Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Linda Lee
When a U.S. citizen marries a citizen of another country, the couple may want to share their lives in the United States. If the U.S. citizen spouse is older than 21 years of age, he or she has the right to seek a “green card,” which signifies permanent resident status, for his or her spouse. Permanent residency allows both spouses to share their lives in the U.S. without facing legal problems related to immigration.
Our experienced marriage green card lawyers can help you navigate the process of obtaining a marriage visa as a spouse, ensuring that all requirements are met and that you are prepared for each step of the process. Please click below to get a free consultation from one of our dedicated marriage green card attorneys. Continue reading to learn more about marriage green cards.
In this article:
What is a marriage green card?
What documents are needed to apply for a green card through marriage?
How do I apply for a green card through marriage?
Current marriage green card processing times
USCIS marriage green card filing fees
Same-sex marriage green card
Hire a marriage green card lawyer
Marriage green card FAQs
Green card through marriage success stories
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What is a Marriage Green Card?
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 client’s 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 (866) 935-3257.
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Documents Needed to Apply for Green Card Through Marriage
Green through 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): 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 certificates, joint leases, 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 (866) 935-3257.
Regarding the timeline, the I-130 processing time for the spouse of a 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 of 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 in 2018 was 9.7 months.
- Form I-485 – Form I-485 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 form I-485’s current filing fee is $1,140, plus $85 for the Biometric services fee. The evidence and supportive documents you must submit for the form I-485 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 spouses were previously married, evidence to prove the legal termination of prior marriage must be submitted.
- Evidence that the applicant has had lawful status since the 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:
Form I-864 checks whether the US citizen spouse is able to financially support the immigrant spouse through the signing of an affidavit letter of support.
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 I-765 – Application for Employment Authorization
A foreign national may file the form I-765 alongside the adjustment of status (AOS) paperwork to receive employment authorization while his or her adjustment of status case is pending. If the I-765 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.
How Do I Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage?
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. Below is a general overview of the steps involved in the application process:
To apply for a marriage-based green card, you must meet certain eligibility requirements. These include being legally married to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident and having a bona fide (genuine) marriage. It’s crucial to prove that the marriage is not for the sole purpose of obtaining an immigration benefit.
Filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative):
The first step in the process is for the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to file Form I-130 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This form serves as a petition to establish the qualifying relationship between the U.S. citizen or permanent resident and the foreign national spouse. It is recommended that you contact our office at (213) 375-4084 for assistance.
Wait for USCIS Processing:
After submitting the I-130 petition, you must wait for USCIS to process the application. The processing time can vary, and USCIS may request additional evidence to validate the marriage’s authenticity.
Consular Processing or Adjustment of Status:
If the foreign national spouse is outside the U.S., the next step is consular processing. This involves the National Visa Center (NVC) and the U.S. embassy or consulate in the spouse’s home country. The NVC will handle the required documentation and scheduling of the visa interview.
If the foreign national spouse is already in the U.S., they may be eligible for adjustment of status. Adjustment of status allows the spouse to apply for the green card without leaving the country.
Filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status):
If the foreign national spouse is in the U.S. and eligible for adjustment of status, they must file Form I-485 with USCIS. This form is used to apply for the green card.
Attend Biometrics Appointment:
Once the I-485 application is received by USCIS, the foreign national spouse will be scheduled for a biometrics appointment. During this appointment, fingerprints and photographs will be taken for background checks.
Attend Green Card Interview:
Both the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse and the foreign national spouse must attend an interview at a USCIS office. The interview is to verify the legitimacy of the marriage and the eligibility for the green card.
Wait for Decision:
After the interview, USCIS will make a decision on the green card application. If approved, the foreign national spouse will receive their green card, granting them lawful permanent resident status in the U.S.
It’s essential to ensure that all forms are filled out correctly, and all required documents are provided to avoid delays or potential denials. The process can be complex, and seeking legal advice or assistance from one of our immigration attorneys is highly recommended to navigate through it successfully. Keep in mind that immigration laws and policies are subject to change, so always refer to the USCIS website or consult with our lawyers by calling (213) 375-4084 for the most up-to-date information.
