Three of the most pressing concerns affecting immigrants in the U.S., relating to family-based cases, are: (1) people wanting to know what their options are when applying for their spouse, (2) the process of applying for a finance/fiancée, and (3) what specific criteria their marriage must meet to pass scrutiny by Immigration, says Bryony Heise, founder of the Denver, Colorado-based immigration-focused law firm, The Heise Law Office.
According to Ms. Heise, family-based immigration
is the process of applying for permanent residency (a green card) through a spouse or other family member. “This process can be extremely complex, lengthy (sometimes lasting years), and frustrating for the applicant who must be fingerprinted, submit photographs, and subject themselves to a thorough security clearance check,” noted Heise.
She noted that additionally, an applicant must also provide a medical certificate from a list of US-certified physicians, and also present supporting documentation from a qualified financial sponsor.
The Heise Law Office, which specializes in helping immigrants apply for permanent residency through family members, advises immigrants on their best options and guides them through the complex process. “Simply put, the law firm ensures that all eligible immigrants in the US gain their permanent residency status,” said Ms. Heise.
Following is a brief overview of what an immigrant needs to be aware of as it relates to the three specific concerns mentioned above.
What Are My Options if I Want to Apply for My Spouse?
According to The Heise Law Office, a spouse of a United States citizen may apply for permanent resident status (a green card) and obtain a work permit within the United States, only if the:
• Spouse entered the U.S. legally, or
• Spouse had a petition filed on their behalf prior to April 30, 2001.
Generally speaking, if neither of these is the case then the spouse would have to leave the United States to proceed with the process of Consular Processing,” said Ms. Heise.
What Specific Criteria Must a Marriage Meet to Be Considered Valid for Immigration Purposes?
Concerning specific criteria, the immigration law specialist
noted immigration officials conduct very strict reviews of marital relationships when applying for immigration benefits. “This is so because according to a recent Department of Homeland Security report nearly half of spousal immigration cases are fraudulent,” she said.
As a result, Ms. Heise explained that for the marriage to be recognized as valid by Immigration, each party must have been legally able to marry, and the marriage ceremony must be considered legal under the laws where it was performed. “In cases where one of the parties had previously been married, the divorce from the ex-spouse must be final and valid,” she added.
On the other hand, she further noted that Common Law marriages are valid for immigration purposes if the laws of the place of residence legally recognize common law marriage. Customary marriages, those performed according to local custom but not licensed by civil authorities, may be valid if the law of the country where the marriage occurred recognizes the marriage as valid. However, same sex marriages, although they may be legal in the state or country in which the marriage was performed, are not recognized for immigration purposes (due to the lack of federal recognition of the validity of same-sex marriages).
What Are My Options If I Want to Apply for My Fiancé/Fiancée?
The Heise Law Office said that if the couple is not yet married, a U.S. citizen may apply for a K-1 visa in order to bring his or her fiancée to the United States in order to get married. “Once the couple is married,” Ms. Heise said, “the immigrant relative can then apply for permanent resident status.
However, in order to obtain a fiancé/fiancée visa, the couple needs to prove:
• That they have met in person within the past two years (in some cases this requirement can be waived);
• That they have a good faith intention to marry; and
• That they are legally able and willing to marry within 90 days of the spouse’s arrival to the U.S.
The law firm spokesperson concluded by explaining that it was important for immigrants to plan carefully before filing any family-based paperwork with USCIS. Applying for a benefit that an immigrant is not eligible for could result in removal proceedings, and possible deportation from the United States.
Therefore, if interested persons would like to learn more about their options, they are invited to contact The Heise Law Office for review of their individual case.