How to get a Green Card through Marriage
What is a Marriage-based Visa?
When a U.S. citizen marries a foreign national, the foreign spouse may qualify for a marriage-based green card and become a lawful permanent resident or a conditional permanent resident. Getting a green card by marrying a US Citizen allows the foreign spouse to become a lawful permanent resident (LPR) depending upon if the foreign spouse legally entered the United States even if the foreign spouse became out of status subsequently. When the foreign spouse is in the United States, the foreign spouse may apply for a green card by submitting an application through USCIS without having to leave the United States if they entered legally. This process is called filing for an adjustment of status (I-485). After filing for an adjustment of status, the alien spouse can legally reside and work in the United States once an employment authorization document also known as an EAD is issued, as they will become eligible for an employment authorization 90 days after filing for an adjustment of status.
In the U.S. the “immediate relative” classification (including spouse) allows a foreign national to apply for an immigrant visa without having to worry about preference categories or priority backlogs, since an immigrant visa will always be available to him or her. However, the green card marriage process can be complicated and requires in depth analysis by an experienced attorney to present evidence of a bona fide marriage and to prepare for the green card interview by being advised of possible green card marriage interview questions. 90 days prior to the Three Years anniversary of when the beneficiary spouse became a Lawful Permanent Resident, the beneficiary spouse may be eligible to apply to become a US citizen if certain conditions are met.
At the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles, we make sure our clients feel secure through every step when applying for a marriage green card. We immediately respond to our clients’ inquiries and keep them up to date with their progress from start to finish as well as the USCIS processing times. That is why we are known for providing quality service in addition to legal counsel. To find out more about how we can help you and your spouse to apply for the green card, call us today at (800) 792-9889.
How to apply for a Green Card?
The U.S. Citizen or U.S permanent resident marrying a foreign national must submit a green card through marriage petition (I-130) to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) to petition for his/her spouse. The U.S. Citizen petitioning for the spouse is referred to as the petitioner or sponsor, and the immigrant spouse who is marrying a green card holder or U.S. Citizen is referred to as the beneficiary.
What are the requirements to apply for an adjustment of status in the United States?
A foreign national who is interested in applying for an adjustment of status through marriage to a US Citizen, in the United States must meet following minimum conditions:
- Be physically present in the U.S.
- Was inspected and lawfully admitted into the nation by a U.S. immigration official.
- Has no previous criminal or immigration history that renders them inadmissible.
If the foreign national does not fulfill the two former requirements, then he or she may apply for lawful permanent resident status through an Immigrant Visa Process (IVP) instead. If the applicant spouse is not in the U.S. yet, the process is called applying for a green card via consular processing. Also, if he or she has immigration violations which render them inadmissible, they may be eligible for waiver(s) if considered inadmissible due to past criminal or immigration violations. You can find a list of more reasons why you may be inadmissible by going to: INA 212(a).
This requires analysis by an experienced immigration attorney. Find out more at Applying for a CR-1 marriage green card with a provisional waiver.
What are the documents needed to apply for marriage green card?
Gree throughn card marriage applicants must submit comprehensive evidence to United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove the bona fide marriage or legitimacy and authenticity of their marriage.
Among the list of documents for green card marriage application, the two primary forms are:
Form I-130 – Petition for Immediate Relative or Petition for Alien Relative (immigration visa application):
The form i130 is necessary for the validation of the marriage. Evidence of the marriage’s legitimacy must be submitted with the form. Such supportive documents may include photographs, joint account statements, insurance policies, marriage certificate, joint lease, proof that both the U.S. Citizen and the spouse are legally allowed to marry, and other documents. This form is submitted to USCIS and it currently has a filing fee of $535 which is part of the immigration fees for the CR-1 visa. Once filed, it will take about 2-3 weeks for USCIS to respond and send a receipt notice. Then, a couple of months after filing, two things can happen: 1. USCIS received the package and after reviewing, determined the form and documentation were filed correctly and the evidence to prove this is a bona fide marriage is enough and convincing. 2. USCIS deems the original documentation that was submitted with the forms to be inadequate or was not enough to prove the marriage is a bona fide marriage (a real marriage). If this happens, USCIS will submit a Request for Evidence (RFE). If you already received an RFE and you are looking for an immigration lawyer to help you get back on track with your application, don’t hesitate in contacting us at (800) 792-9889.
