​​I am in the USA on an L work visa. I got engaged to a US citizens a few months ago. We would like to get married soon here in the USA, and file for my green card after we marry. I have heard it takes a long time for a case to process. I am really worried I might get laid off because of the bad economy. If that happens, or if my employer does not renew my L, am I able to work, or travel, if I have not received my green card yet?

  • When your immigration attorney files for adjustment of status (process of getting the green card) as spouse of US Citizen, the attorney also files applications for employment and travel. Even though the adjustment case might be pending for almost a year (typical processing time during 2016), the processing of those two applications usually takes 3 months. When the application for employment is approved, you are able to work for any employer you want.
  • Regarding travelling, you should be cautious. If your L has expired and your travel document has not been issued yet, you should not travel outside of USA, otherwise your adjustment case will be denied and you will be stuck outside of USA (and you will need to initiate a different process (marriage visa) to be able to re-enter USA). Consult with your immigration lawyer on what to do, if a death in the family occurs in your home country soon after your attorney has filed for the travel document.

I met someone online a year ago. I visited her in her home country twice. She is here in the USA visiting me for the first time on a visitor visa. I totally surprised her by proposing to her in the most romantic way a week ago, and by some miracle she said “yes”. I would like to marry her immediately, and file for her papers, so she stays here in the USA with me.  Can we do so? 

  • You need to schedule a consultation with an experienced immigration lawyer to discuss all of the facts of your case very carefully. The B visa is a non-immigrant visitor visa, allowing one to come to USA for a short visit. So one cannot have the intent to remain in the USA permanently when they apply for a B visa, or when they enter the country on such a visa. If she was surprised by your proposal, then she probably did not have the intent to remain in the USA permanently. It is important to discuss such a case further with the immigration lawyer to determine whether she is eligible for an adjustment of status here in the USA, or whether she should return to her home country and initiate the process of getting a marriage visa instead.


I am a US citizen and I live in Houston. I am going to marry a non-US citizen overseas next month because all her family is there.  How do I start the immigration process of getting a green card for her? – Once you are married, a Houston immigration lawyer can help you file a marriage petition for your wife with supporting evidence to prove your relationship.

  • Will my wife be able to travel to the US as soon as the petition is filed? – Your Houston immigration attorney will file your petition as soon as it’s appropriate, but it will take months before USCIS processes and approves the petition.

  • What happens after USCIS approves the petition? – The good news is that there is no waiting period for spouses of US citizens, so once the petition is approved, National Visa Center (NVC) will invite your wife to start the process of applying for a visa. Your Houston immigration attorney can help you prepare and file financial documents proving that you have enough income to support your wife when she immigrates to the USA.

  • Once the financial documents are filed and approved, can she then get a visa and travel to the US? – Once she has cleared certain background checks and undergone a medical examination, the Consulate of her country may issue an immigrant visa for her and at that time she will be able to travel to US.

  • I heard that once she is in the US, I need to hire an immigration lawyer to file for adjustment of status for her, is that correct? – No, that is not correct. If your wife was issued an immigrant visa, she will receive a permanent resident card (green card) within weeks of entering the US. If she obtains a 2 year green card, her permanent resident status is conditional. If that’s the case, you may need to hire an immigration attorney to file to remove those conditions, during the 90 day period before the expiration of the green card.

I became a Permanent Resident last year. Can an immigration lawyer in Houston help me get a green card for my fiancée by filing for a fiancé visa? – Fiancé visas are available only for spouses of US citizens. A permanent resident can petition for a spouse or an unmarried child, but not a fiancé.

I am a Permanent Resident and I married my spouse overseas.  He has a 13 year old child from a prior marriage. Will my step-son be able to immigrate to the US when my spouse does? – The petition that your immigration lawyer will prepare for your spouse will have a section about your spouse’s family and your step-son’s name will be added there. When the petition is approved, your step-son will go through consular processing just like your spouse and be able to immigrate to the USA, as long as he is still unmarried and under 21. If he turns 21 before then, your immigration attorney would need to assist you in re-starting the process again by filing a new petition for him.

  • What is NVC and how is it involved in the process? – NVC stands for National Visa Center. Once your husband’s petition is approved by USCIS, it is transferred to NVC for processing.  NVC sends documents to you and your immigration lawyer requesting proof that you are able to support your spouse (and step-son) when they immigrate to the US. It also requests miscellaneous civil documents. During this processing, you file the visa application for them.

