Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Marriage Based Greencard

Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Marriage Based Greencard

Immigration attorney answers your questions about marriage-based greencards

Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Applying for a Marriage Based Greencard

Obtaining your greencard after marrying a U.S. Citizen can be a positive and happy experience but common mistakes can make the process needlessly stressful. Here are some common mistakes you should avoid when applying for your marriage based greencard:

1. Failing to file all of the necessary forms with the correct filing fees and requisite paperwork at the correct filing location: Unfortunately, immigration does not make it easy for you to obtain your entitled benefits. You must be certain to file all of the necessary forms: the spousal petition, the adjustment application, the biographic forms, the work authorization application, etc and to pay the immigration fees corresponding to the forms so that your case can be accepted for processing. If you omit a required form or forget to pay a fee your case will be rejected. You must also submit all of the required paperwork corresponding to each form. Also, immigration periodically changes the filing location for its cases so it is important to verify that you are sending your case to the correct address. An immigration attorney will of course correctly take care of all of this for you.

2. Waiting to apply thereby delaying your benefits: You and your spouse should apply for your marriage based greencard immediately after getting married. The longer you wait, the longer you will go without the benefits to which you are entitled and the longer you subsequently have to wait in order to apply for naturalization (U.S. Citizenship). Couples delay the process for many reasons, too burdensome, too costly, but delaying your benefits comes with a price as well. You may contact our office to learn more about the green card process at (916) 613-3553 or info@ranchodlaw.com.

3. Not anticipating how long the process will take for you to obtain your marriage based greencard: In a similar vein to the second most common mistake, many couples fail to account for how long it will take to complete processing of the marriage based greencard. After obtaining the requisite paperwork and filing the forms, you must attend a biometrics appointment and then the couple must attend an interview together. After approval, the greencard usually takes another four weeks to arrive in the mail. Hence, applying as soon after the marriage as possible is wise. In Sacramento San Francisco, and San Jose immigration offices we are noticing processing times that are taking approximately 3-8 months or longer before the interview date. Please note that these government processing times are always changing.

4. Not being thorough and honest in your application: Both spouses should be completely thorough and honest in their applications. For example, when the application asks for all places of residence and all employers for the last five years, it is important to list every single residence and every single employer for the entire five year time period. If you are incomplete or dishonest in your application and immigration catches you in a lie, the immigration officer may begin to wonder what else you are lying about. You definitely don’t want the immigration officer to think you are lying about the validity of your marriage.

5. Not gathering paperwork in support of your application: In addition to the basic required paperwork (certificates, passport style photographs, etc.) you will need to gather paperwork to help prove the legitimacy of your marriage. Examples of this latter type of paperwork may include copies of joint bank accounts, bills, proof of a shared home, photographs of shared life experiences, and testimonials from loved ones or other individuals with knowledge of the relationship. Don’t be lazy! Get the documents together so that the immigration officer doesn’t have any doubt as to the validity of the relationship.

6. Missing your appointments: When immigration schedules you for an appointment (biometrics or the interview appointment) it is very important to attend. If you do not attend, your case will be delayed and could even be denied. If immigration schedules you for an appointment at a date or time that you cannot attend, your attorney can reschedule the appointment for you. It is better to reschedule the appointment then to simply not attend.

7. Not preparing for your interview: It is very important to prepare yourself for your immigration interview. Your attorney can advise you as to the typical format of these interviews, some common questions asked, and some of the tactics used by some immigration officers. If you appear nervous at your interview, the officer may think that you are trying to deceive the immigration authorities and, in turn, your interview can become more intensive. It is best to know what to expect so that you can be relaxed and appropriately responsive.

8. Not discussing the basics of your relationship with your spouse: Prior to your interview it is going to be very important for you and your spouse to go over some of the basics of your relationship. For example, when and how did you meet, the details of your engagement, the details of your wedding, recent celebrations, finances, etc. It is fairly common for one spouse to misspeak at the interview in regards to a date and then it makes it seem like the couple is lying. Also, two answers can both be true but different. For example, to the question of how the couple met, one might say “online,” while the other says “in a bar.” Both are true (the couple first learned of each other online but met for the first time in a bar) but if the couple gave these answers at their interview the immigration officer might think that the couple is making up their answers and are not in a true relationship. Your immigration attorney will go over all of the common questions in your preparation interview.