Regarding the timeline, the i-130 processing time for the spouse of green card holder or U.S. Citizen vary from time to time and can also vary depending on the service center processing it, so our recommendation is to always check for the latest USCIS processing times for this card. As for now, a Permanent resident filing for a spouse can take between 8 Months to 10.5 Months according to current USCIS processing times.
For you to have a reference of the timeline, the average i-130 processing time for spouse 2019 was 10.6 months, and the average CR-1 processing time 2018 was 9.7 months.
Form I-485 – AOS.
The form i485 determines whether or not the applicant is admissible and qualifies for permanent residency status. In other words, the objective of the i 485 form is to determine if the immigrant spouse is eligible to receive a marriage green card.
This form is submitted to USCIS and its current filing fee is $1140, plus $85 for the Biometric services fee.
The evidence and supportive documents you must submit for the form i485 may include:
- Photographs: two recent passport-style photos of yourself.
- Government issued Identity document with photograph: Usually, this will be a copy of your passport.
- Birth certificate: USCIS will only accept a long-form birth certificate.
- Inspection and admission, or inspection and parole: Applicants must submit evidence that they were inspected by an immigration officer and either admitted or paroled into the United States.
- Documentation of your immigrant category.
- Marriage certificate and other proof of relationship: The applicant must submit a copy of the certified marriage certificate. Also, if any of the spouse was previously married, evidence to prove the legal termination of prior marriage must be submitted.
- Evidence that the applicant has had a lawful status since arrival to the US if married to a permanent resident.
- Police and court records: the applicant must submit certified records for any criminal charges or convictions.
Additionally, the following two ancillary forms must be submitted:
Form I-693 – Medical Exam Results:
A USCIS approved civil surgeon must conduct a medical examination of the foreign national spouse to ensure he or she is not inadmissible on medical grounds.
Form I-864 & I-944 – Affidavit of support & Declaration of self-sufficiency for marriage green card:
The form i 864 checks whether the US citizen spouse is able to financially support the immigrant spouse through the signing of an affidavit letter support.
The form i 944 checks if the applicant is likely to become a public charge in the future. If so, this could be grounds to render the applicant inadmissible.
Finally, the following forms may be submitted to establish or preserve the foreign national spouse’s employment eligibility and travel privileges:
Form i765 – Application for Employment Authorization
A foreign national may file the form i765 alongside the adjustment of status (aos) paperwork to receive employment authorization while his or her adjustment of status case is pending. If the i765 is approved, he or she receives an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), which allows \
him or her to work in any position for any employer.
Form I-131 – Application for Advance Parole
A foreign national may file this alongside adjustment of status paperwork to retain international travel privileges while his or her adjustment of status case is pending. If approved, he or she receives an Advance Parole Document.
If an applicant departs the U.S. before the adjustment of status application is granted and without an advance parole, he or she may forfeit their application for an adjustment of status for a marriage green card.
Current Processing times
In this section we are analyzing the timeline for the green card through marriage process assuming the applicant spouse is residing in the U.S. with a valid visa. For this case, the timeline is as shown in the following flow chart:
- Start the application by submitting the i130 and i485 forms. USCIS should send the receipt notice within 2 to 3 weeks.
- Afterwards, the immigrant spouse will be scheduled by the USCIS for a Biometrics Appointment, which involves the foreign national having their picture and fingerprints taken for immigration security purposes. The biometrics appointment usually takes place between 5 to 8 weeks after filing.
- If the USCIS may request the submission of further specific information or additional information.
- If the forms I-765 and I-131 were filed, the applicant should receive his employment authorization document or her EAD and advance parole document.
- Finally, an interview will be conducted with the couple by an immigration officer, the purpose of which is to determine if the couple has a bona fide marriage for the green card through marriage. The interview questions can sometimes make applicants nervous, however, Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles we will prepare you for the green card marriage interview so that you and your spouse will feel prepared for the green card marriage interview.
- After everything has been completed, the officer may let the couple know if the foreign national has been approved for permanent residency, or if the officer requires additional information.
