PODCAST EPISODE ONE
Welcome to the first episode of U.S. Immigration Knowledge Blocks. My name is Jon Jessen. I am a lawyer who been practicing immigration law in the United States for more than 25 years. I have represented thousands of clients before U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, otherwise known as USCIS, which is the agency that handles and processes immigration applications. I have also represented clients before the immigration courts in deportation hearings, as well as the federal courts concerning appeals.
What is U.S. Immigration Knowledge Blocks?
U.S. Immigration Knowledge Blocks is a knowledge base for providing information and products that will help people understand the U.S. immigration process. For example, if you are married to a U.S. citizen and want to apply for a Green Card, U.S. Immigration Knowledge Blocks provides information through podcasts, videos, eBooks, and soon online workshops and classes, concerning the immigration process.
The information provided by U.S. Immigration Knowledge Blocks, as well as in this podcast, is not legal advice, but legal information. You should always consult with an immigration attorney when necessary.
I have edited this transcript and added content so this is not an exact duplicate of the Episode One transcript.
In today’s episode, we are discussing obtaining a Green Card through marriage to a U.S. citizen. This discussion will be limited to obtaining a green card through marriage without having to leave the United States.
Requirements for a Green Card Based on Marriage
- Marriage Must be Bona Fide
The main requirement for this process is that, first and foremost, the marriage must be bona fide. What I mean by a bona fide marriage is that the marriage did not occur for the sole reason for the person to be able to receive a Green Card. This is otherwise known as a business marriage, where the immigrant pays a person to marry them for the sole reason of that person receiving a Green Card.
- Marriage Must Be Legal
Secondly, there must have been a legal marriage. In other words, if either of the spouses has previously been married, then the prior marriage must have been legally terminated either through the death of the prior spouse or through a divorce.
Also, the marriage must be recognized as a legal marriage in the United States. For example, if Alberto and Maria were married in Mexico in a church ceremony but never issued a marriage certificate by the Mexican government the marriage will not be recognized as a legal marriage in the U.S.
- The Petitioner Must be a U.S. Citizen
The spouse who is filing the green card application on behalf of the immigrant must be a U.S. citizen, either by birth in the United States or by being naturalized (applying for citizenship after having a green card).
- Entry in the U.S. with Inspection
The immigrant must have entered the United States with a visa. This requires that, in order to receive a Green Card in the United States, the person being sponsored for the Green Card must not have entered the United States illegally by, for example, crossing the border, but must have entered legally with a visa.
- Immigration Violations / Criminal Convictions
Next, the person being sponsored for the Green Card must be otherwise eligible in the sense that the person must not have had certain criminal convictions, as well as not having certain prior immigration violations, which make them ineligible for the Green Card.
Michael is a U.S. citizen and he has recently married Jill, who is from Great Britain. Jill entered the United States with a visitor visa in 2015. The visa was for six months, but Jill decided to remain in the United States and not return to Great Britain. Therefore, Jill is what’s called an overstay in that she entered the United States legally with a visa, but she overstayed the visa beyond the six-month period of time that she was legally entitled to remain in the United States.
In 2016, Jill meets Michael, they begin dating, and they marry in 2019. Jill has no criminal convictions, she’s never been arrested, and her only immigration violation is that she overstayed her visitor visa.
It, therefore, appears in this example that the marriage is bona fide in that Jill met Michael, they became romantically involved, and then decided to get married. As a result, it is Michael’s right to then petition Jill for a Green Card. Since Michael is a US citizen, and Jill entered the U.S. with a visa, she can apply for the Green Card without having to leave the United States.
Now, just because Jill is married to a US citizen does not mean that she will automatically receive the Green Card. She will have to file all of the necessary applications with USCIS, and there will also be an interview at the end of the process, which is mandatory. At that interview, the immigration officer will determine whether the marriage is bona fide.
Now, in order to prove that a marriage is bona fide, Michael and Jill have the burden of proving to USCIS that they have been living together since the date of the marriage up through the time of the interview. USCIS will be looking for certain documentation to prove this. Generally, the USCIS immigration officer will want to see what’s called the co-mingling of finances, such as joint bank accounts. The officer will also want to see joint tax returns after the marriage, joint credit cards, both names on the residential lease, as well as any other information or documentation to prove that they’re living together at the same address since the date of marriage.
Today was just a brief overview of the Green Card marriage process. Obviously, there are a lot of different subsections to discuss in this process. Today’s discussion was a fairly straightforward example where someone has legally entered the United States, has not committed any fraud or other immigration violations, have no criminal arrests or convictions, and the marriage is bona fide in the sense that there was a bona fide relationship leading up to the marriage and then the filing of the applications for the green card.
In future podcasts, we will discuss potential issues if someone has been arrested or if there are certain immigration violations, what the process would be, or what would be involved in filing the green card application.
I will be providing these podcasts on a weekly basis and also will be doing video podcasts as well in the future, which will help to explain the process through visual aids.
Jon E. Jessen, Attorney