9. Thinking that immigration will give you the benefit of the doubt: Immigration will NOT, I repeat, WILL NOT, give you the benefit of the doubt if you or your spouse misspeaks or accidentally provides incorrect information. For example, if you say that you started dating in 2002 and your spouse says 2001, immigration will not write this off as a faded memory, absolutely not, immigration will question you believing that you’ve made up the details of the relationship for the purpose of obtaining unwarranted immigration benefits. Also, if immigration has any doubt, your case will be denied.

10. The final and most critical mistake couples make is not hiring an immigration attorney. There are so many things that can go wrong if you do not have the proper advice and guidance. Hiring an immigration attorney from the inception is affordable and will make the process as stress free and efficient as possible. We see so many couples who don’t come to us until after immigration issues a request for additional evidence or worse, a denial. Don’t let this happen to you. Contact us today at (916) 613-3553. We have offices conveniently located in Sacramento and the Bay area (San Francisco), California but we help clients throughout the United States.

Written by:
Published by: The Ranchod Law Group

Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

Click Here to read Ranchod Law.com Content in Spanish

Same-Sex Marriage

Illinois Legalizes Same-Sex Marriage

In late November of 2013, Illinois legalized , putting the state on track to join the fourteen other states:

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Delaware
  • Iowa
  • Maine
  • Maryland
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • New Hampshire
  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Vermont
  • Washington

and the District of Colombia, in allowing same sex couples to marry.

Previously, we discussed the availability of (also see the ).

If you live in a state where gay and lesbian couples are not allowed to marry then you must travel to a state where such marriage is allowed and marry there. Then, provided you and your spouse meet all other requirements, you may confer immigration benefits on your spouse.

If your same sex partner is abroad, you may choose to marry in a country where same-sex marriage is legal, like:

  • Canada
  • France
  • Great Britain
  • South Africa

or Spain among other countries. A legal same sex marriage abroad can also be used to confer immigration benefits on your foreign spouse. Our clients are located all over the U.S. and abroad so if you can’t visit our Sacramento or our San Francisco offices you can still contact us at (916) 613–3553.

Reuniting Same Sex Couples

We have already filed and are preparing these same sex marriage cases. It is bringing me a great deal of joy to reunite same sex couples who were previously unable to enjoy the same immigration benefits as heterosexual married couples.

Published by:

Marijuana Your Greencard and Waivers

I smoked pot and didn’t get caught, do I need a waiver?

Today, we will discuss the effect of smoking marijuana for a person who is otherwise eligible for adjustment of status (the process of getting your greencard while in the U.S.)

When you apply for a greencard you will be asked on the application whether you have “knowingly committed any drug related offense for which you have NOT been arrested.” In other words, the application asks whether you have been involved in a drug crime for which you were not caught. If you have ever smoked marijuana, knowing that it was illegal, then the answer to that question is yes.

At the end of your greencard application you will need to sign, under penalty of perjury, that all of the information in your application is true and correct. By signing your greencard application you are swearing that everything in the application is the truth.

Thankfully, one option is to apply for a waiver for having experimented with marijuana. Generally, the waiver will require you to demonstrate extreme and unusual hardship to a qualifying relative. A qualifying relative is a U.S. Citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse, child, or parent. There are many ways to show hardship, for example, emotional and/or financial. You do not need to show extreme and unusual hardship (though you will still need a waiver) if it has been more than 15 years since your marijuana use or if you are a VAWA self petitioner.

Note that in deciding your waiver, immigration will weigh the negatives in your case (your marijuana usage) again the positives (for example, family ties, your job, paying taxes, educational accomplishments, community ties, etc.) Since you are being upfront about your criminality you will appear more favorably before immigration than had you been caught.

It is very important to always be honest in all of your immigration matters. Lying to the U.S. Immigration Service can get you in bigger trouble than the issue you were lying about. If the lie is discovered, you are in double trouble – not only the original problem about which you lied, but also in trouble for lying. Lying in and of itself will require a waiver.

If you have an issue you’d like to discuss with us, you can do so confidentially by calling us at (916) 613 – 3553. It is best to be well informed so that you don’t find yourself in even more trouble later. We have the experience and knowledge to advise you and guide you in all of your immigration matters.

Unlawful Presence Part 4 – What is the procedure for getting a Hardship Waiver for unlawful presence

Click Here to read Ranchod Law.com Content in Spanish
The first step in the Immigrant Visa process is to file a marriage petition in the US, (I-130), along with supporting evidence.

