The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry in all of the U.S. states and unincorporated territories is another cause for celebration! Immigration law treated married same-sex spouses just the same as different-sex spouses. This included the right for a U.S. citizen to petition for a same-sex fiancé(e) abroad, petition to adjust status for a same-sex spouse to obtain a marriage based green card, and also for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to petition for stepchildren created by a same-sex marriage. However, prior to the ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, a same-sex couple sometimes had to travel to another state or country to marry. That potential hardship has now been removed, and U.S. citizens or permanent residents seeking to petition for a same-sex spouse may marry anywhere in the U.S.
You may not be required to prove your financial ability to be eligible for immigration benefits! There are certain groups of people who are either exempt from public charge, or may get a waiver for public charge when applying for a green card or other benefits with USCIS. These include:
- Refugees (or current refugees applying for adjustment to permanent resident status)
- Asylum applicants (or current asylees applying for adjustment to permanent resident status)
- Amerasian Immigrants (for their initial admission)
- Individuals granted relief under the Cuban Adjustment Act (CAA)
- Individuals granted relief under the Nicaraguan and Central American Relief Act (NACARA)
- Individuals granted relief under the Haitian Refugee Immigration Fairness Act (HRIFA)
- Individuals applying for a T Visa or have one and are trying to become a permanent resident and get a green card
- Individuals applying for a U Visa or have one and are trying to become a permanent resident and get a green card
- Applicants for Temporary Protected Status (TPS)
- Certain applicants under the LIFE Act Provisions
If you have any questions or concerns regarding if you need to prove your financial ability or file an Affidavit of Support, feel free to contact us at Your Immigration Angel!
Inadmissibility based on the public charge ground is determined by the totality of the circumstances. This means that the adjudicating officer must weigh both the positive and negative factors when determining the likelihood that someone might become a public charge. At a minimum, a USCIS officer must consider the following factors when making a public charge determination:
- Family status
- Financial status
- Education and skills
The officer may also consider any affidavit of support filed on behalf of the individual. In assessing the totality of the circumstances, including the statutory factors above, an officer may consider the individual’s receipt of certain publicly funded benefits. Not all publicly funded benefits are relevant to deciding whether someone is likely to become a public charge. When determining whether someone is likely to become a public charge, USCIS will consider whether the individual is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence as demonstrated by either the receipt of public cash assistance for income maintenance or institutionalization for long-term care at government expense. Short-term institutionalization for rehabilitation is not subject to public charge consideration under existing field guidance.
For immigration benefits adjudicated by USCIS, whether a person is likely to become a public charge is often considered when someone is trying to become a permanent resident and obtain a U.S. green card. It is also considered when someone applies for certain non-immigrant or other temporary benefits, for example by extending non-immigrant status within the United States.
According to the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), if you are seeking admission to the United States or seeking to adjust status to become a lawful permanent resident, you are inadmissible if “at the time of application for admission or adjustment of status, you are likely at any time to become a public charge.” If an individual is inadmissible, admission to the United States or adjustment of status is not granted. Public charge does not apply in naturalization proceedings.
U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents (LPRs, or green card holders) are the only U.S. residents with the rights to obtain permanent residence or green cards for their spouses. Anyone who immigrates to the United States through a petition filed by a family member must be able to prove that he or she has financial support from the family member in the U.S. The financial sponsor must file an Affidavit of Support. An Affidavit of Support is a form that a qualified individual (a sponsor) files on your behalf when you are applying for a green card through your marriage to a U.S. Citizen or LPR spouse. The purpose of the form is to show that you have the financial means to live in the United States without needing welfare or financial benefits from the U.S. government. The law requires that the sponsor demonstrate that he or she is able to assist you financially. The sponsor must show that he or she has an annual income of not less than 125 percent of the federal poverty level. Failure to file a qualifying Affidavit of Support showing sufficient income levels with your Adjustment of Status makes you inadmissible as a public charge. USCIS will not allow anyone to immigrate if they do not have financial means to live in the U.S. and will reject anyone who will become or is currently a “public charge.” If you have any questions regarding your marriage green card application or Affidavit of Support, please feel free to contact Your Immigration Angel!
Noncitizen spouses who have entered the United States without inspection may still be eligible for immigration benefits under section 245(i) of the LIFE Act. Many people who have either never had valid immigration status in the U.S. or who have fallen out of valid status are allowed to apply for adjustment of status in the U.S. if they pay a penalty fee. Without this type of waiver, many people who do not have valid status in the U.S. would be unable to seek a visa while in the United States. Without this waiver, they would be required to seek their immigrant visa from within their home country. However, due to the status violation, they also would be barred from reentering the U.S. for at least three years. In many cases, they may even be banned from re-entering the U.S. for ten years!
To be eligible for this waiver, you must:
- have been present in the U.S. before December 18, 2000, and
- have either filed a family or employment based residency petition on or before April 30, 2001, or you must have been the derivative beneficiary of such a petition.
Even if your initial petition was not successful, but was filed on or before April 30, 2001, you may still be eligible for the 245(i) waiver. Under certain circumstances you may apply again for residency through another family petition. Immigration law is one of the most complicated areas of law, with a constantly evolving and changing laws and regulations. At Your Immigration Angel, we are committed to staying on top of the most recent changes to help you better follow your immigration path! Let us guide you on your path and assist you in achieving your immigration goals!
While the K-3 and K-4 visa offers many benefits, there are some other considerations to think about, depending on your personal situation. For example, did you know that even though an immigrant visa is immediately available when a K-3 Petition for Alien Relative reaches the Department of State, but then your spouse’s children are no longer eligible for K-3/K-4 nonimmigrant status? In that situation, the children must immigrate as lawful permanent residents. If the K-4 visa holder does not have an approved Petition for Alien Relative at the Department of State at that time, he or she will be ineligible to immigrate with the spouse of the USC.
It is advisable that the U.S. citizen petitioner file a separate green card petition on the child’s behalf concurrently with the green card petition that is filed for the spouse. While there is no requirement that a separate application needs to be filed for the child’s petition, it is advisable if a K-4 visa is desired.
K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant visa holders are only admitted for a 2-year period. A K-3 or K-4 nonimmigrant visa holder may apply for an extension of status in 2-year increments as long as the marriage-based green card visa petition or a corresponding application for adjustment of status or visa application is still pending adjudication. A K-4’s authorized stay automatically expires when the K3’s status expires.