Immigration Lawyer Chicago/ Chicago Immigration Visas and Green Cards/ Family Sponsorship Lawyer: Visa Requirements, FAWs, and Hiring an Immigration Lawyer/ Citizenship for Military Spouses: A Comprehensive Guide To Obtaining a Green Card
Serving in the military can mean traveling the world for many years while deployed. While on duty, you may be lucky enough to find the person that you want to marry. However, it may not be that easy if they’re not a U.S. citizen. If you’re in the military marrying a non-U.S. citizen, being together always isn’t as simple as saying “I do.”
The following is a guide to help you navigate the military spouse green card process to ensure your spouse is able to gain legal residence in the United States.
A marriage green card gives the holder permanent residency status in the United States. Once you have a green card, you can indefinitely live and work anywhere in the U.S. You can also apply for U.S. citizenship for a military spouse after 3 to 5 years if you choose.
From start to finish, the entire process of obtaining a green card for a military spouse can take anywhere from ten months to three years. Here are the basic steps involved, but the process will look different depending on your situation.
There are a few requirements that must be met in order to be eligible for a marriage green card.
The spouse sponsoring the green card must also meet certain requirements:
If you are married to a service member, getting a green card begins by filing an I-130 Petition for Alien Relative with the USCIS.
Your U.S. citizen spouse will need to file the I-130 on your behalf because, as a general rule, immigrants cannot sponsor themselves for a green card.
Once the USCIS approves the I-130, they will send it to the National Visa Center (NVC) for processing. The NVC will then send you an instruction packet. Generally, if you’re already in the United States, you may be eligible to get your green card by filing Form I-485.
This instruction packet will tell you what forms you need to fill out and what documents you need to gather. It is very important that you carefully follow the instructions in the packet. If you do not, your case could be delayed or even denied.
Once you have gathered the required documents, you must send them to the NVC. They will review your case, and if everything is in order, they will schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you live.
At the interview, a consular officer will ask questions about your marriage and relationship with your spouse. They will also ask you questions to determine if you are eligible for a green card.
If the consular officer determines that you are eligible for a green card, they will issue you a conditional green card. This green card is valid for two years.
Ninety days before your conditional green card expires, you and your spouse will need to file a joint petition to remove the conditions on your green card. Once this petition is approved, you will be issued a permanent green card.
If your spouse is stationed abroad, you will still need to undergo the same process as outlined previously to get a green card. However, a few special rules apply to service members stationed abroad.
First, if your spouse is stationed in a country where the U.S. has an embassy or consulate, you will need to go through the regular process of applying for a green card. This means you will need to file the I-130, gather the required documents, and attend an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you live.
But, if your spouse is stationed in a country where the U.S. does not have an embassy or consulate, the process is slightly different. In this case, your spouse must file the I-130 and the required documents with the USCIS Service Center which has jurisdiction over their duty station.
Once the USCIS approves the I-130, they will send it to the NVC for processing. The NVC will then send you an instruction packet. If everything is in order, they will schedule an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you live. Then you’ll receive your conditional green card.
If you are engaged to a U.S. citizen, you may be eligible to apply for a green card. To apply, your fiancé must file the I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé, with the USCIS.
Once the USCIS approves the I-129F, they will send it to the NVC for processing. The NVC will then send you an instruction packet. The NVC will review your case and, if everything is in order, they will schedule an interview for you at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you live.
If the consular officer determines that you are eligible for a green card, they will issue you a conditional green card. You can petition to remove the conditions after two years, in which case you will receive a permanent green card.
If your spouse was a U.S. citizen who died in combat before you could file for a green card, you might still be eligible for a green card.
To apply, you can self-petition as an immediate relative on Form I-360, Widow/Widower of a U.S. Citizen, with the USCIS. You must file within two years of their death and you will be ineligible if you have remarried.
You will be issued a conditional green card if approved. This green card is valid for two years. Then, you can petition to remove the conditions at the end of the two years.
The following is a list of documents that you will need to gather before you can apply for a green card:
The following is a list of forms you may need to fill out to apply for a green card.
The costs will vary depending on your situation and where you live. Here is a general breakdown to help you estimate expenses:
Additionally, you’ll have to account for any expenses required to obtain the required documentation and legal costs.
If you are the spouse, parent, or child of a military member, you might be eligible for what is called “Parole in Place.” This status allows you to apply for a green card without leaving the United States, even if you entered without inspection and are undocumented.
To be eligible, you must:
If you are eligible, the military member can file a request for Parole in Place with the USCIS. If approved, you will be allowed to stay in the United States and apply for a green card.
You should note that this status is temporary and does not guarantee that you will receive a green card.
You may be able to postpone removal from the United States for a certain period. Deferred action does mean you have lawful permanent resident status, but you may remain lawfully in the U.S. and apply for a work permit.
Deferred action is available to a spouse, widow or widower, and children of an active duty member of the U.S. armed forces or a veteran, whether living or deceased, as long as they were not dishonorably discharged.
You may be eligible for expedited military spouse citizenship if your spouse is or will be stationed outside the U.S. You must also be authorized to accompany your spouse abroad and be present in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident at the time of your application interview. You must have intentions to reside in the U.S. after your spouse completes their service and continue to demonstrate good moral character.
To request expedited processing, you must show that you are on the spouse’s Permanent Change of Station orders and moving based on military orders. You’ll call the military helpline at 877-247-4645.
You can also complete naturalization outside the United States without traveling to the U.S. if your spouse is stationed outside the U.S. and you are accompanying them on official orders. Usually, to apply for citizenship for military spouses, they must live in the U.S. for a certain number of years before applying for citizenship. However, if your spouse is a service member, the time you spend accompanying them overseas can count toward that requirement.
If you are a military couple looking to obtain a green card or reunite, Scott D. Pollock & Associates, P.C. can help you navigate the process and obtain the relevant visas. Our attorneys have extensive experience in U.S. immigration law and will work diligently to ensure that your case is handled as efficiently and effectively as possible. We will guide you through every step of the application process and make sure that your case is handled correctly and efficiently. We are here to help! Call us at 312.444.1940 or fill out our online contact form today.