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Marriage Green Card Timeline

Marriage Green Card Timeline

One of the most common pathways to permanent residence in the United States is through marriage. The marriage green card timeline involves several different steps, and clients often wonder how long it takes to get a green card through marriage. Unfortunately, there can be no general timeframe because every case is unique and will therefore be processed differently, depending on the details that the government will take into consideration, including the location of the marriage ceremony, the evidence attached to the green card application, the foreign national’s nationality and place of residence, etc. While some couples might be able to get their marriage-based green card approved in less than a year, other might have to wait for over 3 years to receive their permanent resident card.

This is why contacting a family-based immigration attorney and scheduling a consultation is often the best first step for any green card applicant. An experienced lawyer can accurately judge your case, create a customized strategy, and give you a marriage green card timeline that would be as close as possible to reality. Pandev Law has years of experience helping married couples achieve their dream of living together as a family in the United States.

Green Card Through Marriage Processing Time

There can be no single answer to an inquiry about the green card through marriage processing time but most green cards take between 10 and 19 months, although in some cases it might take up to 38 months. Most of the waiting time depends on the status of the American spouse and the location of the foreign national spouse because of the differences between consular processing and adjustment of status. 

One of the benefits of a marriage-based green card application is that, unlike some of the other paths to lawful permanent residence, there is no maximum number of visas that can be issued within one calendar year. But even without waiting for a visa to become available, the bare minimum that most applicants end up waiting is about 10 months.

Marriage Green Card Timeline

The marriage green card timeline is highly influenced by the status of each spouse. As previously mentioned, a foreign national living in the United States and married to a US citizen will receive their visa much faster than a foreign spouse that lives outside the US and is married to a green card holder. To make things easier, we will take a look at the marriage green card timelines of four different scenarios.

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Marriage Green Card Timeline: Married to a US citizen and resides in the United States

This is the most desirable situation when it comes to the marriage green card timeline and the waiting times involved. Most applications in these circumstances take about 10-13 months.

The marriage-based green card application timeline in this case would involve eight stages:

  1. Submitting the application package.
  2. Receiving a receipt notice.
  3. Receiving a biometrics appointment notice.
  4. Attending the biometrics appointment.
  5. Receiving the EAD card.
  6. Receiving an interview notice.
  7. Attending the interview.
  8. Receiving green card in the mail.

Submitting the application package

The sponsor and the applicant submit Form I-130 and Form I-485 in a concurrent filing package, along with any supporting documents that are required.

About 2 weeks later

Receiving a receipt notice 

The receipt notice confirms that the marriage-based immigration application package was received by USCIS. The notice contains a special receipt number which can be used to check the case status online.

About 3-5 weeks after filing the application

Receiving a biometrics appointment notice

The biometrics appointment notice will include the exact location (which local Application Support Center will be used), time and date of the appointment. 

About 4-6 weeks after filing the application 

Attending the biometrics appointment 

The applicant needs to attend the biometrics appointment in order to provide USCIS with biometrics data such as fingerprints, a photograph and the individual’s signature. This data is then used to confirm the identity of the applicant and their background information.

About 5.5-7.5 months after filing the application

Receiving the EAD card 

Although the employment authorization form and the travel authorization form are not mandatory, most applicants submit them alongside their main forms in the initial joint filing package. About this time, the applicant should receive their EAD approval notice and their EAD card should arrive in the mail. It will allow the individual to work in the United States and travel abroad in specific circumstance before they receive their green card.

About 4-10 months after filing the application

Receiving an interview notice

The next step in the green card process requires an in-person interview with both spouses present and USCIS will send an interview notice beforehand. The notice will include the exact time, date and location where the interview will take place as well as detailed instructions on the documents the applicant and the sponsor are required to bring with them.

About 1-2 months after receiving the interview notice

Attending the interview

As previously mentioned, both the applicant and the sponsor are required to attend. The interview will contain questions that will help the USCIS officers conducting it determine whether the relationship is bona fide and whether the information that the couple provided in the forms is legitimate.

About 1-2 months after attending the interview

Receiving green card in the mail

About this time, the applicant should receive their green card in the mail and is now officially a lawful permanent resident.

Marriage Green Card Timeline: Married to a US citizen and resides outside the United States

If the applicant is married to a US citizen but is currently residing outside the United States, then they will need to go through a process called “consular processing”. The timeline in this situation is about 14-18 months.

