Welcome to our dedicated green card through marriage page. Below you will find information about the green card marriage process, the timeline of the spouse visa USA application, the documents and forms that you will need to include in your filing for a green card after marriage, detailed questions and instructions about the green card marriage interview you will attend, and the cost of the entire green card marriage process. Our family-based immigration lawyers can devise a custom-tailored spouse visa USA plan for your specific case. We have the necessary experience and knowledge needed to help you achieve your dream of living with your spouse in the United States.
Can You Get a Green Card Through Marriage? (maybe for a featured snippet)
Obtaining a green card through marriage can be a complex process requiring attention to detail and an understanding of the rules and requirements of the marriage visa USA process. The marriage-based green card is one of the most common paths to permanent residence because spouses of US citizens fall into the immediate relative category. There is no annual cap on the number of immediate relative green cards issued by the government, making the spouse visa USA a popular path to a green card.
What is a Marriage-Based Green Card?
The marriage-based green card gives non-US citizens the option to live in the United States with their US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR) spouse. As one of the most popular paths to a green card, it helps thousands of individuals every year unite with their loved ones by giving them the opportunity to work and live permanently in the United States. The specifics of the green card marriage process differ depending on the location of the foreign spouse but most of the elements of the application remain the same regardless of whether your spouse lives inside or outside the United States.
You can learn more about the details of the marriage-based green card application below as well as in our dedicated green card marriage blog posts, explaining in detail every step of the green card marriage process, highlights of which are mentioned in this article.
Marriage Green Card Requirements
To be eligible for a green card through marriage the petitioning spouse and the foreign national spouse have to meet certain requirements. If the couple do not meet these requirements, their application will not be approved. The requirements for marriage-based green card are: (1) the petitioning spouse must be a US citizen or a permanent resident, (2) the couple must be in a valid, legally recognized marriage, (3) all prior marriages must have legally ended, and (4) you must be in a real, bona fide marriage, a marriage not just entered into to obtain a green card. If you meet the above marriage green card requirements, you can apply for your green card.
For more information on the marriage green card requirements, please watch our video on the topic:
Requirements for marriage-based green card
The green card marriage process can be summed up in three main steps.
Green Card Marriage Process
The green card marriage process can be summed up in three main steps.
The first and arguably most important step in the green card for spouse process is completing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and submitting it to the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) together with all required evidence. The I-130 petition is used as a way to establish that the marriage is bona fide, meaning that it is not fraudulent and that the couple truly intends to live together in marital union. The I-130 package you submit to the government should include a variety of documents and other supporting evidence in addition to the actual completed, signed forms and checks for government fees. After the filing of the petition is organized and completed, the petitioner or their attorney mails it to the USCIS address indicated on USCIS’s website. Thereafter you should receive a receipt notice confirming that USCIS has received your green card marriage case and is currently processing it. If USCIS requires additional evidence from you, the agency will send you a Request for Evidence, or in short RFE, which will explain the nature of the additional documentation requested. The petitioner, whether or not through the help of her attorney, must respond by submitting the additional evidence to USCIS or risk denial of the marriage-based green card petition.
The next step in the green card for spouse process depends on where the foreign national spouse is located. If your foreign spouse is living abroad she will need to apply for a spouse visa USA through the consular process. If your spouse lives in the United States and is in valid immigration status, she may apply for adjustment of status. If your spouse is in the United States but does not have a valid immigration status or entered the country unlawfully, contact an attorney experienced with the marriage visa USA process to make sure you pursue the right strategy and do not expose your spouse to any unlawful presence bars to admission.
Green card through Marriage: Adjustment of Status
The adjustment of status process allows a spouse seeking a green card through marriage to apply for an obtain a green card inside the United States. This process does not require travel to a foreign country and visiting a US embassy or consulate. To be able to submit an adjustment of status application, the green card marriage applicant must be located inside the United States. The adjustment of status process involves filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, together with all necessary supporting documents with USCIS. It is important that through the documents submitted, you establish your eligibility for adjusting status in the United States. If the petitioning spouse is a US citizen, or if the F2A category is current in the case of a green card holder spouse, then the adjustment of status application may be filed together with the marriage-based green card petition. This is known as concurrent filing, where the I-485 package and the I-130 package are filed together. This, in effect, allows the first two steps of the marriage-based green card process.
