Based on the foregoing information, a U.S. citizen might feel competent to sponsor his/her spouse for permanent residence without seeking legal help. After all, each of the required forms can be found online. Unfortunately, we often have to assist couples after they run themselves into barriers put in place by the USCIS to prevent marriage fraud, in particular the regulations imposed by the 1986 Marriage Fraud Act.
Someone who has never attempted to navigate immigration regulations might believe that simply presenting the marriage certificate and a few documents or photos is sufficient proof to support a marriage petition. However joint bills, shared checking accounts, and the like are seldom sufficient evidence to overcome USCIS opposition if the agency suspects marriage fraud. The government's perception of the validity of the marriage often depends on the marriage interview itself.
Successful marriage interviews depend on careful preparation, anticipation of challenges from USCIS, and the presence of legal counsel. Having an experienced immigration attorney by your side can prevent the delay or even denial of an I-130 petition. A petition denial can be appealed, but appeals involve further costs and the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) can take many months – up to a year in some cases – for consideration. An appeal is also not guaranteed, and if unsuccessful will result in either an order for the foreign national to leave the country or a summons to Immigration Court.
In fourteen years of practice, our San Francisco immigration lawyer has represented clients at hundreds of USCIS marriage interviews and has helped many more prepare for interviews on their own. We recommend that you seek legal help prior to filing any petitions to the government. If you have already filed the petition you may want to consult with us as soon as possible in order that our attorney can prepare you and your spouse for the road ahead.