June 30, 2020

Marriage-Based Green Card: How To Apply In 2023

A Permanent Resident Card, popularly known as a Green Card, allows someone to permanently live and work in the United States. There are several possible paths to receiving a Green Card, but most people obtain one through either sponsorship by a close family member or through an employer. One of the most common ways of receiving a Green Card is through marriage to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident

Four ways to obtain a Green Card through marriage:

  1. Existing Marriage: You don’t have to apply for permanent residency immediately after marriage. Even if you have already been married for some time, your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse can sponsor you for a Green card. While many people want to sponsor their spouse as soon as they are married, you may choose to wait for various reasons. Perhaps you have been living in another country and only later decide to move to the U.S., Or maybe you can not afford the application or sponsorship costs before. That’s OK. You might find the process a little easier if you aren’t newly married because you will have most likely already accumulated plenty of proof of your relationship.
  1. Marriage to a U.S. citizen: Your U.S. citizen spouse can sponsor you for a Green Card as soon as you are married and able to complete and submit the filing. There is no waiting period to apply, and there is no limit on the number of visas issued per year. That means that the permit can be issued as soon as the paperwork can be processed. While there is no waiting period to apply, the Green Card will be granted on a conditional basis if your marriage is less than two years old.
  1. Marriage to a Permanent Resident: If your spouse has a Green Card, they can also sponsor you for permanent residency. Unlike marriages to U.S. citizens, there is a cap on the number of visas granted per year, which frequently results in a waiting period.
  1. Fiancé(e) Visas – If you are engaged to a U.S. citizen, they can sponsor you for a K-1 visa, which allows you to travel to the U.S. You must then marry within 90 days of your arrival. Once you marry, you can file for permanent residency.

Related: Petitioning for a family member

How do I apply?

The three-step process of becoming a permanent resident through marriage.

1. Establishing the Marriage: Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, demonstrates that a legitimate marriage exists between you and your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. While form I-130 is used to establish any eligible family relationship, the form I-130A supplement is also required if your spouse is sponsoring you. The I-130 and I-130A supplement request necessary biographical information about you, your spouse, you and your spouse’s parents, contact information, work, and address history.

Fees: It costs $535 to file form I-130, which is paid to USCIS (The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services). There is no additional cost for the I-130A supplement. This fee can be paid either by check or by providing credit card information on form G-1450.

Required Proof: In addition to the form, you must prove that your spouse is either a U.S. citizen or permanent resident and proof of a legitimate marriage. Typical evidence includes copies of birth certificates for both spouses and marriage certificates, passports, birth certificates of any children you have together, and documents showing joint ownership of property.

How to Submit: Form I-130 must be mailed to a USCIS Service Center, either Dallas, Phoenix, or Chicago. The specific service center varies based on your place of residence (east coast, west coast, and overseas) and if form I-485 (explained below) is also being filed with Form I-130. 

Timeframe: The length of time that it takes to process form I-130 can vary depending on the service center and if your spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, but can range anywhere from under six months to almost four years. Processing times for spouses of U.S. citizens are typically quicker.

Information on Trump’s Immigration Plan

2. Establishing Eligibility with the I-485 Form: If you are already in the U.S., you might be eligible for adjustment of status, which allows you to receive your Green Card without leaving the U.S. Furthermore, to be eligible for Adjustment of Status, you must have maintained legal immigration status in the U.S. Additionally, can not be considered inadmissible to the U.S. for reasons such as criminal background or a disqualifying health condition. If you are outside the U.S. or aren’t eligible for adjustment of status, you will receive your Green Card through consular processing, meaning you will interview for your Green Card at a U.S. consulate in your home country. If you aren’t eligible to adjust your status, there are some circumstances where you can receive a waiver.                            

Fees: To apply for adjustment of status, you must submit form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. It costs $1140 to file form I-485, and if you are younger than 79 years old, you must also pay an $85 biometrics fee. 

Required Proof: As with form I-130, you must also submit supporting evidence with form I-485. Required proof includes copies of your passport, birth certificate, passport photos, and proof of legal status in the U.S. You must also submit forms I-864 and I-944 to show that you and your spouse have the financial means to support yourselves. You might also want to submit forms I-765 and I-131, so you can work and travel outside the U.S. while your case is pending. A medical exam is also required, though some people choose to wait until their interview to submit this.

How to Submit: If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you can submit your I-485 at the same time as the I-130, known as concurrent filing. If you are the spouse of a Green Card holder, there may be a wait before a visa number is available for you, so you will need to wait until the I-130 is approved before filing form I-485. Form I-485 is submitted to the Chicago Service Center.

Timeframe: After initial processing at the service center, form I-485 is sent to a local USCIS field office. Most states have a field office, and some states have several. Processing times vary based on the local field office and if your spouse is a U.S. citizen or permanent resident, but range anywhere from under six months to more than three years. A 12-18 month process is perhaps the most typical.   

3. Green Card Interview and Approval Process: You will be issued an interview notice about 5-7 weeks before your interview. Both your spouse and you will need to appear. The interview notice will list documents that you will need to bring with you. You should bring both original documents and copies of any evidence you submitted to your interview.

You and your spouse will need to bring personal identification: such as a driver’s license or passport, your birth certificates and those of any children, your marriage certificate, proof of income, and employment such as income tax returns, W-2 forms, letters from your employer verifying your employment in addition to documents that you used to enter the U.S. and proof of your marriage such as photos together, correspondence between the two of you and assets or bills in both of your names.

You can expect to be questioned separately by the USCIS officer to determine that your marriage is legitimate and that you are living together. Your petition will be approved If the officer decides that you have a bona fide marriage, you can support yourselves and that you are otherwise eligible to receive a Green Card.

Related: Are attorney’s required at your green card interview

an immigration attorney sitting on her desk

Check out Frequently Asked Questions on Immigration on our website

Tips for a Successful Filing

1. Carefully read the instructions for all of the forms

2. Complete forms thoroughly and carefully

3. Submit all required evidence

4. Collect and keep all documentation related to your case

5. Be aware of anything in your case that could potentially cause USCIS to give it more scrutiny and be prepared to address the issue

6. Be patient and prepared! The Green Card process can be long and is sometimes frustrating.

More information on how to apply for a green card for my spouse

The immigration process is very complex, and it is easy to make a mistake that can delay approval of your case, or worst of all, lead to a denial. Having a knowledgeable immigration attorney is especially crucial if your case has complicated factors such as visa overstays or arrests.  

Information on How you can speed up your spouse’s immigration case

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