Green Card through Marriage: Consular Processing
The consular processing step is relevant if the foreign national spouse is currently residing outside of the United States. In this case, the spouse will need to submit the marriage-based green card application together with all required evidence to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC then forwards the case to the local US embassy or consulate that will process the application. There are some cases, in which even though the spouse lives inside the United States, it may make strategic sense to process the green card for spouse through a consulate or embassy. Some examples of such cases include situations such as where the foreign national spouse has certain past immigration violations or if the spouse must frequently travel internationally while the marriage visa USA application is pending.
If the above steps in the green card through marriage process are completed successfully, the final step involves the green card marriage interview. This interview may be conducted either in a USCIS field office if the green card for spouse application was filed through the adjustment of status process, or a US embassy/consulate, if the application was filed through the consular process.
Consular Processing vs Adjustment of Status
The decision between consular processing vs adjustment of status depends on several factors. It is critical to review whether the foreign national spouse has any past immigration violations, such as overstaying an authorized stay or working without authorization in the United States. If applying for a green card through marriage in the immediate relative category, such violations should not prohibit the foreign national spouse from obtaining a marriage-based green card through adjustment of status. However, if the foreign national spouse leaves the United States and proceeds through the consular process, overstays of over six months will bar the foreign national spouse from obtaining an immigrant visa for 3 years or more. In such cases, the adjustment of status process has significant advantages to consular processing.
In other cases, the foreign national spouse’s job or family obligations may require regular international travel. If the foreign national spouse leaves the United States while the adjustment of status application is pending, the application will be deemed abandoned. In such cases, pursuing consular processing makes more sense. These are just some of the factors that must be considered before deciding between consular processing vs adjustment of status. In general, you should carefully analyze the circumstances of your case before making a decision. You may consider consulting with an experienced family-based immigration lawyer to help you develop the best strategy. Switching from consular processing to adjustment of status and, vice versa, change from adjustment of status to consular processing is possible under certain circumstances. So if you have to change your strategy after filing your case, all is not lost.
For more information on the consular processing vs. adjustment of status question, you can watch our video on the topic:
Green Card Marriage Timeline
There is no set in stone, definitive green card marriage timeline. USCIS offers a tool that can be used to track current processing times of spouse visa USA cases. If you filed for adjustment of status, the processing times of your case will heavily depend on your local USCIS field office. Smaller offices tend to have faster processing times than offices located in large metropolitan areas. The same is true if you are pursuing a spouse visa USA through a US consulate or embassy. The busiest consular posts located in the world’s largest cities tend to have longer processing times. Generally, the marriage-based green card process takes between 8 and 16 months.
If the foreign national is married to a US citizen and currently resides in the United States, the green card through marriage process should take between 8 and 14 months from start to finish. It can be divided into eight main stages, involving submitting the marriage-based green card application package, receiving a receipt notice, receiving a biometrics appointment notice, attending the biometrics appointment, receiving the EAD card (optional), receiving an interview notice, attending the marriage-based green card interview, and finally, receiving the marriage-based green card in the mail.
If the foreign national is married to a US citizen and resides outside the United States, the green card marriage timeline will depend on the processing times of the consulate or embassy processing the case. Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, processing times for spouse visa USA cases filed through the consular process were taking between 8 and 14 months. Since the start of the pandemic, processing times have significantly increased because of the numerous embassy and consulate closures. The main steps of the consular process timeline are submitting the marriage-based green card petition and the supporting documents, receiving the receipt notice, receiving an I-130 approval notice, receiving welcome letter from the NVC, receiving a notice about successful fee processing and application submission, receiving a receipt notice from the NVC that all relevant documents have been uploaded, receiving an interview notice, completing pre-interview requirements, attending the marriage-based green card interview, receiving a passport with a spouse visa USA and the sealed immigrant visa packet, travelling to the United States, and last but not least, receiving the marriage-based green card in the mail.
