Congratulations on building a life together with your loving spouse!!!
By this point in the immigration process, you have already experienced the hardest filing, which is getting the green card from USCIS’s Adjustment of Status or from DOS’s Consular Process. Now, USCIS requests that the spouses prove that a loving life occurred over the past 2 years, since getting a Green Card. There are many questions that come to mind.
My Green Card Expires Soon, How Do I Get A New One?
When the I-751 is “timely filed,” the Green Card Spouse will receive an “Automatic” 18-month extension. (Fun fact: USCIS used to provide an automatic 12-month extension until the Summer of 2018. USCIS increased the extension since the processing time of an I-751 generally exceeded 12 months). The Extension occurs in the USCIS System, and the spouse’s “proof of their status” will be a paper notice/letter from USCIS. Meaning, the 18-month extension letter, when accompanied by the expired 2-year green card, would show that the green card expires 3.5 years after the admission date.
How long does the I-751 process take?
The I-751 filing was generally filed in Vermont or in California. However, now-a-days it can be processed in a few different USCIS Service Centers. The expected processing time is 1 to 2 years, but USCIS estimates that on average it can take 2 to 4 years. The slow processing time is due to an extremely high backlog and not enough USCIS staff to review the filing.
What happens if my I-751 isn’t processed before my extension expires?
Do not worry!!! USCIS is able to (1) place a 1-year extension sticker on your green card, (2) stamp a 1-year extension in your valid, unexpired, foreign passport, or (3) provide an I-94 1-year extension card (not common option throughout the Nation / depends on each USCIS Field Office) when there is a pending Immigration Filing.
Can I fly outside of the US with an 18-month extension letter?
Yes, it is like a green card, just it is taking USCIS a really long time to process the I-751 filing to provide you with a 10 year Green Card. Many people want extra assurance and want USCIS to stamp their passport with a 1-year proof of Lawful Permanent Residence. But, the letter is just as safe and seen often in our US Airports. (Small Note: USCIS may not provide the 1-year extension stamp if you have more than 30 days in your 18-month extension. It is a new policy shift in USCIS as a way to reduce meeting at USCIS for unnecessary meetings / INFOPASSes.)
How Do I Provide Evidence To Prove My Loving Marriage?
At this stage or chapter of a marriage, many have experienced the following:
- A child birth or a pregnancy
- Vacationed or traveled together
- Paid taxes for the first time for 1 or 2 years
- Bought a house or car
- Made a Debt together (Yay!)
The beautiful thing about building a life together is that spouses generally have a lot of supporting evidence from the past 2 years. Below is a short list of evidence our Office likes to see in an I-751 Filing:
- joint tax returns
- joint bills, such as electric, cell phone, water,
- joint bank accounts, whether savings, checking, CDs or the like
- joint car insurance
- joint debt, such as home loans, car loans, or credit cards
- joint deeds to land or title to cars and trailers
- joint leases
- gym memberships
- photos together
- plane tickets for trips taken together
- wills, power of attorneys, advance directives, and life insurances (if they name the spouse as beneficiary)
- communication logs, such as Skype, Whatapp, Viber, calls, and texts
- baby’s Birth Certificate or Proof of Pregnancy, like an ultrasound or OBGYN Documents
- cards and Loveletters
- an affidavit or two from close friends and family stating that the marriage has been loving for the past 2 years
The above list is not exhaustive. If something has the names of both spouses on it, it is a usable piece of evidence. For instance, a BIR Report or Red Report from an Armed Forces Member is useful and it has both names on it. You should always keep on the look-out for more evidence.
What if I do not have a lot of evidence?
Your filing will take longer to process and USCIS will wonder why you cannot provide evidence of a life together. Many times, one spouse pays all of the bills, manages the finances, and the Green Card spouse may not have worked since getting a green card or was attending college. This situation is where USCIS may demand at least some evidence is provided, and they would give you 87 days to produce the evidence; or, USCIS would require an interview to hear why there is little to no evidence.
Is there an Interview for the I-751?
There is an interview process, but it can be waived because evidence can prove a “joint and loving life together.” So, the more evidence provided, the more likely the Interview would be waived and an approval would be based on the paperwork. If you don’t provide any evidence of a joint life together, USCIS may deny off of the evidence or require the interview. But, if USCIS never receives evidence, then you cannot be approved of a 10-year Green Card.
Can you be denied in the I-751 Joint Spousal Process?
Yes, and a denial could mean USCIS starting the deportation process.
If you have any concerns about immigration issues, you should speak with an experienced Immigration Attorney, or you may call Fickey Martinez Law Firm, P.L.L.C. at (910) 526-0066. If you want to learn more about our Immigration Team, please visit the following link: Meet Our Immigration Team
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