Green Card Frequently Asked Questions

What is green card?

A Green Card is issued to U.S. permanent residents as proof of their authorization to live and work in the United States.  U.S. permanent residency can be obtained several different ways. Most applicants for permanent residency are sponsored by a family member or employer in the United States. More information about how to obtain a green card can be found on under the practice areas section of our web-site.

Do I qualify for a Green Card?

In order to qualify for a green card through a relationship to a U.S. Citizen you must fall under one of the following relationships:

  1. Spouse
  2. Son or Daughter
  3. Parent (if the U.S. Citizen child is over the age of 21)
  4. Brother or Sister (if the U.S. Citizen child is over the age of 21)

In order to qualify for a green card through a relationship to a U.S. Permanent Resident you must fall under one of the following relationships:

  1. Spouse
  2. Unmarried children of any age

Do I automatically get a green card when I marry a U.S. Citizen?

NO. Obtaining a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen is not automatic. In order to obtain a green card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen certain processes and procedures must be followed. This is done to ensure that individuals receiving benefits receive them based on a bona fide marriage and not for immigration benefits.

What is a conditional resident green card?

A conditional resident green card is issued when at the time of becoming a permanent resident the marriage was less than two years old. This status expires in two years. If the marriage has been in existence for longer than two years at the time of becoming a permanent resident, then a permanent green card is issued.  The issuance of conditional resident status is done by USCIS to make sure that the marriage is bona fide and was not entered into for immigration benefits. At the end of the two-year conditional residency period the conditions can be lifted by filing Form I-751 with USCIS at which point a permanent green card may be issued.

How long after I long after I receive my Green Card can I naturalize?

If your Green card was obtained based on marriage to a U.S. Citizen then you become eligible to file for naturalization after three (3) years as a permanent resident. If you obtained your green card through any other relationship to a U.S. Citizen you become eligible to apply for naturalization after five (5) years as a permanent resident.

What is a priority date?

Unless you are the immediate relative of a U.S. Citizen, then your green card petition is subject to the visa bulletin. Family-sponsored immigration petitions are numerically limited by the U.S. Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). Each year more petitions are received than the number of visas allotted by the INA. This creates case backlogs and long wait times for many family-sponsored immigration petitions. Once a family-based petition is filed USCIS issues a priority date, the priority date is the date at which you become eligible to complete the green card process. This process is similar to going to your local department of motor vehicles for an appointment. When you arrive you are given a number and remain seated until your number is called. Your number is not called until all those that arrived before you have been serviced. Depending on the line that you are in, there can be little to no wait time, or an extended wait time. The number issued is similar to a priority date. Your visa petition will be reviewed when your priority date is current. In other words, you must wait in line until all others that have arrived before you have been serviced.

Each month the U.S. Department of State issues the visa bulletin. The visa bulletin can be used to determine when you will become eligible to complete the green card process. Since many family-based immigration cases have long backlogs, it is best to commence the process immediately in order to obtain a priority date.

How Do I know what my priority date is?

After you have filed a petition with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services you will be issued Form I-797, Notice of Action. This notice will contain information such as:

  • Receipt Number
  • Case Type
  • Receipt Date
  • Priority Date
  • Petitioner
  • Notice Date
  • Beneficiary

The date listed under the heading “Priority Date” is your priority date. This date can be compared to the visa bulletin to determine when you will become eligible to complete the green card process.

Can I work in the U.S. while I await approval of my green card petition?

If you are the beneficiary of a green card petition with an immediately available priority date, you can file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. Upon approval of Form I-765 you will be issued an “Employment Authorization Document”, or EAD Card. The EAD card grants you the permission to work while you await the arrival of your permanent resident card.

What Kind of proof do we need to show that our marriage is real?

In order to show that you have entered into marriage out of love and not for immigration benefits, you must be prepared to show the following types of evidence:

  • Birth certificates of any children resulting from the union.
  • Bank statements for checking and/or savings accounts showing account(s) are shared by both spouses.
  • Rental receipts or agreements showing both spouses as lessees.
  • Auto insurance and registration showing both spouses as carriers and owners
  • Identification of USC spouse such as passport or driver’s license
  • Credit card statements with names of both spouses as joint holders
  • Wedding announcement and/or wedding photographs
  • Any other relevant evidence to support the validity of the marriage.

How do I apply for a green card for my foreign national spouse?

The process of applying for a green card for a spouse varies. If the foreign spouse it currently within the United States in legal status, Form I-130 and Form I-485 can be filed concurrently. If the spouse entered as a Fiancé(e), then a green card is obtained by filing Form I-485. If the foreign spouse is outside the United States the process begins by filing Form I-130. Filing for your foreign spouse is a complex and sensitive matter. Contact us for more information on the process, necessary Forms and supporting evidence needed to receive approval of your application.

What is Form I-864 Affidavit of Support?

Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, is required for most family-based green card petitions as evidence that the applicant has enough financial resources to live without worry of relying on government welfare. The household income requirements increase for each member of the household and are set by the Federal Poverty Guidelines. All sponsors are required to submit proof of current employment and a copy of their most recent Federal income tax return with supporting 1099 forms and W-2s.

What is a joint sponsor?

If the petitioner of a family-based green card application cannot meet the income requirements to sponsor their relative, they may apply with a joint sponsor whose income/assets equal at least 125 percent of the Poverty Guidelines. A joint sponsor must be at least 18 years old, be domiciled in the United States and can be a U.S. citizen or lawful U.S. permanent resident.

What are the income requirements?

The income requirement is 125 percent of the Poverty Guidelines (100 percent if you are on active duty in the U.S. Military and sponsoring your spouse or child). The income requirement increase per household member.

Is the joint sponsor required at the interview?

No. However they may require a letter from the joint sponsor’s current employer and copies of the joint sponsors most recent pay statements to verify employment

What kind of questions do they ask at the interview?

The purpose of the I-485 interview is to determine if the marriage is bona-fide, entered into for love and not a green card. The officer is able to ask questions that will reveal the true nature of the marital relationship. Such questions can include:

  • When and where did you and your spouse first meet?
  • Where did your spouse propose?
  • Who does the household chores?
  • Who sleeps on which side of the bed?
  • What is your spouse’s favorite movie?
  • What are the names of your spouse’s parents and sibling?
  • How do you handle marital disputes?

If the marriage appears bona-fide on its face, the questions are often limited and the total interview time can be under 30 minutes. It is important that a green card application be filed with as much evidence to support the bona-fides of the marriage as possible.

Do my spouse and I both have to be present at the interview?


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