If the foreign national has a green card holder spouse and the foreign national resides in the United States, the entire spouse visa USA process generally takes between 8 and 14 months. Because marriage-based green card cases filed by a green card holding spouse fall in the F2A preference category and not the immediate relative category, there may be an additional delay in these cases if the F2A category is retrogressed. In such cases, the foreign national spouse cannot immediately file the adjustment of status application. The main stages of the marriage visa USA timeline for spouses of green card holders involve submitting the marriage-based green card petition, receiving a receipt notice, waiting for a visa number to become available, submitting the adjustment of status application and supporting documents, receiving a receipt notice, receiving a biometrics appointment notice, attending biometrics appointment, receiving EAD card in the mail (optional), receiving an interview notice, attending the green card marriage interview, and receiving the marriage-based green card in the mail.
If the foreign national is married to a green card holder and currently lives outside the United States, the spouse visa USA timeline will depend on the processing times at the US consulate or embassy processing the case. The timeline is similar to that of a foreign national married to a US citizen who is living abroad and pursuing consular processing. Additional delays may occur if the F2A visa category is retrogressed and the applicant has to wait for a marriage visa USA to become available. The process involves submitting the marriage-based green card petition and the supporting documents, receiving a receipt notice, receiving an approval notice, waiting for a visa number to become available, receiving welcome letter from NVC, receiving a notice about successful fee processing and submitting application, receiving a receipt notice online, receiving an approval notice, receiving an interview notice, completing pre-interview requirements, attending the marriage-based green card interview, receiving a passport with the visa and the sealed immigrant visa packet, travelling to the United States, and finally, receiving the marriage-based green card in the mail.
Please note that the above spouse visa USA timelines are estimates. They do not account for issues like requests for missing evidence, increases in application backlogs, consulate closures, and other events that may delay marriage-based green card process.
For more information about the difference between the immediate relative and F2A visa category, please watch our video:
Documents Needed to Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage
The green card through marriage process involves submitting documentary evidence that the foreign national is eligible to receive a marriage-based green card. The main green card through marriage immigration forms required in the application are:
Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
The purpose of the I-130 green card marriage form is to establish that the petitioner is a US citizen or permanent resident and that the couple have entered into a valid marriage, referred to as a bona fide marriage by USCIS. Together with the forms you should submit extensive supporting documents that establish the validity of your marriage. These documents may include documents proving that you have combined your finances, such as bank statements and jointly filed tax returns, documents proving you live together, such as mortgage statements or lease agreements, documents proving you own property together, such as vehicle titles, or proof a joined life, including photos of you together and proof of trips you have taken together.
Form I-130A, Supplemental Information
The I-130A marriage-based green card form collects information about the foreign national spouse’s employment and residential history for the past five years as well as other background information about the green card through marriage applicant.
Form I-485, Application for Permanent Residence or Adjustment of Status
The I-485 marriage-based green card form is used by USCIS to collect information to establish that the foreign national spouse meets the eligibility criteria to become a permanent resident of the United States. This form should be submitted if the spouse visa USA applicant wishes to obtain a green card in the United States without needing to depart the country for a consular interview. Some of the supporting documents that you should submit with your I-485 application include documents proving your lawful entry to the United States and your birth certificate.
Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application
The DS-260 marriage-based green card online form is used by foreign spouses living outside the United States when filing for an immigrant visa through the consular process. Along with the DS-260, you will be asked to upload all required documents.
Form I-864, Affidavit of Support
The I-864 marriage-based green card form obligates the US citizen or green card holder sponsor to financially support the foreign national spouse. The sponsor should provide evidence that she meets certain minimum income requirements and that the sponsor will not let the foreign national spouse become a public charge. The documents generally submitted with the I-864 include recent tax returns, W-2s, and paystubs.
Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination
The I-693 marriage-based green card form is used by the doctor performing the medical exam. The spouse visa USA application must provide this form in a sealed envelope to the immigration officer. This form establishes that the applicant is not inadmissible due to medical grounds.
