Typically, somebody who wants to apply for permanent residence or a green card while present in the United States has to qualify and has to meet specific requirements. One of the ways to obtain permanent residence is by marriage to a US Citizen so long as, it’s a real and bona fide marriage (one entered into in good faith). If the immigrant entered the United States legally and is engaged in a real and bona fide marriage, then the immigrant can apply for a green card while here in the United States. The process takes a few months. However, because of COVID it is taking longer now. Eventually, the immigrant and their US Citizen spouse attend an interview with an immigration officer. If everything goes well, then the immigrant is granted permanent residence. Marriage is the easiest, most straightforward path. Another straightforward path available is if a US citizen child over the age of 21 petitions for an immigrant parent. The parent also has to have a legal entry into the United States.
Other categories for a Family-Based Green Card
To be eligible for a Family-Based Green Card, you must fall under one of the following categories:
- Bona fide and real marriage to a US citizen
- The parent of a US citizen, if the sponsoring citizen is 21 years old or older
- Minor children of a US citizen
- Siblings of a US citizen
- Permanent residents’ spouse
- Children of a permanent resident who are not married
Process of applying for marriage-based adjustment of status
It is a little bit complicated when it comes to the number of forms that need to be submitted to immigration. All the forms explained below may be concurrently filed.
The I-130 form is the petition for an alien relative. The I-130 basically asks immigration to recognize the real relationship. So, the I-130 approval gives the immigrant the green light, the path to apply for permanent residence.
The application for permanent residence is on form I-485. It is a lengthy form, and it has to be completed truthfully and in its entirety, like all the other forms. Once it is granted, it actually adjusts your status from whatever original status you started with to permanent residents.
You can also submit other forms at the same time. You can submit form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization Document. Many people who can apply for permanent residence while in the United States can also obtain a work card while their application for their green card is pending.
Some people are also eligible for an I-131, Application for Travel Document, which allows them to travel abroad temporarily while the case is pending.
Another important form is the I-864, Affidavit of Support. The sponsor, which would likely be the petitioning relative (the spouse or adult child), must show that they make enough annual income to be able to sponsor the immigrant’s application for permanent residence.
In our practice, we try to submit all the application packets as complete as possible. We try to make sure that everything in every form is accounted for in every required document is initially submitted. Immigration will eventually schedule the immigrant for a biometrics appointment which is where they capture their fingerprints and photographs. Immigration then runs the appropriate background checks. If there’s some document that was missing or that they want to see, immigration will issue a Request for Evidence. It is usually provided with a deadline, typically they give 87 days to respond to a Request for Evidence. It has to be responded to on time to make sure the case is not delayed or denied.
Our practice makes sure everything is as complete as possible from the get-go so that there are no delays moving forward with the case. If there is no Request for Evidence issued, then eventually, the case gets transferred to the local immigration office and scheduled for an interview.
How long it might take and what could be the approximate cost?
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it was taking about nine months. Now, everything is kind of up in the air, and unfortunately, very difficult to give time frames.
In regard to pricing, for the government, there are filing fees. The filing fees are associated with the government processing each application that is submitted. Currently, the filing fees are $1760 for a complete Adjustment of Status package. These fees are just for immigration to process the applications and petition.
In regard to attorney’s fees, the way we work, we charge flat fees. We basically charge our clients based on the amount of work we expect to do on each case from beginning to end. We don’t charge hourly just because it is not what works best for our office. Regarding pricing, it’s on case-by-case basis and depends on the complexity of the case.
Is it required to consult an attorney?
It is not required, an attorney does not need to be involved. There’s a lot of information on the USCIS website available to everyone. Every form comes with its own instructions, so technically, anybody can do their immigration process on their own.
Typically, attorneys become involved because of complexities in cases such as previous criminal history, or if there is a complex issue with the immigrant’s immigration and travel history. The main thing that comes from hiring an attorney is peace of mind. All the forms that I previously mentioned vary from about 7 – 20 pages long. All of these forms just tack on to each other and become very long, and it becomes difficult for an individual to understand each point and fill all the forms by themselves, and this might lead to errors.
Although it’s not required to have an immigration attorney, it is very helpful to have one by your side. We know exactly the ins and outs of all those forms. While somebody can review everything on any USCIS website and gain a lot of knowledge, they won’t have that peace of mind of saying, “I know what I’m doing.” We help by completing all of the forms for our clients, and we monitor the case from beginning to end. If there is a Request for Evidence or anything like that, we assist our clients, we prepare our clients to attend the interview at the very end, and we even attend the interview with our clients.