UNDERSTANDING THE MARRIAGE BASED ‘GREEN CARD’.
Majority of foreigners visit the great United States with no intention of immigrating. Most enter United States as visitors, students and non-immigrant employees. However, as they start enjoying all the positives of the USA, they find themselves slowly settling down and quite a number take the bold step to enter into a relationship that culminates into a marriage.
I have penned a three part series of Marriage Based Adjustment of Status as follows;
- 1. Introduction and understanding the process
- 2. Documenting good faith marriage
- 3. How to handle the marriage based adjustment of status interview and sample questions we have encountered during the many interviews we have attended all over the nation.
The allure and desire for family union makes quite a number of people consider immigrating into the United States especially those whom their spouses are U.S citizens. This thought sends shudders to many as they dread navigating through the complex immigration process through family based adjustment of status.
There are many scary tales told about how the process has on various occasions turned into a nightmare to many foreigners. Either due to lack of proper documentation, lack of co-operation from one of the spouse, instances of selective amnesia during the adjustment of status interview, presence of negative factors that makes the intending applicant inadmissible into legal permanent resident and in unfortunate instances outright refusal by the Citizen spouse to accompany the immigrating spouse to the Adjustment of Status interview or ‘getting’ missing just hours or days before interview.
The big question is? Why get yourself into this unpredictable process which may just but cause stomach ulcers to you?
Marriage based adjustment of status process involves;-
- - Falling in love
- - Marrying
- - Filing the petition and the application for adjustment of status
- - Adjustment of status interview in a local USCIS field office
- - Happily living in the U.S as a Legal Permanent Resident with all the benefits that appertains
The complexity of this process normally arises from the fact that, the married couple is obligated to prove that their marriage was entered into, in good faith, out of love and with the intention of living as husband and wife. The immigration benefit is just but a by-product of this good faith marriage. Any marriage entered into solely for immigration benefit is referred to as a sham marriage, which has serious criminal consequences at State and Federal level.
The purpose of the adjustment of status interview is for the U.S citizen petitioner to prove that their marriage is real and for the USCIS officer to determine whether there are some facts and issues which raises suspicion as to the truth of what the parties are alleging.
There is no scientific way for the USCIS interviewing officer to determine that the marriage was in good faith or otherwise. The determination is circumstantial based on various factors like;-
- - Sworn testimony by the parties narrating their relationship from their first meeting to the material of the interview
- - Consistency of the filled information on the USCIS forms and parties testimony
- - The demeanor of the couple during the interview
- - Public, private and social media information
- - The documentary evidence provided during the interview
- - Consistency or otherwise of the information provided in the application and that previously provided to U.S Department of State (Embassy abroad) or Homeland Security in prior interaction
- - Findings of a field investigation (home visit) on the couple
The USCIS interviewing officer are highly trained and in many instances have very valid and sound reasons to suspect that the marriage is not in good faith. It is for this reason that it is not advisable for any foreigner to attempt getting into any act that can lead to serious criminal consequences in the U.S which can send one to jail or be deported.
To determine whether the marriage is in good faith, the adjudicating officer generally considers the following factors;-
- - Circumstances before your wedding- meeting, dating and proposal
- - Details of your wedding day- preparation, conduct and details of this wedding day
- - Circumstances after the wedding- Consummation of the marriage and leading a shared life as husband and wife.
- - Available evidence to support the above three.
Circumstances Before your wedding
During our firm’s combined experience of many years of attending marriage interviews, majority of the times the interview starts with, ‘how and when did you meet?’ The USCIS officer at this point wants the couple to break the ice and give details of their relationship right from inception.
A lot of USCIS officers are very experienced and they easily detect a rehearsed and stereotyped response to this question. That heavily determines the direction the rest of the interview will take. In my interaction with many married couple friends of mine (outside my work as an attorney), I have realized many accurately remember the date and circumstances that led to their initial meeting with near 100% accuracy. So, in a situation that one couple is unable to clearly and accurately describe their initial meeting; an officer will immediately start doubting the good faith intention of the couple. The advice is, this question needs to be answered with very specific and detailed description of how the couple met. In many instances, where either of the couple describes this initial meeting with enough relevant details, the officers normally get a good impression and the interview in most instances runs very smooth. Where such a question is asked without indicating whether it is the husband or the wife being asked, the advice is to let the more eloquent of the couple respond to the question and the other can chip in with any missing relevant and important detail.
Are there ideal circumstances before marriage? Not really, but some circumstances can raise a red flag.