Current Marriage Green Card Processing Times
In this section, we are analyzing the timeline for the green card through the marriage process assuming the applicant’s spouse is residing in the U.S. with a valid visa. For this case, the timeline is as shown in the following infographic:
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- 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. We can provide an estimate USCIS processing times for a I-130 based upon current processing times.
USCIS Marriage Green Card Filing Fees
Current government fees payable directly to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security are:
- I-130 filing fee: $560
- I-485 filing fee: $1,130
- Biometrics service fee: $30
- I-765 Application for Employment Authorization: $550 (Optional)
- I-131 Application for Advance Parole (Travel Document): $590 (Optional)
Please note that both the I-765 employment authorization and the I-131 travel document used to be included in the I-485 adjustment of status application. With the updated fee structure, they are no longer included and they are optional.
For more information on marriage green card filing fees, please call the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles now at (866) 935-3257.
Same-sex Marriage Green Card
The Immigration Law Firm of Los Angeles is proud to represent same-sex couples during their journey to obtaining a marriage green card for one of the spouses.
The application process for a green card through a same-sex marriage follows the same steps as a marriage between opposite-sex partners. The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse can file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) to establish the qualifying relationship with their foreign national same-sex spouse. If the foreign national spouse is already in the U.S., they may apply for adjustment of status by filing Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status) with USCIS.
Both same-sex and opposite-sex couples must go through the same biometrics appointment and green card interview. USCIS reviews the application based on the same eligibility criteria, including whether the marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration purposes.
It’s essential to remember that immigration policies and procedures can change, so it’s always a good idea to verify the latest information on the USCIS website or consult one of our immigration attorneys to stay up-to-date on any potential changes that may occur.
Hire a Marriage Green Card Lawyer
You and your spouse are starting your new life together in the US and have enough to worry about! An experienced attorney will assess your case and make sure everything is done and filed correctly. No unnecessary risks, no headaches, just an approval notice. Have the peace of mind of knowing your application is done correctly and your future here is secure.
Linda Lee is the Managing Attorney of the Immigration Law Office of Los Angeles. She has been practicing immigration law for the past 20 years.
She has successfully represented and received approvals on more than 4,000 immigration cases, including marriage cases, fiancé visas, and naturalization.
Have Questions? Give us a Call at (213) 375-4084
Marriage Green Card FAQ
In order to apply for a 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 (866) 935-3257 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. Read the Q&A below on what happens when the foreign spouse is not in the US for more information.
What happens after I receive my 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.
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 (866) 935-3257 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.
What happens after my marriage green card interview?
After your marriage-based green card interview, several things can happen, depending on the outcome of the interview:
Approval: If the immigration officer conducting the interview is satisfied that your marriage is bona fide and meets all the eligibility requirements for a green card, they may approve your application on the spot or shortly thereafter. You will receive a notice of approval, and your green card will be mailed to you.
Request for Evidence (RFE): If the immigration officer needs more documentation or information to make a decision, they may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). You will be given a specific timeframe within which to provide the requested documents or information. Failure to respond to an RFE can result in the denial of your application.
Conditional Green Card: If your marriage is less than two years old at the time of approval, you will likely be granted a conditional green card. This conditional green card is valid for two years and requires you to file a joint petition (Form I-751) to remove the conditions during the 90-day window before it expires.
Denial: If the immigration officer determines that your marriage is not bona fide or that you do not meet the eligibility requirements for a green card, they may deny your application. In this case, you will receive a denial notice explaining the reasons for the denial. You may have the option to appeal the decision or reapply if you believe the denial was in error.
Administrative Processing: In some cases, the immigration officer may need additional time to review your case or conduct background checks. This can result in your case being put in administrative processing, which may delay the final decision on your green card application.
It’s essential to be prepared for the interview by bringing all required documentation and being honest and forthright with the immigration officer. If you have concerns about your interview or the green card application process, it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney who can provide guidance and support throughout the process.
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Green Card Through Marriage Success Stories
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