June 2, 2015 Douglas Lightman

Green Card Marriage Risk

Understanding The Risks Of Applying For A Green Card Through Marriage

You have just married your U.S. citizen sweetheart and now it is time to apply for a green card through marriage.

After researching the matter online and talking with friends, family members, and colleagues, you acquire a basic understanding of the process…a few forms, marriage certificate, birth certificate, filing fees, and an interview.

In fact, perhaps you have even printed and viewed some of the forms you found online. Upon review of the forms, sure enough this looks like a walk-in-the park and you decide to embark on this seemingly simple journey on your own without the guidance of a trusted and experienced immigration lawyer.

Beware of the green card marriage risks described in more detail below.

What looks like a walk in the park can too often lead to a walk on hot coals off of the edge of a cliff. How is this possible…after-all it’s just a few forms, filing fees, and some other documents? Well, it’s possible because what appears to be a straight-forward process is actually something much more complicated and risky. On top of that, USCIS (aka U.S. immigration) is not the most forgiving government agency, to say the least.

Let’s take a look at some of the common things that often go wrong with a marriage green card application when a couple navigates the process without the help of a trusted and experienced immigration lawyer:

  1. Providing the wrong forms, outdated forms, or lacking certain forms – In a complete marriage green card application, including work authorization and advance parole, there can be 7-10 different USCIS forms that need to be completed and included with the application. It’s extremely easy to become confused or to be unaware of which forms must be included. Another issue I’ve seen on several occasions by individuals who attempt to “do it themselves” is that they use outdated versions of one or more forms leading to the case being rejected.
  2. Improperly completing the forms – Simple omissions or improper answers on the forms can lead to negative consequences. In some instances, an omission or improper answer could result in the the application being rejected or denied whereas in other instances certain omissions or improper answers could lead to a finding of fraud/misrepresentation at the interview.
  3. Misunderstanding the affidavit of support – This is a tricky part of the application and many cases are denied because of a failure to properly address the green card affidavit of support. Cases are denied not just because the financial requirement isn’t met, but also in instances where the correct documentation is not included even though the financial requirement may be sufficient.
  4. Failing to include proper supporting documents – A marriage green card application requires a lot of supporting documents from both spouses at the time of application submission and at the time of the interview. Sometimes the supporting documents should be photocopies whereas in other instances they should be originals.
  5. Misunderstanding your eligibility – This could have to do with your current immigration status or past immigration history. Other things that impact eligibility are encounters with the police, dissolution of previous marriages, acceptance of certain public benefits, etc.
  6. Misunderstanding USCIS instructions – This can occur either when preparing your application or after submission of your application. Failing to respond to a request for additional information properly or failing to show up at the right date/time for biometrics or your green card interview can have dire consequences.
  7. Misunderstanding the implications of travel – Depending on your status, travel during the green card process can have dire consequences on your application and future options. Even with advance parole, there may be risk.
  8. Inadequate green card interview preparation – The last stage of the process involves the interview of the couple and it is still quite possible to blow the whole thing at the interview through any number of reasons that could’ve been avoided through proper interview preparation. Perhaps you haven’t brought the right supporting documents or evidence regarding your relationship or perhaps you and your spouse haven’t had a chance to be advised on how the interview works and what kind of questions could be asked. Other issues that could arise have to do with inconsistent information and potential findings of misrepresentation or fraud based on what was previously provided and what comes out during the interview.
  9. Simple omissions, “white lies”, and related matters – For numerous reasons, many couples believe that they need to “pad” their application with information that USCIS wants to hear or omit from their application information that USCIS does not want to hear. Lying or concealing truths should never be done and will only lead to a negative outcome.

Now that we have looked at some of the things that can go wrong, let’s briefly look at some of the potential consequences:

  • application denial
  • significant delay in processing
  • loss of $1,760 in filing fees
  • removal/deportation proceedings in immigration court
  • criminal charges if fraud is suspected
  • loss of nonimmigrant status
  • significant future immigration complications and hurdles
  • debarment from entering the U.S. for a period of 3 or 10 years
  • permanent debarment from entering the U.S.

In other words this means loss of time, loss of money (at least $1,760 in filing fees plus fees if immigration court is involved), possible separation of family, and, in some circumstances, possibly being removed to a country you no longer call home and being unable to return to the US and your loved ones.

The bottom line is that no matter how simple it might appear, the marriage green card process is actually quite complicated and full of pitfalls and risks that are not usually visible to the average person. Find yourself a trusted and experienced immigration lawyer and work with him/her in properly navigating the process.

Douglas Lightman

The award-winning Lightman Law Firm was founded by Douglas M. Lightman, Esq. Mr. Lightman has extensive experience in immigration law and international matters through both work and personal experience. Prior to forming Lightman Law Firm, Mr. Lightman spent several years at an international tax consulting and compliance firm where he focused on international tax consulting and cross border transactions. Mr. Lightman is a United States trained lawyer who received his law degree from Brooklyn Law School and is a member in good standing of the Bar of the State of New York and a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association, the world's largest organization of immigration lawyers. To discuss your possible case with Mr. Lightman or another immigration lawyer from Lightman Law Firm LLC, call (212) 643-0985 or fill out the consultation request form on your right. A representative of our firm will contact you shortly upon review of your request.