Please Note: I am not an attorney. This is not legal advice. Do not take this post as legal advice, as each case is unique. This post is a story about my experience with my spouse during the process of getting my husband’s marriage-based greencard in the US.
Now the fun begins! First, I am NOT an attorney, only the spouse of a foreigner. I can NOT give legal advice–only share with you my own experience. We did the immigration process several years ago, so you must double check all of the information below with USCIS to be sure it is current. At least these links give you a place to start! Here is the process we followed for legal immigration and work purposes:
- Check out the process for filing your paperwork. For some couples, it may be easier to get married outside of the US. For others, leaving the US could create serious problems until the foreign partner’s status changes. How do you check? Start with immigration discussion boards to get advice from people who had a similar situation to yours. Or ask an online immigration lawyer to be sure you are getting accurate advice.
- Check scenarios that could prevent your spouse from getting a greencard. If he or she is under deportation or entered the US illegally, marrying a US citizen will not guarantee that he or she gets a greencard.
- If the foreign spouse overstayed a visa but entered the US legally, realize that you may have to avoid travel outside of the US for months or even years. We had this situation and waited until the process was complete and my husband had a greencard before leaving the US.
- Assuming marriage in the US is the way to go, then get married!!! For us, this was the case. Couples can have a big wedding in a church or other location. Or you can get married by a Justice of the Peace. (We did both, but Justice of the Peace first to submit our paperwork quickly.) The courthouse or city clerk where you apply for your marriage certificate can tell you where to find the closest Justice of the Peace.
- Get copies of your marriage certificate. (TIP: Get 5 certified copies. I did it, and have needed them many times.)
- Prepare your paperwork for USCIS (U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services). There are many different immigration documents for various situations. To get information on your specific visa/greencard/immigration paperwork needs, I recommend this discussion board–see the section called Marriage-Based Greencards. There are three main situations–here are additional links:
- You are in the US. Your fiance is in another country. You want him/her to come here so you can get married. Read about the forms you will need here.
- You are in the US. Your spouse is in the US. You want to get married here. Read about forms you will need for USCIS here.
- You and your spouse have already gotten married (or plan to) in a foreign country. Read more here. (TIP: This one can cause problems if you need to come back to the US quickly because your spouse will need to wait in that country for paperwork before coming to the US–unless he/she already has a visa.)
- Shortly after you submit your paperwork for immigration, USCIS will send your new spouse an EAD card (Employment Authorization Document). With this, he or she can legally work!
- Once your spouse has the EAD card, he or she can apply for a social security number. Here is the link to the form, instructions, and addresses of local social security offices. (TIP: Your spouse should apply for a social security card as soon as possible, as a new employer cannot hire a person without one.)
- Before filling out any paperwork, call the USCIS to be absolutely sure that you have the right forms and that they have not expired!! Sometimes forms are available on the web, but they have expired–so call and ask before you take the trouble of filling out the forms. (Here is the 1800 number to USCIS.)