The marriage-based green card application timeline in this case would involve thirteen stages:

  1. Submitting the immigrant petition and the supporting documents.
  2. Receiving a receipt notice.
  3. Receiving an approval notice.
  4. Receiving welcome letter from NVC.
  5. Receiving a notice about successful fee processing and submitting application.
  6. Receiving a receipt notice online.
  7. Receiving an approval notice.
  8. Receiving an interview notice.
  9. Completing pre-interview requirements.
  10. Attending the interview.
  11. Receiving a passport with visa and the sealed immigrant visa packet.
  12. Travelling to the United States.
  13. Receiving the green card in the mail.

Submitting the immigrant petition and the supporting documents

The sponsor submits the immigrant petition I-130 and all related forms and supporting documents as the first step of the marriage-based green card process.

About 2 weeks later

Receiving a receipt notice

The receipt notice confirms that the I-130 application package was received by USCIS. The notice contains a special receipt number which can be used to check the case status online.

About 7-10 months later

Receiving an approval notice

The approval notice confirms that the I-130 petition was approved and the next step can begin.

About 3 weeks after receiving the approval

Receiving welcome letter from NVC

The welcome letter from the National Visa Center (NVC) includes the applicant’s case number and their invoice ID number which will be required in the filing of the next package of applications. The applicant is also required to pay the immigrant visa processing fee at this stage, along with the fee for the Affidavit of Support. The sum of both fees is $445 and should be paid before moving on to the next step

About 1 week later

Receiving a notice about successful fee processing and submitting application

The applicant should then be notified that their fee was processed successfully. After receiving this notice, the applicant is required to submit the next application package which should contain a form called DS-260, alongside the supporting documents needed. This package is submitted online on the NVC website. The DS-260 form is the actual application for a marriage-based immigrant visa and it contains questions regarding the applicant’s history, personal information, family, etc. You can find out more about this form on the official website of the Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Immediately after submitting

Receiving a receipt notice online

The applicant should receive a receipt notice via email as soon as they submit the application package to the NVC website.

About 3 weeks later

Receiving an approval notice

Receiving an approval notice means that the applicant’s petition was approved and they can proceed with the next step of the process, namely the interview.

About 1-2 months after the approval

Receiving an interview notice

This next step in the green card process requires an in-person interview with the applicant and an interview notice will be sent beforehand. The notice will include the exact time, date and location where the interview will take place as well as detailed instructions on the documents the applicant is required to bring.

Before the interview date

Completing pre-interview requirements

The pre-interview activities must be completed before the interview date and their exact nature depends on the embassy or consulate the interview will take place in. 

About 1 month after receiving the interview notice

Attending the interview

During the interview, a consular officer will ask the applicant a series of questions to confirm that the applicant did not lie on any of the forms and that the relationship is non-fraudulent.

A few weeks later

Receiving a passport with visa and the sealed immigrant visa packet

This visa will be valid for 6 months and the applicant will use it in order to travel to the United States. The sealed immigrant visa packet is supposed to be handed over to the border customs official when the applicant enters the country. The packet is supposed to stay sealed and should not ever be opened by the immigrant. 

Within 6 months

Travelling to the United States

Immigrant visas in this case require the applicant to pay the immigrant fee and then travel to the US within 6 months before the visa expires.

About 2-3 weeks later

Receiving the green card in the mail

About this time, the applicant should receive their green card in the mail and is now officially a lawful permanent resident.

Marriage Green Card Timeline: Married to a green card holder and resides in the US

For applicants who are married to a green card holder and currently live in the U.S, you will apply through a USCIS procedure called “Adjustment of Status”. Receiving a green card currently takes about 11-14 months.

The application timeline in this case would involve eight stages:

  1. Submitting the immigrant petition.
  2. Receiving a receipt notice.
  3. Waiting for a visa number to become available.
  4. Submitting the adjustment of status application and supporting documents
  5. Receiving a receipt notice
  6. Receiving a biometrics appointment notice
  7. Attending biometrics appointment
  8. Receiving EAD card in the mail
  9. Receiving an interview notice
  10. Attending the interview
  11. Receiving green card in the mail

Submitting the immigrant petition and the supporting documents

The sponsor needs to submit the Form I-130 application filing package, along with supporting documents.

About 2 weeks later

Receiving a receipt notice

The receipt notice confirms that the I-130 application package was received by USCIS. The notice contains a special receipt number and the applicant can use the number to check the case status online.

Directly following that

Waiting for a visa number to become available

This period differs from month to month. It is possible to receive a visa number immediately but in some situations the waiting period can take months.

After the visa number becomes available

Submitting the adjustment of status application and supporting documents

The sponsor and applicant submit the forms I-485, I-864, I-944, I-131, along with any supporting documents necessary. If the applicant wants to be able to work in the United States and travel abroad in case of emergency before the green card is approved, the filing package should also include forms I-765 and I-131.

