I MARRIED MY FIANCEE IN THE U.S. OR
FAQ ON THE ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS PROCESS
BY: Gary G. Bala
Last Revised: July, 2007
AFTER a U.S. Citizen marries* a foreign citizen fiance(e) in the USA under the K-1 Fiancee Visa, or brings the spouse to the U.S. under the K-3 Spousal Visa, the couple must begin a process of immigration called "ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS" for the new Spouse.
Because STATE FAMILY LAWS are separate and distinct from FEDERAL IMMIGRATION LAWS, SIMPLY MARRYING a foreign citizen Fiance(e) does NOT automatically assure legal status for your new Spouse, as some erroneosly believe.
The Adjustment of Status process can be thought of as the application process with Immigration Service for U.S. LEGAL OR LAWFUL PERMANENT RESIDENCY for your new Spouse. Approval of the new Spouse's Adjustment results in the issuance of the I-551 Stamp in the Spouse's foreign passport. Then, typically in six months or less, the I-551 "Alien Registration Receipt Card" or the famous "Green Card" is mailed out to the new Spouse (though it no longer a green color.)
Minor children under age 21, natural and adopted, of the Applicant may be adjusted to Permanent Residence in the same way, under the same process at the same time as the Applicant Spouse.
II. THE ADJUSTMENT OF STATUS PROCESS:
A. How Is It Done?
Adjustment of Status is accomplished with the preparation and filing of the Form I-485 Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with your local immigration office, which can be located here. USCIS Local Offices. [As of April 01, 2005, nearly all local offices now require that your Petition, along with any accompanying travel and work authorization petitions, now be mailed directly to the Lockbox of the National Benefits Center, P.O. Box 7218, Chicago, IL 60680-7218 USA, for initial receipt and processing, which then returns the Petitions back to local office for continued processing and interview appointment.] Current filing fee is $1,010.00, and payment is made by Check or Money Order payable to "U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services" or "U.S. Department of Homeland Security".
[As concerns Adjustment of Status petitions for K-3 Visa spouses, these require that your first secure and submit the I-797 Notice of Approval for underlying I-130 Petition filed at Service Center.]
Some people suggest that before filing your petitions, you make appointment and visit the local immigration office in person to ask questions and personally speak with a filing clerk who can "hand-check" your application and documents to make that sure your papers are in order. The new USCIS InfoPass Program will allow to you avoid waiting lines in most offices.
Processing times for this for the Adjustment of Status application can be long, ranging from 6-8 months on the quick end to 24-36 months on the long end. Model local offices such as the one in Dallas, Texas are experimenting with "Same-Day Interview" for Adjustment petitions and process time can take only a few weeks or less, while others such as the one in Phoenix, Arizona will need up to three years to process. To Check Currect Processing Times, Click Here and Select Your Office.
The Adjustment application also requires that the Petitioner submit the financial affidavit of support on behalf of the new Spouse, Form I-864. The Petitioner must show at least 125% of the minimum income guidelines for the current year and applicable household size suggested by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (Line 22 Total Income on Form 1040, or Line 15 on Form 1040A, consistently for three (3) years minimum): Federal Minimum Poverty Guidelines. The Spouse applicant will also be required to submit to fingerprinting at a date and place selected by Immigration Service. Often, the Biographic Information Statements of the Petitioner and Applicant are also required:Form G-325A Biographic Information Statement. The Filing Fee for Biometric Fingerprint (is now included in the Filing Fee of I-485 (Immigration Office will contact you about a date, time and location for fingerprinting of Applicant.)
B. What If I Would Like My New Spouse to Travel or Work
Because of the long processing times for Adjustment petitions, clients typically ask: What do I do while my adjustment petition is pending for my new Spouse if I would like her or him to travel and work? The answer is that there are two "quickie" petitions which are available for filing and which are typically decided in approximately ninety (90) days. These petitions allow travel and work permission for your new Spouse. These are: the Form I-131 Application for Travel Document (current filing fee $305.00, unless included with the Filing Fee for I-485), and the Form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (EAD) (current filing fee $340.00, unless included in the Filing Fee for I-485). Immigration Service has cautioned adjustment applicants that they must secure I-131 Travel Authorization before traveling abroad or otherwise their adjustment petitions are considered abandoned and they may be not be able to return to the U.S. See USCIS Press Release. Please also note that adjustment interviews and final petition approvals cannot be done while an adjustment applicant is physically traveling outside the U.S., and therefore if your case is reached while you are away, final adjustment approval must wait for your return to the U.S.
C. What Supporting Documents Do I Submit?
D. Will There Be a Medical Examination and Interview?
As for MEDICAL EXAMINATION, generally speaking, the regulations state that no additional medical examination is necessary if one was done for the Fiancee or Spousal Visa at the Embassy within one (1) year prior to the date of adjustment application. See 8 CFR Section 245.5 (8 CFR is found on the Immigration Service Website, Scroll to Section 245.5). This is a general rule only. In some cases, Immigration may choose to ask for another medical examination if the case does not appear for adjudication in the local office for more than a year since the Embassy examination, or for other good reasons. If needed, Immigration Service will notify the Applicant of requirements and location for Medical Examination and Form I-693 to ensure as a precuation that communicable diseases are not transmitted.
As for INTERVIEW, an Immigration Service officer will conduct and conclude an Interview at a date and location selected by the local office of both the Applicant and Petitioner. The purpose of the Interview is to satisfy the officer that the marriage and relationship are sincere and genuine, without an intent purely for immigration benefits. Typical questions at the interview will be questions for each partner of the marriage about the other's biography (place where they work, friends of each partner, middle name and birth place of each partner, etc.), and questions about how, when and where the couple met and how the relationship developed. Sometimes, the officer will ask for letters or affidavits from two friends attesting to the sincerity of the couple's marriage. Extensive background and security checks will be conducted before the Adjustment is approved.
E. Where Can I Find Out More or Get Help?
You can read more about the Adjustment Process here: Adjustment Process Information from Immigration Service. For consideration of our Law Office's assistance in the Adjustment Process, including fees and costs, visit: Winning Legal Residency for Your New International Wife.
A useful link to explore to help your new Spouse in the social adjustment process to our country is: ForeignBorn.com.
The Adustment of Status Process will continue to be the key method and format to securing Legal or Lawful Premanent Residency or "Green Card" for your new Spouse after marriage under the K-1 Fiancee Visa process or under the K-3 Spousal Visa Process. Your diligent gathering of supporting documentation and, above all, patience with the procedure will help ensure that the Adjustment Process will be successful.