Expert Advice: Obtaining a Marriage Green Card

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Bride_and_Groom_ScaleDouglas M. Lightman, Esq. is the founder and principal attorney of Lightman Law Firm.  Mr. Lightman has extensive experience in immigration law and international matters through both work and personal experience. On the personal end, Mr. Lightman is a proud citizen of both the United States and Canada.  He is the son of green card holders, and is also the loving fiancé of a non-immigrant visa holder. Drawing upon his legal and personal experience, Mr. Lightman shares what a foreigner needs to know about obtaining a green card for marriage to a U.S. citizen:

One of the great perks of marrying a U.S. citizen is having the ability to apply for a green card based on marriage to your U.S. citizen husband or wife. As many are aware, applying for a green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen (aka “marriage green card”) is one of the quickest ways for a foreign individual obtain a green card (legal permanent residency).

Unlike many other immigration benefits, you can apply for a green card through marriage to your U.S. citizen spouse even if you have unlawful presence in the U.S. or you have overstayed a visa. However, there are limited circumstances where it’s not possible, for example, if you entered the country illegally, i.e. without being inspected by a customs officer, or entered as a crew member.

The marriage green card process entails numerous forms, legal issues, filings, receipts, supporting materials, government correspondence, and finally an interview. The process can be lengthy, not just in terms of applying and waiting for notices and an interview, but also in terms of preparing the forms and supporting materials. Some supporting documents that may be necessary are passports, birth certificates, a medical exam, tax returns, job letter, pay stubs, marriage certificate, divorce decree, and criminal records, if any.

Some additional items to consider in connection with the process:

• Is my marriage a real marriage? Marriage fraud is a serious offense and is punishable by deportation, 10 years in jail, and/or up to a $250,000 fine.

• Unless you obtain advance parole or you have an H-1B or L-1 visa, you cannot travel outside of the U.S. while the green card application is pending without abandoning the application.

• The foreign spouse needs to have a medical exam conducted.

• An affidavit of support will have to be completed by the U.S. citizen spouse contracting him/her to support the foreign spouse for a certain period of time and under certain conditions. If the U.S. citizen spouse doesn’t meet the income requirements, a joint sponsor will be necessary.

• You and your spouse will have to go to an interview together to prove the validity of your marriage and that the foreign spouse qualifies for a green card.

• “Bona fides” proving the validity of your marriage will be very important for the interview (photos, joint bank account, joint lease or deed, joint credit card, info indicating that you reside at the same address, etc.)

USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services) filing fees for the entire application total $1,365 to date.

Every green card through marriage application is different and therefore it is strongly advised to work with competent legal counsel experienced in immigration matters throughout all parts of the process. A green card is a highly sought after U.S. immigration benefit and something that should be pursued with great care.

If you have any additional questions regarding obtaining a marriage green card, I am happy to answer them in the Jewish Wedding Network Forum.

Image by Sari Victoria

August 27, 2009   No Comments

Featured Wedding: Sarah Lefton and Bill Selig

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Sarah Lefton is a digital media producer, Executive Director and Producer of G-dcast –a cartoon series depicting the parsha of the week, and designer of the T-Shirt line Jewish Fashion Conspiracy. On her way home from a Shabbat dinner in March 2006, Sarah randomly decided to stop off at a friend’s house for dessert. That’s where she met Bill Selig, a stage director who was to become her husband. Bill proposed to Sarah on a sailboat in the Red Sea off of Eilat, in Israel and the couple wed in an egalitarian Jewish ceremony in February of 2008 at the Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, California. This is Sarah’s wedding story in her own words:

I still can’t believe I met Bill, let alone married him! I went out every night to parties, classes, mixers, shul, and yeah, on JDates too. For all the care and thought and unbelievable extroversion and energy that I put into meeting my beshert, it still kind of drives me crazy that I met Bill by accident.

Our wedding date fell during President’s Day weekend. Thursday before the wedding, we went to services with our parents at the Mission Minyan, where the shaliach tzibbur honored us by singing Shabbat melodies to the tune of wedding songs.

Saturday morning was our auf ruf. Bill and I were up early, hurriedly practicing our aliyot for the Torah service. Shul was packed! We couldn’t believe how many people came to celebrate with us, which only upped the ante for our leyning! It was so fun to get pelted with candy by friends, family, coworkers and fellow congregants. At the huge catered lunch afterward, our friends from the Minyan surprised us with a giant sheet-cake that read “Marriage: Someone’s gotta do it!” (San Francisco is notoriously a great place to be single!)

