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A Walk Through The Joint Green Card Application Process

Posted by Uzo Akpele | May 20, 2023 | 0 Comments

When that green card application is filed, it is time of expectation – one looks forward to the interview, arrival of the actual green card and even before that, the enjoyment of certain privileges such as the ability to take up employment  and to travel out of the U.S. while the green card application is pending.  

After the joint petition/application package is mailed out to the CIS, the first step in the process is that the CIS sends a Receipt Notice acknowledging that it has received and has started processing the applications.  

Next the CIS sends the biometrics notice which asks the green-card applicant (the non-U.S. citizen) when to go to the CIS Application Support Center to have his fingerprints taken.  If the applicant has been given a time that is not convenient for him, he may call or write the CIS and ask to reschedule the biometrics appointment.

After fingerprints have been taken the CIS will send the employment authorization card (EAD) which authorizes one to work.  Where the applicant has asked for advance parole, the USCIS now gives a joint employment authorization and advance parole card.  

The current practice is that one may indicate on one's employment authorization application form that one wants the USCIS to give their information to Social Security Administration (SSA) so that the SSA can issue them a social security number.  If one chooses this, then soon after their employment authorization card,  they will receive their social security card/number. The  employment authorization card and social security number will allow the green card applicant to legally take up employment.  If there is a delay in receiving a social security number after the arrival of employment authorization, then one should go with one's employment authorization card to the social security administration office to see about getting the number issued.  

Advance parole allows one to travel outside the U.S. while the adjustment application is pending without being deemed to have abandoned the adjustment application. It does not guarantee that one will be allowed back into the US.  

Certain classes of people may want to stay on the safe side and not travel until they have their green card in hand. One of those is the class of people who have had long periods of unauthorized stay in the U.S. another is those who entered into the U.S. without permission and are processing their adjustment application based on INA § 245(i).  This is because by being unlawfully present in the US,  and then leaving the U.S. one triggers the punitive section of the immigration laws which bars one from returning to the U.S. for 3 or 10 years.  Advance parole will not cure this bar.

Example 1:  X lawfully came to the U.S. as a tourist in 2000. The notation on his 1-94 card allowed him to stay for 90 days.  X did not leave after 90 days, but has remained in the U.S. since that time.  X now has an adjustment application pending and even got advance parole documents. 

Example 2:  Y came to the U.S. in 1999 by crossing the border without permission.  He does not have an I-94 card. In 2000, Y's father who was a permanent resident applied for a green card for Y.  Y is still waiting for his priority date to become current.  Meanwhile, Y is now married to U.S. citizens and they have filed the joint application package. and also applied and received advance parole.

If either X or Y leaves the U.S. they will be subject to the bar and may not be allowed back into the U.S. for ten years. The CIS generally makes an effort not to grant advance parole to those who may incur the bar, but sometimes fails to take notice to that effect. In such cases of errors, the applicant could still be barred from returning to the U.S.   If one has had any instances of unlawful presence in the US, it may be advisable to play safe and remain in the U.S. until a green card is received.

Time frame so far?  These days, it is harder to tell than ever.   It could take longer (especially if the CIS sends an initial request for evidence) or it could take shorter.

Once the issues of advance parole and EAD have been dealt with, the next step in the process is the adjustment interview. The Applicant and the Petitioner are notified of a date/time when they are to show up at the offices for the CIS for an interview. The interview notice tells the parties what documents they should be brought to the interview.

The interview should not be a painful experience if the applicant is well-prepared. The applicant/petitioner should have all their original documents and be prepared to answer all the questions correctly.  The USCIS normally pre-screens the files before the interview and this helps it determine cases where the interviewer should inquire deeper.   Aside from the paperwork submitted,USCIS officers also rely on a low tech "smell" test. They are usually experienced and will watch the body language of the parties and other things that do not seem right about a couple they are interviewing.

The interviewing officer may or may not be polite; may or may not be relaxed; may or may not have a lot of questions. Personal styles vary.  The key is to be calm, confident and answer all questions clearly.  Some applicants have come back with horror stories where an adjudicator grilled them, then harangued and threatened the U.S. citizen spouse admitting to a fraudulent marriage or withdrawing a relative petition.

Usually, the CIS officer will ask more penetrating questions if something does not appear right about a couple and their supporting evidence.  They do have the right to do this, but harassing applicants is not sanctioned by the law.  Anyone who feels aggrieved by the conduct of an interviewing officer may lodge a complaint with the USCIS. (Yes, they will be looked into).  

If all goes well at the interview, the relative petition and the adjustment application are approved right at the end of the interview or shortly after that.  The adjustment applicant will receive a notice showing that their application has been approved, as well as the actual permanent resident card (Green Card).

Our office can prepare and file your case, as well as accompany you to your interview.  Call us at 404.250.3295 to schedule a consultation.

About the Author

Uzo Akpele

Uzo Akpele was born and raised in Nigeria. In 1986, she began studying law at The University of Nigeria, graduating in 1990. In 1991, she was admitted into the Nigeria Bar. Upon moving to the United States, she again studied law at The University of Georgia School of Law, from where she graduated in 2000.


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