This is no way intended to be a guide to immigration through marriage, just an account of the work process and work we did to accomplish this.
Petition for a Family Member
It’s kind of strange to call someone you’re going to be married to a relative, but that’s what it’s referred to. Any legal resident can petition the government to allow immediate family to join them in the United States. This is the case if you’re an immigrant or a citizen. Upon marrying someone, a citizen can request that the government allow the spouse to enter, live and work within the US. The spouse, if already in the US, can update their visa from, in our case, an F1 student visa, to permanent resident status. The law gets really tricky if you enter the US on a non-immigration visa, in other words not intending to immigrate, after having filed a Petition for Alien Relative. And yes, they call them aliens.
The form, I-130, is just a form stating who I am, how I’m legally in this country (through birth), and what my relation is to the person for whom I’m petitioning. Pretty straight forward.
Changing Visa Status
At the same time, we file an Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, form I-485. This allows Ana to update her F1 visa to a Permanent Resident visa. After having filed this, she can not leave the country and return on her F1 visa. The reason is, upon entering the US under an F1 student visa, she is stating that by entering on a non-immigration visa, she is not intending to stay in the country, which would be false, since she has filed for permanent residency. It makes sense, but is something people need to be aware of. To get around this, there is another form I-131, Application for Travel Document, that we would need to file until she’s approved for a green card so that she can travel to Colombia or somewhere else on our honeymoon.
There are a few more forms to file, such as an Application for Employment Authorization, form I-765, biographic information, form G-325A and my favorite, form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance, which will send me an email and/or text message when my application has changed status.
The process is pretty straight forward, but we consulted with a lawyer first to know what we were getting ourselves into. The tough part is understanding each form that needs to be filed, how to file it, what you need to file it properly and gathering all the other information and supporting documents that are needed. We can hire a lawyer to do all of this for us after we get married, but we don’t have the money right now. But we’re confidant we can properly do all of this. The trick is just taking a bit at a time and a lot of reading. Each government form has accompanying instructions to follow so it makes the process a lot less daunting.