- If approval is not given at the end of the interview, the couple will likely have to wait 30-60 days before an answer is given.
The timeline given is an estimate and can vary and we can provide an estimate USCIS processing times for a I-130 based upon current processing times.
What happens after you receive your CR-1?
When the application is approved, the applicant spouse receives a conditional green card (CR1), which is temporary and valid for 2 years if the marriage is less than 2 years when the green card is issued. It is important that 90 days before the end of this conditional period, the couple files together the form i 751 (“Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) in order to obtain a 10 year green card through marriage, known as permanent green card which is valid for 10 years. USCIS will re-evaluate the authenticity of the marriage before granting this “immediate relative” green card, or ir1. Some of the criteria to remove the conditional status are:
- The conditional green card was obtained through marriage to a U.S Citizen.
- This conditional green card will expire within the next 90 days.
- There is evidence of a bona fide marriage (this can be proven by showing financial co-mingling such as joint bank accounts or joint tax returns for example).
Once the spouse obtains the permanent green card, the spouse can apply for naturalization through the Form N-400 (“Application for Naturalization”) after 3 years of being married to a U.S. citizen and living in the USA. For this step, some of the general requirements are:
- Being a permanent resident (GC holder) for at least 3 years
- Have been living with your U.S. Citizen spouse for at least 3 years
- Have lived within the State for at least 3 months before filing the application
- Have continuous residence in the U.S. as a permanent resident for 3 years
- Have been physically present in the U.S. for at least half of the 3 years (18 months)
- Have basic knowledge about U.S. civics, and
- Be a person of good moral character.
In order to apply for spouse green card, do I have to first apply for the k1 visa?
The k1 visa, also known as fiancé visa, is the visa used to bring a foreign fiancé to the United States so that the couple can marry within 90 days and afterwards apply for a marriage green card for the foreign partner and ultimately obtain citizenship. As the name implies, the k1 fiancé visa is meant for couples who are still not married. If you are a U.S citizen and your fiancé lives abroad and you want to bring her/him to the US and have your wedding here, the k1 visa might be the right path for you. The Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles has a 100% approval rate in k1 visa applications. If you are interested in pursuing a fiancé visa give us a call at (800) 792-9889 to get a consultation.
Now, if your immigrant fiancé lives abroad and you are looking to have your wedding abroad (in your fiancé’s home country for example) but then live together in the US, the process you are looking for is known as consular processing. In this article we are focusing on the green card marriage process for when both the U.S Citizen and the immigrant spouse are physically in the United States.
What is the total USCIS Filing Fees and/or USCIS Government Cost of green card processing?
- Government fees payable directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- i130 filing fee: $535
- i485 filing fee: $1,140
- Biometrics service fee: $85
Call the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles now at (800) 792-9889 to get a consultation and start your marriage based green card process.
What happens when the foreign spouse is not in the US?
If the foreign spouse is living abroad, he or she can still apply for a I-130, but this time the process is called “Consular Processing”, as part of it will take place at his/her home country’s consulate. When applying for a green card via consular processing, you still need to file the I-130 petition for Immediate Relative and wait for USCIS ‘decision. Once the petition is approved by USCIS, then it is sent to the Department of State NVC (National Visa Center), where the application will be processed.
NVC will create a case file and notify you of the necessary documents and fees for immigrant processing and then forward your case to the US Consulate or US Embassy where you will be scheduled for an interview with a consular officer that will determine whether or not you qualify for an immigrant visa.
If everything goes well in the interview and you are granted the immigrant visa, and you will be given a packet of information (known as visa packet) that you will have to present to the U.S. CBP (Customs and Border Protection) when you arrive in the United States.
Can you still apply for a Green Card if you have overstayed?
If you have overstayed your visa in the United States, you might still be eligible to apply for an adjustment of status through marriage if you are married to a US Citizen. If you have overstayed, don’t hesitate to contact our office at (800) 792-9889 to speak with an experienced attorney who can advise you on what your options are.
If you, or your spouse, are looking to apply for a Spousal Green Card contact the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles. With more than 80 years of combined experience, 35,000 cases approved and a 99,9% Approval Rate, we are the best option to secure your future in the U.S.