Once the marriage is reviewed by USCIS and the I-130 is approved, the case is forwarded to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will then request more documents to evaluate if the foreign national is eligible and forward the case to the US embassy in the applicant’s native country.

The embassy will schedule a marriage interview to evaluate whether the marriage is legitimate. The embassy will also identify different bars to immigration (grounds of inadmissibility). There are several bars to immigration, but by far the most common is the unlawful presence bar.

If a foreign national is subject to unlawful presence, the embassy will ask them to file an I-601 hardship waiver. This application must be thoroughly prepared and contain supporting evidence to prove that the United States citizen spouse would face extreme hardship if the foreign national was forced to return to their home country.

The I-601 waiver is not processed by the embassy, but forwarded to the nearest immigration office in the native country of the applicant. The decision can take several months or longer, during which time the applicant will have to wait in his or her country.

Once the waiver is granted, the person can return to the United States as a permanent resident.

However, if the waiver is denied, the person has the right to appeal. If the appeal is denied, they will have to wait outside the United States for either 3 or 10 years, even if they are married to a US citizen or have children in the United States.

It is very important to be well prepared and have an experienced immigration attorney represent you in this process. For more information or for help with your particular case, please contact our offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sacramento, California at 415-986-6186.

[gravityform id=2 title=true description=true]

Unlawful Presence Part 3 – The I-601 Waiver

Click Here to read Ranchod Law.com Content in Spanish
To obtain a waiver of unlawful presence to be able to re-enter the United States, you have to show extreme and unusual hardship to your spouse who is a US citizen or lawful permanent resident or son or daughter of a United States Citizen or Permanent Resident.  Please note unlawful presence prior to April 1, 1997 may not be considered for inadmissibility.  (this blog post assumes that  the foreign national requires a waiver because they accrued unlawful presence by entering without inspection or departed the United States after the expiration of the period of stay authorized by the Attorney General – for more than 180 days).

What exactly falls into the category of extreme hardship?

Here are some of the most common factors that are looked at:

Medical hardship: For example, the US citizen has a serious disease such as cancer and needs his or her spouse to help with medical treatment or financial support.

Psychological hardship: Everybody will experience some level of psychological or emotional hardship if separated from his or her spouse, but that is not enough to qualify for a hardship waiver. For example, if the US citizen spouse is unusually vulnerable because of traumatizing experiences in the past; this could demonstrate that this psychological hardship is more than the usual pain of separation from a spouse.

Community ties: Would the US citizen be able to live in the native country of the spouse? Do they speak the local language? Would they be able to integrate in the local community? Or would they have to face extreme hardship by moving to the country of the spouse?

For more information or for help with your particular case, please contact our offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sacramento, California at 415-986-6186.

[gravityform id=2 title=true description=true]

Unlawful Presence Part 2 – Waivers

In my last post I discussed how an unlawful presence is incurred and how it can bar you from immigrating to the United States or even from getting a temporary visa. In this article, I would like to discuss how to get a waiver.

Before doing that, let’s have a look at some special scenarios.

Unlawful presence is only triggered when someone leaves the United States. If you have entered the country legally, let’s say on a tourist visa for example, your visa has expired and you’ve married a US citizen, you would be able to process your case within the United States and thus not have a problem with unlawful presence (please note that if you entered on the Visa Waiver Program and overstayed you should consult an immigration attorney before adjusting status to determine whether or not you are able to adjust your status).

Unlawful presence comes into the picture when you’ve entered the country illegally in the first place and have no way of adjusting your status or of processing your case within the country. The moment you leave the United States to get a visa from a US embassy in another country, you trigger the unlawful presence bar.

So, what do you do, when you are in this situation?

Waiver for unlawful presence.

The I-601 waiver – The most common cases are Green Card cases, where somebody wants to come back to the United States to be with their spouse.
To get a waiver of unlawful presence, you have to show extreme and unusual hardship to your US citizen or permanent resident spouse (if your application is based on marriage to a US citizen).

For more information or for help with your particular case, please contact our offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sacramento, California at 415-986-6186.

[gravityform id=2 title=true description=true]

Unlawful Presence Part 1

This is an important issue and very relevant to people, who have entered the United States unlawfully and later on want to marry a US citizen or gain some kind of other immigration benefit.

What is unlawful presence?

A very common unlawful presence scenario is when someone enters the country on a tourist visa, which has a set expiry date, and overstays. If you don’t leave the country before the expiry date, you start to accumulate unlawful presence.