Form I-131, Application for Travel Document
The I-131 green card marriage form is often submitted with the adjustment of status application. The application for travel document is a request for temporary international travel authorization while the marriage-based green card adjustment of status application awaits adjudication.
Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
The I-765 green card marriage form helps the foreign national spouse who has applied for adjustment of status to obtain work authorization in the United States while awaiting adjudication of the marriage-based green card application.
Green Card Marriage Interview
One of the final steps of the green card through the marriage process involves undergoing an immigration interview. The marriage-based green card interview is different depending on whether the foreign national spouse is applying through the adjustment of status process or through the consular process. The green card marriage interview step is used by immigration officers to review the application and ensure that the couple is in a valid marriage. If the foreign national spouse applied for adjustment of status in the United States, then the green card marriage interview will take place at a USCIS field office in the United States and it will require the presence of both the US citizen petitioner and the foreign national spouse. If the foreign national spouse applied through the consular process, then the spouse visa USA interview will take place at a US consulate or embassy. The foreign national spouse applicant generally attends this interview alone.
Before the marriage-based green card interview, it is best if you become well acquainted with the typical questions asked as well as the documents you will need to bring to the interview. All information provided at the interview will have to be consistent with the information already provided to the government throughout the process. Frequently asked questions during a green card marriage interview include inquiries about the couple’s personal life, their family and friends, relationship history, travel history, wedding ceremony, among others.
Overall, the green card marriage interview process is crucial for the successful conclusion of the spouse visa USA application. At the end of the marriage-based green card interview, the immigration officer may approve or deny the case, or request for additional evidence from the couple. In some cases, the couple may be invited for a second marriage-based green card interview.
Green Card Marriage Cost
The cost of the spouse visa USA application can vary depending on whether the applicant is pursuing the adjustment of status process or the consular process. The USCIS filing fees for the I-130 petition and for the I-485 adjustment of status application can be found on USCIS’s website.
The aforementioned fees, however, do not include the attorney fees if the marriage-based green card applicant decides to hire a lawyer to guide him or her through the green card marriage process. Quite often, the fees are unique for each case and highly dependent on the specifics of the situation. The legal fees vary from case to case depending on the specific facts of the case, such as the number of applicants (if the foreign national spouse has any children that are concurrently applying for green cards this may affect the fees), the presence of past immigration violations, or past criminal convictions.
Conditional Marriage-Based Green Card – Removal of Conditions
After the successful completion of the marriage-based green card application, if the couple have been married for less than 2 years, the foreign national spouse will be issued a 2-year conditional green card. At the end of this 2 year period, the couple must file a petition to remove conditions so that the foreign national spouse may obtain a 10-year unconditional green card. Our removal of conditions article explains the process in detail .
From Marriage Green Card to Citizenship
Once you obtain your marriage-based green card, you can start preparing for the next step in your immigration journey, naturalization. If you are married to and living with your US citizen spouse for 3 years, you may apply to become a naturalized US citizen. This is an advantage to the regular naturalization application process for which you have to be a green card holder for 5 years. One of the main requirements for applying for citizenship in 3 years is to prove that you and your US citizen spouse are living in a marital union. You should submit documents proving that you and your US citizen spouse have been living together as a married couple for 3 years. The marriage green card to citizenship process can be summarized in four steps: submitting Form N-400, attending biometrics appointment, attending U.S. citizenship interview and, finally, taking the Oath of Allegiance.
Marriage Green Card Denial Rate
According to USCIS reports, the marriage green card denial rate in the immediate relative category is approximately 11.8%. Some of the main reasons why your marriage-based green card petition might get denied by USCIS include failing to submit required evidence, failing to prove the validity of your marriage, substantial errors in the forms, or the sponsor not meeting the minimum income requirements.
Green Card Through Marriage Services
Are you wondering about the green card marriage process or how to obtain a spouse visa USA, our family-based immigration team has extensive experience helping couples through the green card after marriage process.
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Marriage based green card received.
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