the “Your Social Security Number And Card” web page at the Social Security Administration web site.
Once you have everything gathered together, go through it several times to make sure you actually have everything. You may also want to create an Inventory page and use this as a cover sheet. Keep copies of everything! You WILL need them again when the USCIS loses your paperwork.
One document you may want to get copies of is your marriage license. Mr. and Mrs. Webmaster went through 7 of them with the various agencies, and the USCIS still managed to lose the one we included with the document package.
Now that you have everything ready to go, you will need to assemble everything for the USCIS.
First, put all I-485 and backup documentation in one manila envelope. We stapled relevant pages together (as in a 2-page form), and held it all together with a big binder clip. Then, we did the same for the I-765 and backup documentation, putting it in a second manila envelope. Then, we did the same for the I-131 and supporting documentation. Each of these envelopes was sealed and addressed to USCIS, with a note on the bottom corner stating what was in the envelope (“I-765, Employment Authorization Application”) Lastly, we put all 3 envelopes into one larger manila envelope, address it to USCIS, and mailed it off in one piece.
Over there, they can then open the one envelope and separate the inside envelopes to the departments where they belong for processing.
The above advice was given to the Webmaster from a poster on the USENET group alt.visa.us.marriage-based by “Rene”.
Make sure that you have all the checks ready to go. You may also want some Kleenex or a handkerchief since you are going to be paying through the nose for all this.
Now you will need to rent a large truck to carry all these forms to the Post Office. Send everything to the address listed on the forms, with a return receipt requested. This way you will know that someone got the packet.
Now you wait. Eventually you will receive a receipt from the USCIS with a code number on it. the number will look like MSC000000000. (I have removed the actual numbers used by us for privacy) You can then go to the USCIS web site and check the status of your case. You should receive a separate receipt for each form you put in. One for the AOS, One for the work permit and one for the travel parole. (We didn’t submit for the parole, so we didn’t have a receipt for this)
You can access the site by following this link: Case Status Service Online.
I would recommend creating an account there. You can then track all the submitted forms in one location, and it’s a lot easier then trying to type in the receipt numbers over and over again. If you go this route and create the account you will be able to watch the virtual cobwebs appear in real time as you wait for decisions on the various forms you submitted. You will also get an email notification every time someone touches your cases. Personally I think it’s just the cleaning staff moving things around and accidentally triggering the notification process. Reliable this isn’t.
Now the time lines. On the parole I can’t help you since I didn’t get one for my wife. (Stupid, Stupid, Stupid!) The work permit took about three months to process. The green card took over a year. I won’t go into the Social Security card disaster we had to deal with in this section. Suffice to say that we couldn’t get one until my wife had her work permit in hand.
As things progress your spouse will be called in repeatedly to provide “Biometric data.” In other words, fingerprints. Lots and lots of fingerprints. For each form you submit you can expect to be called in at least once. Mrs. Webmaster was called in three times. Once for her original work permit, once for her green card and once for the second work permit that she never needed. ($180 down the drain)
Oh yes, if you submit for extensions on things like the travel parole or work permits while waiting for the Green card, and the green card is approved, kiss those other fees good bye! The USCIS doesn’t refund money for services that aren’t used.
When the USCIS starts working on the AOS, you may be called in for an interview. This is to prove the marriage is valid and not a marriage of convenience. This is their last chance to “Get you.” Bring pictures, the marriage certificate, any bills that have both your names on them, the deed to the house if you have one, (and have your spouse’s name added to it), leases on rentals or small children if any. (I’m told that showing up with the wife in the family way is considered very good proof)
Mr. and Mrs. Webmaster lucked out. We didn’t have to go in for an interview. My guess is that was due to the fingerprints from two U.S. senators all over Mrs. Webmasters case files. Because of the delays we had getting information or resolution, the Webmaster requested that his Senators offices look into this for him. It appears that when the USCIS bureaucrats see congressional fingerprints on the files, they tend to process them a little quicker, especially when they see it from two different offices. Just my opinion of course.
After all this, your spouse should get her green card. (Provided nothing goes wrong) This cad is good for two years and is called a Provisional green card. After two years you will need to apply for the ten year card which gets those provisions removed. Needless to say we haven’t done it yet. I would recommend starting the paperwork within a year and keeping it updated until it is time to submit it. I’ve been told that you should not submit it until 90 days before it expires. I’ve also been told that you can get an extension if you need to in case the processing time takes longer then 90 days. (Which it probably will of course)
I hope this page provides you with some idea of what you need to do. Good luck! You’ll need it.