The duration between meeting, proposal and wedding can make one question the marriage. Where the couple met and within less than six months, they were already married, an officer may have some concern about the intention of the parties in the marriage. Though the officer may not question as to the short duration between these two, s/he might want to consider more deeply other circumstances of your relationship and the documented evidence of good faith marriage. This is what at times may lead to Stoke’s interview.( A Stoke’s interview will be discussed in the next article on this topic- when the couple is separated and interviewed separately)
Details of your dating and documented evidence of this dating play a major role during the marriage interview. If you met on very few occasions during the dating, and you lack proper convincing explanation for this, it might be difficult to convince an officer that your marriage was entered in good faith. There are situations where the couple might have been unable to meet regularly during the dating. In such situations, the couple needs to have a convincing explanation for it and provide evidence or describe the other alternatives they had in place of meeting. This is where social media and communication records like telephone play a major role.
This quick marriage can have a ripple effect especially to someone who just recently entered the country. Despite proper documentation of the marriage and consistent testimony during the interview, an intending immigrant may be found inadmissible based on fraudulent acquisition of the non-immigrant visa in the foreign country as the USCIS may find the ‘dual-intent’ case in the non-immigrant visa application. This is a situation where a foreigner is found that, despite acquiring the non-immigrant visa properly, his/her real intention was to immigrate. This can arise also in situations where the couple had previously met in a foreign country and had extensively discussed the issue of marriage and the application process once the foreigner arrives in the United States.
The proposal should be very well documented or accurately described by both couples as this is expected to be a happy moment in a relationship. It normally does not matter whether it is the citizen or the foreigner who proposes. Neither does it matter whether it’s the gentleman or the lady that proposes. Equally, the form and manner of the proposal does not count. What the officer is looking for is accurate and sufficient details of the proposal. It is unexplainable for either of the party not to accurately remember details of the proposal.
The discussion of the wedding details and the moving in and the honey moon would be expected to have taken place during this time. It is not a wonder for an officer to inquire as to when the wedding arrangements were discussed and whether you involved any other person. Moreso, a question can be asked as to how you settled for the honeymoon in the particular way you did. Remember, at all this time, the officer is not so much interested as to how you are meticulate in your planning or how good you are in organization, equally so, how good a couple you are in wedding arrangement, but rather, all s/he is looking for is consistent details of the wedding plans.
Wedding day being a great day in one’s life, the officer normally asks about specific details of the wedding day and also the eve of the wedding. Questions may be asked about what the parties did on the eve of the wedding and where they spent the night. The officer will normally be interested to find out if there is something you did together. If there is, details of such activities and discussion can be delved into. On the wedding day, specific details normally asked are like, how did you get to the wedding, who attended your wedding, who were your witnesses, how well do you know the witnesses, what you did after the wedding, was there any reception and if yes, details as to location and attendance, and finally where did the couple go after the wedding. The officer would want to gauge how you hold this day in your mind and what was the state of mind of both parties during the wedding. Assume a situation where one of the party claims that s/he took some few hours off her work to attend the wedding and immediately returned to work after the wedding. There is nothing wrong with such scenario, but unfortunately, it would speak a lot about how you did not regard this day with importance. If a bride or a groom cannot afford to take an off during their own wedding, this would show that the wedding was not so important in their life. A petition cannot be denied because either party did not hold the wedding day with the importance it deserved, but rather, it would raise a red flag leading to more aggressive questioning and in most situations, call for further investigation causing massive delay in adjudication of your green card application.
Once you are done with the adjustment of status interview, and your application is approved, you will either get a 2 year green card or 10 year green card based on the 2nd anniversary of your wedding. When the application is approved before your 2nd anniversary, you normally get a conditional 2 year permanent residency, but if it’s after the 2nd anniversary you will get the 10 year green card. There are pros and cons of either of the scenario.
Now, the big question remains, how I ensure my petition is approved. Look out for the next article on proving good faith marriage.
Attorneys at Wanjohi & Muli Law Firm are very experienced in green card application process through marriage to a U.S Citizen. You can contact us through our Toll Free Number 1-855-925-4547 (1-855-WAKILIS) or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org for specific advice and guidance in this or any other immigration process.
Visit our website www.wanjohimulilaw.com quite often for periodic and regular immigration news update and information.
DISCLAIMER: Any opinion in this article is that of Wanjohi & Muli Law Firm Pllc and is not intended to act as legal opinion. Entering into a Fraudulent Marriage is prohibited under the Law.