As soon as Shabbat ended that night, we had a rehearsal at our venue. We used the opportunity to teach some niguns to our family who were unfamiliar with the mystical wordless songs, and the energy was very beautiful. Then we had a festive rehearsal dinner complete with a musical number from our college friends and a toast from my aunt Marcy that made my cry. She gave me a watch on a necklace that her mother had always worn; it’s now my most precious piece of jewelry. [Read more →]

July 24, 2009   2 Comments

Mayim Bialik: Student of the Water

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This post is part of Jewish Wedding Network’s ongoing series documenting a bride’s experience visiting the mikvah before her wedding day.

You may recognize Mayim Bialik for her lead role in the early-1990’s television sitcom Blossom as well as her current Emmy nominated role as Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. After starring in Blossom Mayim earned a BS from UCLA in 2000 in Neuroscience and in Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and went on to earn a Ph.D. in Neuroscience, also from UCLA, where she was also an active student leader at UCLA Hillel. Bialik is currently a board member, co-founder, and chair of Jewish Free Loan Association’s Genesis branch, and is an avid student of all things Jewish. She studies Torah on a weekly basis with a study mentor through Partners in Torah. Most recently she authored the attachment parenting book Beyond the Sling: A Real Guide to Raising Confident, Loving Children the Attachement Parenting Way.

Mayim Bialik previously blogged about her Jewish wedding and now she shares her mikvah story:

I am a good student. I know that sounds like I am bragging; but I’m not. I am just being honest. My parents are both teachers and I was raised with an immigrant philosophy: study hard and succeed. So when I planned to “study” with a bride teacher before my wedding in 2003, I decided I was going to be a good student. No matter what.

I approached this study sort of anthropologically: What have thousands of years of Jewish history been teaching women about being a “good wife?” What does that mean to me now? Will this tarnish my feminist sensibilities beyond repair?

I studied for several months (nearly half of our engagement!) with an excellent and very hip modern Orthodox woman, herself the wife of a Rabbi, a licensed therapist, and mother to 3 beaming and brilliant daughters. I mostly learned the rules of Niddah, which was daunting and kind of intimidating. The customs of not touching one’s husband for almost half of every month seemed, frankly, archaic and outdated. I was not at all sure if I even wanted to pursue this line of exploration. Not for me; no thank you.
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July 14, 2009   16 Comments

How I Became Amber Marlow Blatt

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This is part of a series of posts on Jewish Wedding Network exploring a woman’s name change after marriage.

I was born five months after a “shot gun wedding.” The marriage ended before my first tooth came in and my mother remarried when I was five. My half-brother was born shortly thereafter, and the four of us lived together for my entire childhood—the three of them with one last name, and me with my father’s.

When I was eleven,  my father stopped coming to see me, leaving me feeling utterly abandoned, but at age 16 I was legally adopted by my step father, and got a new last name. Four people under one roof with the same surname at last. I was back to having “a real dad”.

Four years after the adoption, I was thrown out of the house by my unstable parents.  For the second time in my life, I felt abandoned. If you’re counting, that’s three parents that let me way down, all by the age of 20.  I  had considered changing my last to reflect my new loner status, something all my own. I didn’t have the guts to though, which is regretful; it would have helped me make peace with the situation.

I learned to accept and love my parents with distance, and having their last name was something I stopped thinking about altogether, for a while…
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July 8, 2009   4 Comments

My Journey from Friedson to Friedman

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This is the first in an ongoing series of posts on Jewish Wedding Network exploring a bride’s name change after marriage.

On October 7, 2007  I walked down the aisle flanked by Annette and Bill Friedson, my amazing (and teary-eyed) parents.   After seven dizzying circles, seven prayers and one big stomp, I emerged as Rachel Friedman, a 23-year-old newly-wed, glowing with happiness as I walked hand-in-hand with my husband.

If you didn’t read that carefully, you may not have even noticed the difference. Friedson to Friedman. Those two tiny letters have served as the ultimate pain-in-the-butt and resulted in a lifetime of mispronunciations and misnomers.

Imagine going to the DMV – quite possibly the most inefficient and awful hellhole to have to go to in the first place – wedding license in hand and on a mission to change your name. The story goes something like this:

Me: Hi – I need to get a new license, because I got married and I’m changing my name.
DMV Employee: (glancing at paperwork in hand) What are you talking about? – the names here are the same.
Me: Nope – check out those last three letters.
DMV Employee: Ooooh – hahahahahaha.

Now reenact that story with the Social Security office, the bank, the credit card company, my employer, and all the other people who inevitably had to be notified, and let me tell you, that joke got old fast. “Are you going to hyphenate?” No. “Are you sure you’re not related?” Yes. “How about merging the two to become Friedsonman?” Mmm – no.
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June 10, 2009   No Comments