Mistakes Commonly Made While Applying for a Green Card through Marriage (Which Can Easily Be Avoided)

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Getting married to a U.S. citizen does not always mean that you will be approved for lawful permanent residence via a marriage visa or green card. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) carefully reviews each and every marriage visa and green card application. Even if your marriage is the real deal, certain mistakes can result in your application being denied.

The following are common reasons marriage visas and green card applications are denied in the United States:

  1. Entering into an Invalid Marriage

To receive a valid marriage visa, you must be legally married. A marriage can only be valid in the eyes of the law if it occurs through a governmentally recognized service or ceremony. Each state has its own set of laws which govern whether a marriage is considered legally valid. Florida Statutes Section 741.07 details what the requirements are as for who can perform a valid marriage ceremony.  You will also want a valid marriage license, obtained from your county clerk, at least three days prior to your ceremony.

Once the ceremony is performed, you will need to submit proof of your valid marriage, along with a Form I-130 application. This form is the initial petition that must be submitted to initiate the process of obtaining a marriage visa. Normally, the best proof you can provide of your marriage is a government marriage certificate. USCIS will not accept a church document or unofficial certificate as proof of marriage. If an unofficial document is submitted with the Form I-130, your application will likely be denied.

You must also still not be married to another person, or your application will also be denied. If you have been previously, make sure to supply legal proof that the marriage has been ended, either through a death certificate or divorce decree. Failing to provide this proof will result in the application being delayed or denied.

  1. Not Being Eligible for a Marriage Visa

Certain situations exist where an individual is simply not eligible to apply for a marriage visa. Ineligibility can occur due to several reasons. If one of the applications has a criminal record for certain crimes, he or she may be considered ineligible. There are many types of criminal convictions that can prevent a person from being approved for a marriage visa application. These can include crimes involving “moral turpitude,” and crimes involving illegal drugs and multiple criminal convictions. Additionally, certain medical issues may also prevent you from obtaining a green card. For instance, if the applicant has a communicable disease, mental illness, or a history of drug abuse, he or she may also be ineligible for a green card.

  1. Being Dishonest on Your Application

Being dishonest on your application will almost certainly result in a rejection. Both spouses must be completely honest and thorough when completing the necessary paperwork. While applications do ask for a lot of information, including all places of residence and all employers for the last five years, it is important you provide all of this information to the best of your knowledge. If USCIS finds that you have left anything out, your application may be rejected.

  1. Errors on the Green Card Application

Before you submit your application, you should always review every piece carefully to ensure that nothing is incorrect or left out. Many times, rejections occur due to simple errors in the applications. Some of the more common errors include:

  • Missing information in the forms. Do not leave anything in the application blank or empty. Make sure you are filling out the application forms completely. If something does not apply to you or your spouse, at the very least, insert “N/A” or not applicable so that it does not appears as if you intentionally or mistakenly left that section blank.
  • Not providing translations in the application. It is possible that you will be submitting accompanying documents in a non-English language, such as a birth certificate or marriage certificate. If you do provide a document that is not in English, you must also provide a word-for-word English translation as well. Include both the non-English version and the translated version in your application, and make sure your translation is certified. To be certified, the translator must certify in writing that he or she has translated the document accurately. This certificate should also include the translator’s name, address, signature, and date the translation was completed.
  • Photo errors. Marriage visa or green card applications require passport-like photos. While many applicants have successfully taken their photos at most drug stores, you should not assume that the pictures will be accepted. Make sure you review all government requirements before submitting to ensure that the pictures will pass inspection. When in doubt, most U.S. post offices take passport pictures and can be used for marriage visa application pictures, as well.
  • Insufficient filing fees. Along with the application, you must pay certain required filing fees for your application to be processed. The required filing fees range between $1,200 to $1,760. To see a complete list of the fees, click here. Failure to pay the fees can result in the application being delayed or denied.
  • Missing signatures. Lastly, both you and your spouse must sign all required documents. The USCIS will only accept original signatures, and failure to sign a document or submitting a copy of an original signature will result in the application being delayed or denied.
  1. Not Being Eligible for Adjustment of Status