About 2-3 weeks after filing for adjustment

Receiving a receipt notice

The applicant should receive a receipt notice for all of the forms submitted in the previous stage. Each form will have a special receipt number and the applicant can use the number to check the case status online.

About 3-5 weeks after filing for adjustment

Receiving a biometrics appointment notice

The biometrics appointment notice will include the exact location, time, and date of the appointment as well as instructions for the applicant.

About 4-6 weeks after filing for adjustment

Attending biometrics appointment

The applicant should attend the biometrics appointment at the exact time and location mentioned in the notice. During the appointment, the applicant’s biometric data such as fingerprints, photograph and signature will be stored for later processing.

About 5.5-7.5 months after filing for adjustment

Receiving EAD card in the mail

If the applicant chose to apply for an employment authorization (I-765) and travel authorization (I-131) then the next stage will involve receiving the EAD approval notice. The EAD card should arrive in the mail.

About 4-10 months after filing for adjustment

Receiving an interview notice

The applicant should receive an interview notice which includes the time, date, and location of the interview. 

About 1-2 months after receiving the interview notice

Attending the interview

Unlike consular processing, the adjustment of status process requires both spouses to attend the interview. The USCIS officer will ask them questions related to their relationship’s authenticity. The couple will be required to bring originals of the documents provided in the filing packages as well as other documentation, all of which is mentioned in the interview notice.

About 1-2 months after attending the interview

Receiving green card in the mail

At this stage, the applicant should receive their green card in the mail. After receiving it, the applicant is officially a lawful permanent resident.

Marriage Green Card Timeline: Married to a green card holder and residing outside the US

For applicants who are married to a green card holder and currently live outside the U.S, you will apply through consular processing. Receiving a green card currently takes 14-19 months. 

The timeline for this scenario is nearly identical to that of a foreign national married to a US citizen but living abroad (see above), however there is one added step – waiting for a visa number to become available.

  1. Submitting the immigrant petition and the supporting documents.
  2. Receiving a receipt notice.
  3. Receiving an approval notice.
  4. Waiting for a visa number to become available.
  5. Receiving welcome letter from NVC.
  6. Receiving a notice about successful fee processing and submitting application.
  7. Receiving a receipt notice online.
  8. Receiving an approval notice.
  9. Receiving an interview notice.
  10. Completing pre-interview requirements.
  11. Attending the interview.
  12. Receiving a passport with visa and the sealed immigrant visa packet.
  13. Travelling to the United States.
  14. Receiving the green card in the mail.

Similar to the case of a foreign spouse married to a US citizen, the applicant should travel to the United States within 6 months of receiving the visa package.

What Happens Next

The next stage of this journey is dependent on the length of the marriage. The spouse will receive one of two types of green cards, either a permanent “real” green card, or a conditional green card that lasts two years.

If the US national and the immigrant have been married for over two years, then the green card the foreign spouse will receive is a permanent green card also known as an IR1 (“immediate relative” green card). This type of green card is valid for 10 years. Additionally, it can be renewed easily as its renewal doesn’t require a new evaluation of the relationship or any complicated forms.

If the US national and the immigrant have been married for a period of less than two years, then the green card of the spouse will be a conditional (or CR1) green card that is valid only for two years. After said two-year period ends, the couple has to file a form called Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence. It is of utmost importance to file this form 90 days before the conditional green card’s expiration ends. After receiving this form, USCIS will re-evaluate the relationship and, if deemed bona fide, will replace the conditional green card with a permanent one. This process is also known as “removal of conditions”.

Our Family-Based Immigration Services

Would you like to sponsor your foreign national spouse for a green card? Are you interested in a unique custom-based approach to your immigration case? Would you like to learn more about our marriage-based immigration USA services? Have you been looking for an immigration lawyer near your location? The experts at Pandev Law, LLC have years of experience in immigration law. We have the necessary expertise and knowledge to guide you on your immigration journey and help you begin your new life as a family in the United States.

If you would like to schedule a consultation with our immigration attorney, follow the link and click on “Schedule a Consultation.” You can also reach us via email at [email protected], or call us at (212) 220-6652.

During your consultation, our immigration lawyer will provide an honest assessment of your case, as well as a recommendation regarding your next steps.

Disclaimer: This blog article is provided by Pandev Law, LLC for general educational and informational purposes only. Although this article discusses general legal issues, it does not constitute legal advice nor does it establish an attorney-client relationship. No reader should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information presented in this article, or elsewhere on this website, without seeking the advice of appropriate legal counsel, or other professional counsel, licensed in the relevant jurisdiction. Pandev Law, LLC expressly disclaims any and all liability with respect to any actions taken, or not taken, based on any content of this article or website. This blog article may constitute attorney advertising. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.

I offer confidential 30 minute & 1 hour consultations.