Unlawful presence can be a bar to immigrating to the United States. If you have more than 180 days of unlawful presence, you are not allowed to enter the U.S. or adjust status (banned) for 3 years. After 1 year of unlawful presence, the ban goes up to 10 years. For example, if you’ve entered the United States on a tourist visa and have overstayed for more than 180 days and now leave the country to get a student visa or any other kind of visa, you will be barred from entering the United States for 3 years. This bar is very rigid. Even if you marry a US citizen a few months after leaving the country, you would still be barred for 3 years.

(this blog post assumes that  the foreign national requires a waiver because they accrued unlawful presence by entering without inspection or departed the United States after the expiration of the period of stay authorized by the Attorney General – for more than 180 days).

However, you can obtain a waiver of the three or ten year bar by applying for a waiver. I will discuss these waivers in my next post.

Exemptions from the unlawful presence bar.

Two examples are students and J1 visas, which don’t have expiration dates and are valid for the duration of status.

For more information or for help with your particular case, please contact our offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara and Sacramento, California at 415-986-6186.

[gravityform id=2 title=true description=true]

What happens when the sponsor for a marriage based green card doesn’t have the minimum required income?

The Affidavit of Support

The Affidavit of Support is one of the most complicated and important forms required during the marriage based green card immigration process.

If you are a United States Citizen or a Green Card holder and you sponsor somebody to come to the United States, then you need to make certain promises to the US government. One of them is that you have the means to support this person financially. You must show to the USCIS that you have sufficient income to ensure that the beneficiary will not become a public charge.

In order for you to be able to sponsor a foreign national for a green card, your income must meet or exceed 125% of the Federal poverty guidelines indicated for your household size. The exact amount for the Federal poverty guidelines is updated every year. You can find the current guidelines here:

The Affidavit of Support must be filed at the same time as the green card petition.

If you don’t meet the income requirements, you have to find a joint sponsor for the green card petition, who is also a US citizen or permanent resident. Typically, this person would be a family member or a very close friend, although legally, it could be any person who meets the requirements. This joint sponsor must complete an additional Affidavit of Support, in which he or she attests that the beneficiary will not become a public charge.

Both Affidavit of Support forms, along with supporting documentation such as verification of salary and employment, tax returns, recent paystubs, etc. will be included in the green card petition.

If you find yourself in a situation where you are sponsoring your spouse to get a green card, please contact us in our offices in San Francisco, Santa Clara, and Sacramento. You can call us at 800-753-1399. We will be happy to assist you.

Green Card Through Marriage – San Francisco green card lawyer

Every year more than 400.000 US citizens petition for their non-US citizen partners to obtain a green card for the US. The process of application for a marriage based green card is usually much faster than for other types of green cards, since they are exempt from the quota limitations.

The applicants have to supply evidence that they are legally married to a U.S. citizen. Certified copies of marriage licenses or certificates are often a necessary component of this requirement, as is a proof of termination of any previous marriage.

Demonstrating that you are married is straightforward:  ( please note that there are a myriad of additional documents that must be submitted with a green card application in addition to a certified copy of the marriage certificate).

The couple must be legally married. Marriages are acknowledged as long as they are legal in the place where they were made. Neither partner can be married to someone else at the same time.

The two most common scenarios on the path to a green card:

K-1 Fiancee Visa – for couples not yet married

The K-1 Fiancee Visa is for those foreign nationals, who are not yet married to a US citizen, but intend to do so and remain permanently in the United States. This visa is only given to fiancées of US citizens, not to fiancées of green card holders. For the K-1 Visa, proof of the relationship and engagement have to be provided.

After entering the US on a K-1 fiancee visa, the marriage must take place within 90 days. After the marriage has been made legal, the holder of the K-1 visa has to apply for a change of status to obtain a green card.

K-3 Family Visa – for couples already married outside the US

Immigrants who are already legally married to a US immigrant can enter the US on a K-3 family visa. The K-3 visa was originally designed by the congress to bridge the long wait for an immigrant visa.

There are a number of factors to consider when applying for a fiancee visa, marriage visa or marriage based green card. For further details on the matter, please refer to our Marriage Based Green Card page.  Before you take any further actions, it is best to consult an experienced immigration attorney to help you make the right decisions.  Contact us at 415-986-6186 to schedule a consultation at our San Francisco, Santa Clara or Sacramento office.
[gravityform id=2 title=true description=true]