Many times, marriage visa applicants will apply for their green card without leaving the country. These applications are called “consular processing,” which includes an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate. Unfortunately, if the individual’s latest entry into the U.S. was not lawful, that person may not be eligible to apply for adjustment status through the USCIS. An applicant could unknowingly place themselves in deportation proceedings by filing an adjustment of status application when he or she is deportable, resulting in USCIS issuing a Notice to Appear before an Immigration Judge in deportation hearings.

  1. Not Submitting Sufficient Financial Support

The marriage visa application requires you to submit proof of financial support via an Affidavit of Support on Form I-864. The reason for this requirement is U.S. immigration laws prohibit the issuance of an immigrant visa to someone who is likely to become what is called a “public charge” or someone who will receive need-based public assistance or welfare. By submitting this affidavit, the applicant, who will be the U.S. citizen spouse, is saying that he or she can provide the immigrant spouse the necessary financial support for a set number of years to avoid the immigrant spouse needing to apply for public assistance.

Not filing this affidavit and not submitting the needed financial resources to support both the immigrant spouse and the sponsor’s household at a level that is at least 125 percent of the U.S. Poverty Guidelines, the application for a marriage visa will likely be denied. Additionally, even if the applicant provides sufficient income on the Form I-864, other factors suggest that the immigrant spouse will likely need government assistance, which will lead to the application being either delayed or denied.

  1. Trying to Adjust Status Shortly after Using a Tourist Visa or Visa Waiver for U.S. Entry

Traditionally, applying for a marriage visa requires for you to submit an application by filing a Form I-130. Once the application is submitted, the immigrant applicant then communicates with an overseas U.S. consulate. An interview will be scheduled at that location. Unfortunately, this process can take several months, which can mean one spouse is living in the U.S., while the other spouse lives in his or her country of origin.

The waiting can be hard on both spouses, which often results in the non-citizen spouse trying to enter the country on a tourist visa and applying for adjustment of status. While this works for some people, it is not always successful. For this process to actually work, the non-citizen spouse will need to prove that they did not misuse the tourist visa or commit fraud by claiming that they are coming to the country only as a tourist or visitor, when they actually intend to stay full-time and get a green card. This can work if the non-citizen spouse came to the U.S. as a tourist and met his or her spouse-to-be while visiting the U.S., only to decide to get married later.

If you have any question regarding your application for a marriage visa, an experienced immigration law attorney will be able to help you navigate the ins and outs of submitting the application, as well as the steps to take following the forms being submitted.

Immigration Law Services in Orlando and Jacksonville

Many people believe that if a person is inside the United States without legal status (without papers), they will be automatically deported.  This simply is not true.  Most people, regardless of how they entered the United States, are entitled to appear before an Immigration Judge.

The attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon have an extensive background in both deportation defense and criminal law. Very few immigration attorneys understand criminal law and very few criminal attorneys understand immigration law. Jacksonville immigration lawyer Jeremy Lasnetski understands both. Whether your deportation case involves a criminal conviction or not, we can help you. Orlando immigration lawyer John Gihon focuses on deportation defense in immigration court.  He is a former ICE Attorney who understands how the immigration system works from the inside. He focuses on deportation cases, and he appears before the Orlando Immigration Court on a daily basis.

Providing Personalized Service for Immigration Cases

If you are seeking a green card or helping a family member obtain one, it makes all the difference to have attorneys knowledgeable in immigration law to help you navigate the complex legal process. The dedicated and experienced immigration law attorneys at Shorstein, Lasnetski & Gihon are here to stand by your family’s side through the process. Don’t delay! Contact us today at 904-542-3332 (Jacksonville) 407-228-2019 (Orlando).

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