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Ame Coats: My name is Ame Coats. I’m an immigration attorney with Bashyam Shah in Raleigh, North Carolina. I’m here with our managing partner, Murali Bashyam.
Murali Bashyam: Hello everybody.
Ame Coats: And today we’re gonna be talking to you about a special immigration topic, how to sponsor your spouse or fiancé. Thank you for joining us. Okay, if you’ve done any of your own research, you’re going to see K-3 all over the place. So I want to explain to you what a K-3 visa is. Probably I’d say it was about maybe ten, nine, ten years ago, the way to get your spouse here if you were a U.S. citizen was ridiculous. It was like three years.
People got really, really upset about it, and they convinced Congress to create a special visa category to get spouses here more quickly, and that’s called a K-3 visa. So when that was started, it was great. It was wonderful. It really helped get people here faster. But what’s happened over the last three, four years I’d say is the immigration service has gotten their processing time down so much on regular immigrant visas that I’ve – I’ve not used the K-3 visa in probably two years.
Murali Bashyam: I think Ame, the processing time now to do a regular immigrant visa, which means green card application, is about the same as going through the K-3 visa process, right?
Ame Coats: It is. I mean sometimes I file it just to file it just to cover _
Murali Bashyam: Is there any advantage to doing that?
Ame Coats: Just to cover yourself 100 percent because it’s free. So after you file your I-130 petition for an immigrant visa, that’s when you file for a K-3 visa. And the government doesn’t charge an extra fee. Sometimes I just do it to do it, but I haven’t used one in a year and a half, two years because the immigrant visas have been coming through so quickly.
Murali Bashyam: I guess it’s good to keep the K-3 in mind just in case the processing times do start shifting upwards.
Ame Coats: Absolutely. Absolutely. But when people come to the office and they think a K-3 is gonna be the same and get their spouse here in three months, no. It doesn’t happen. Okay. Another option that you have is adjustment of status, and this ties back in to what we were talking about at the beginning of the presentation about coming on a tourist visa and then applying for adjustment of status. Well, not everybody tries to do it that way, which really is not the right way, and I hope we made that point clear.
But there are some people who are here in the United States in H1B status, or let’s say you were here as a student at Carolina and that’s how you met your spouse, and your spouse was on an F-1 visa. Those people are already here legally. If someone’s already here legally and there was no preconceived intent to come here and to commit fraud, then it is possible to adjust status here in the United States without going abroad.
But you’ve got to be really careful about these fraud issues, and it doesn’t work for everybody. But I absolutely recommend that you have a consultation with an immigration attorney before you file anything. There’s a big package that has to be filed with the immigration service. You can get temporary work authorization. Travel documents are a little bit – you got to be careful there because for anyone who’s out of status, if they use a travel document, that could actually cause some huge problems down the road.
Murali Bashyam: So basically let’s say that my spouse came here, at that time she was not my spouse, let’s say five years ago, as a visitor, and she was authorized to stay in the United States for six months and she overstayed her I-94 card. So she’s been here illegally for quite some time. And then we met and got married, and I want to do all of this for her. In that situation, you’re saying the travel document is probably not advisable.
Ame Coats: Right. In the situation you just described, actually the immigration services will forgive the fact that your spouse has worked without permission and that your spouse has been here illegally. But there are some other issues that come along with that sometimes. For example, false claims of U.S. citizenship, fraudulent social security cards, fraudulent resident cards. So I can’t give you a neat and clean answer to that one because I do see other issues that go along with being out of status. Okay. So after that application packet is filed, the immigration service is going to schedule an interview at your local office.
The purpose of the interview is to prove that the marriage is bona fide and that the foreign national is not inadmissible to the United States for any reason. But as far as the interview goes, I think that if you’re just beginning researching the immigration process, you have this just really ugly, probably an ugly interview pictured in your head. But it’s very rare that couples get separated. If couples are separated, usually immigration service has a good reason for doing it. What I see are just general questions with the couple together, such as when did you meet, how long did you date before you got married, where did you get married, who was at the wedding. And don’t feel bad if you didn’t have a wedding.
I’d say at least 75 percent of the people that I meet, not even just in the practice but just in real life, they don’t have a fancy wedding ceremony anymore. So you don’t have to have a fancy wedding ceremony to have a bona fide marriage. It’s a whole lot more than that. So eventually the officer is gonna want to see documents. Some officers, sure, some officers like to see pictures, but most officers want to see financial. They want to see that you’re jointly obligated on debt, and that you both have access to the money, joint back account statements, joint lease, joint deed, joint tax returns.
Murali Bashyam: Bills.
Ame Coats: Bills, utility bills, joint auto insurance. If you get life insurance through your job or you just happen to have it that you designated your spouse as a beneficiary, joint health insurance, joint membership for things like even AAA. And it’s not that you have to have all these things. They’re gonna look at the totality of everything you have. They’re going to look at it as a whole.
Murali Bashyam: I think they’re also going to look at the couple and how they interact with each other. They also get a feeling of things, and I think that they have to cover themselves well. So the more documentation you have, they’ll make some copies of these documents, put it in the file, it covers them, they either approve the case or not. So as Ame said, you don’t have to have everything that she is listing out, but the more you have, definitely the better.
Ame Coats: And it does have something to do with how you present yourself, because as much as we don’t want to talk about it, people do make stereotypes about other people from the minute they see a couple together. And so you do have to keep that in mind as well. I always tell people to dress like they’re going to church.
Murali Bashyam: That’s right. And know what kind of shampoo your spouse is using as well. [Laughter]
Ame Coats: Really. [Laughter]
Murali Bashyam: We’ve seen that question as well.
Ame Coats: I’ve never seen that question. But I have the heard question once, and this is when a couple was separated a long time ago, just a question like, what’s your husband’s favorite food. I think that’s the most idiotic question because really, doesn’t it just depend on the day? I don’t know.
Murali Bashyam: Yeah. Honestly, I think some of the questions do get complicated, but most of the time as Ame was discussing, most of the time if it’s a legitimate relationship –
Ame Coats: And they have a good feeling about you as a couple, they’re not gonna separate you.
Murali Bashyam: And not only that, but they’re not really gonna get into a lot most of the time.
Ame Coats: And they don’t have a lot of time to do it. Some of these interviewers have 12 interviews to do a day. They’ve got to get you out of there because it might be the next couple that has a much greater – a big problem with the case. Okay. And also as far as grounds of inadmissibility, if you’ve been convicted of anything, even if you think your charge has been dismissed, anything that is a non-traffic offense, you need to see an immigration attorney and have them take a look at it. I mean there are things that you may think are no big deal that are actually a real problem with immigration. DUIs are becoming a bigger problem. It used to be that just one might not be a big deal, but we’ve seen some kind of odd things over the years.
Murali Bashyam: Yeah, I think Ame’s point is if you don’t have a complete 100 percent clean record, it’s best to get advice to see if that would cause an issue in filing a case like this.
Ame Coats: Yeah. Absolutely. Okay, and then finally once your spouse gets approved, it’s the same situation as when you enter with an immigrant visa. If you’ve been married less than two years, you’re getting conditional residency, which is a two-year card. If you’ve been married two years or more, you’re getting a senior card.
Murali Bashyam: If you do have any other questions regarding this topic, all you need to do is send me or Ame an email. And thank you for attending.
Ame Coats: Yes, thank you for joining us. Bye-bye.
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