  • How do I show that I am able to financially support my spouse? What if I am able to support my spouse but not my step-son? – Your immigration attorney can assist you in showing to the government that the amount of income you make is over the federal poverty guidelines. If your income is not sufficient, or if your income is sufficient to support your spouse but not your step-son, you may have other sponsors file to assist you with the financial requirement.

My Woodlands immigration attorney helped me file a petition for my unmarried daughter when I was a permanent resident.  I am becoming a US citizen this fall. My daughter is engaged and will get married next year. I remember my Woodlands immigration lawyer explaining to me that my daughter will not be able to immigrate to the US on this petition if she gets married, is that true? – Your Woodlands immigration attorney was correct.  A permanent resident cannot petition for a married child.  The filed petition will be automatically revoked. However, if you become a US citizen before she marries, contact your Woodlands immigration attorney to file a new petition for her.  Once the petition is approved, she will be eligible for a visa without waiting in line (but only if she is under 21).

  • What happens if I become a US citizen after my daughter gets married, will my Woodlands immigration attorney be able to file anything? – Yes, your Woodlands immigration attorney can file a new petition for your married daughter. The difference is that once the petition is approved and transferred to NVC, your married daughter will have to wait in line for a visa to become available and that may take years.

  • If a visa becomes available after a few years of waiting in line at the NVC, and in the meantime my married daughter has had children, will they be able to immigrate with my daughter? – Yes, when your daughter is able to apply for her immigrant visa, her children will be able to apply with her.

I am a US citizen living in Northwest Harris County, and I am engaged to a foreign national.  I want to marry her as soon as possible.  What’s the fastest and cheapest way to get her here and eventually get the green card for her?  - 

  • If you are planning to get married in the US, contact an immigration attorney in Houston to assist you with preparing and filing a fiancé petition. Once USCIS approves the petition and NVC processes it, your fiancé can get a non-immigrant visa and enter the US for 90 days during which time you two can get married. 

  • If we get married in 90 days of her entry, does she get a green card? –Not yet. If you get married within 90 days of her entry, your Woodlands immigration attorney will file an application to adjust her status to that of a permanent resident. Once that application is approved, then she will obtain her green card.

  • If you are planning to get married overseas, your northwest Houston immigration lawyer can assist you by filing a marriage petition for your spouse after you have gotten married. Once the petition has been approved and the NVC and consular processing is over, she will receive an immigrant visa.

  • Will my wife be able to get her green card when she immigrates here or does my immigration attorney in the Woodlands need to file more paperwork for her? – Your wife will receive her green card in the mail a few weeks after she enters the country with her immigrant visa. However, since you filed the marriage petition soon after your marriage, the green card is valid only for 2 years. Your immigration lawyer will have to file to remove the conditions from your wife’s conditional permanent resident status. This is a very important step, and needs to be done before the green card expires.

The immigration lawyer handles the following family immigration cases in Houston and the Woodlands:

Green cards for husband or wife, parent or child (unmarried under 21) of US Citizen through adjustment of status (when family member is currently in the USA and entered USA lawfully (even if authorized stay and/or visa has expired) and through Immigrant Visa (when the family member is abroad), visa for fiancé of USC, green card for husband or wife, child (unmarried under 21 of Legal Permanent Resident (a/k/a LPR or green card holder), Consular Processing (green card) for family members of USC or LPR who have family approved petitions, adjustment of status through grandfathering, removal of conditions from green card, etc.

DISCLAIMER: Immigration lawyer, Merita Rice, has answered some frequently asked questions about family immigration cases. Please note that these questions and answers are provided for informational purposes only; therefore, they are not, and should not be construed as legal advice.  There is no attorney-client relationship created via this website. An attorney-client relationship is created only after the client has signed a contract for services. Please do not call this attorney to ask questions over the phone on how to handle your immigration case on your own, without the assistance of an attorney. The immigration lawyer cannot provide legal advice (answer your questions) if you have not established an attorney-client relationship with this attorney first. If you have a case for the immigration attorney to handle, please schedule a consultation with this office by visiting CONSULTATION page and following the instructions. If you have questions about how to complete forms, or how to handle your immigration case on your own, and you have no plan or intent to hire an attorney, do not call this attorney or schedule a consultation, call USCIS instead.

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Immigration updates by Immigration Lawyer in Houston and The Woodlands

The Rice Law Firm, PLLC

Frequently Asked Questions about Family Immigration

Houston:  713.855.3060ricelawhouston@gmail.com                                 ​​

The Woodlands: 936.271.1480, ricelawthewoodlands@gmail.com

Family Immigration - Green Card for Family of American Citizen and

for family of Permanent Resident - in Houston and The Woodlands