An Illustrative Example
Because the laws and procedures in obtaining permanent residency for your family members are so complex, I think it may be very helpful to you if I illustrate the process by way examples.
Disclaimer. The following is intended only to give you a general idea of the topic. It is NOT intended to be legal advice. Everyone’s goals and situations are unique. Please consult an attorney to determine which method is best for your specific goals.
John and Sharon were friends and batch mates at De La Salle University in Manila, Philippines. Soon after graduation, John immigrated with his parents to the United States and Sharon started working for an engineering firm in Makati City.
Busy working on their careers, a few years went by without any contact between them. One night while checking his Facebook, John got a friend request from an old batch mate… It was Sharon.
Eventually, their relationship grew and John traveled back to the Philippines to spend some quality time with Sharon. Everything felt so perfect when they were together and John ended up proposing to Sharon on the beach in Boracay. Sharon felt the same and happily agreed to be bound to him in marriage.
The couple agreed that it would be best if Sharon joined John in the US rather than John moving back to the Philippines. John also convinced Sharon that it would be best if they got married in the States because he wanted her to meet his family before they got married.
Soon after arriving from his amazing trip to the Philippines, John came to see me. I congratulated and told him that bringing his fiancée here could be understood as a three-step process. Careful planning, analysis, and document preparation in all three steps is essential.
Step 1: John Must File Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé(e) with USCIS
The petition must include evidence to establish that:
- John is a US citizen;
- He and Sharon have met within the two-year period preceding the filing of the petition;
- They have a bona fide intention to marry; and
- They are legally able and willing to marry within 90 days of Sharon’s arrival in the US.
Processing times vary depending on which office your petition is processed. Since the beginning of 2017, we have seen a slowdown with USCIS processing times for these and other cases. On average they are now taking around 8 months.
Step 2: Sharon Must Prepare For and Pass The Interview at the US Embassy, Manila
Once the petition is approved and eventually forwarded to the US Embassy in Manila, Sharon must:
- Pay the Visa Application Fee;
- Schedule a K1 Fiancée Interview Appointment;
- Prepare all the necessary supporting documents, such as NSO birth certificate, NBI Clearance, etc.;
- Obtain a medical examination at St. Luke’s Medical Center Extension Clinic (SLMCEC);
- Attend and pass the Interview; and
- Attend the Commission on Filipino Overseas’ (CFO) Pre-departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS).
Usually this step can be completed within 2-3 months or less as long as the applicant is prepared for the interview and eligible.
Step 3: Sharon Files the Application to Adjust Status
After Sharon enters on her K1 visa and the couple gets married, Sharon will file the I-485, Application to Adjust Status.
- The I-485 Application must include evidence to establish that:
- Sharon entered the US lawfully;
- Sharon is not a danger to society;
- Sharon will not become a public burden; and
- A variety of additional evidence showing Sharon is otherwise admissible.
Around 1-2 months after filing the application with the Chicago Lockbox, Sharon will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment (fingerprinting for background check).
Processing times vary depending on which office your petition is processed. Since the beginning of 2017, we have seen a slowdown with USCIS processing times for these and other cases. On average they are now taking around 6-8 months to schedule adjustment interviews. The main purpose of the interview is for the USCIS officer to determine whether John and Sharon are in a bona fide marriage and whether Sharon is otherwise admissible as a permanent resident. If the officer is satisfied, Sharon will obtain her conditional permanent resident card.
I also explain to John that since their marriage will be less than two years old at the time he petitions her, her permanent residency will be conditional. This means that her permanent residency will expire unless they jointly file a Form I-751, Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence within the 90-day period prior to her residency expiring. In this petition, they will have to prove to USCIS that they are still in a bona fide marriage. Once approved, the conditions will be removed from Sharon’s permanent residency.
Disclaimer. The above fictional story is intended only to give you a general idea of the topic. It is NOT intended to be legal advice nor does it cover all the specific detailed requirements and procedures. Everyone’s goals and situations are unique as they apply to the law and they all cannot be covered in a simple writing such as this. Please consult an experienced immigration attorney to determine which method is best for your specific circumstances and goals.