March 2, 2021

How Long Does it Take to Get a Marriage Green Card?

What is a Marriage Green Card? 

If you married a U.S. citizen or Lawful permanent resident- congratulations! We know this is an exciting time in your life! Many people are eager to apply for their marriage-based green card as soon as possible. Since it is a lengthy process- you should start immediately. 

A Green card allows you to work and live in the U.S. as a permanent resident, and it’s also the first step to becoming a U.S. citizen. If you and your spouse have been married for less than two years, you’ll receive a conditional green card that must get renewed after two years. If you’ve been married for longer than that, you can receive a green card that’s valid for ten years.

How to Obtain a Marriage Green Card

Typically, it takes three steps to obtain a marriage-based green card:

  1. Establishing your marriage with Form I-130
  2. Applying for your green card with Form I-485
  3. Attending your green card interview and awaiting approval

We’ll walk you through these three steps shortly with detailed information about each one. The process of getting a marriage green card can be complex, and even a minor mistake can make your wait times even longer. It’s highly recommended to consult with a reputable immigration attorney to make sure that you have the highest chance of success.

Related: Marriage Visa Income Requirements

How Long Will the Whole Process Take? 

The average time it takes to get a green card through marriage is anywhere between ten and 38 months, and how long you wait heavily depends on whether or not your spouse is a U.S. citizen or resident. Where you currently live also impacts the waiting period.

For spouses of U.S. citizens, the wait time is about ten to 13 months if you reside in the U.S. If you live outside of the U.S., waiting times increase to 11 to 17 months.

For spouses of permanent residents or green card holders, the waiting period is about 29 to 38 months if you live in the U.S. If you live in another country, you can expect a wait time of 23 to 32 months. 

Step One: Filing Form I-130

Establishing the Marriage Relationship

The first step to getting a marriage green card is to fill out and submit Form I-130, also called “Petition for Alien Relative,” to the USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services). The purpose of this form and the documents that you must submit alongside it is to establish that your marriage is valid, i.e., obtaining a green card is not the purpose of your marriage.

Your spouse who files the form is known as your sponsor or petitioner; this is the person in the marriage who is currently a U.S. citizen or green cardholder. 

The person who is seeking the green card is known as the green card applicant or beneficiary.

Items Needed to Complete the I-130

The essential components of an I-130 Form are:

  • A $535 filing fee
  • Proof that the sponsor or petitioner is a permanent resident or U.S. citizen. Copies of a birth certificate, passport, or green card, for example.
  • Proof that the marriage is legally valid. For example, your marriage certificate with both of your names, date, and location of the marriage.
  • Proof that your marriage is real and not fraudulent. Joint bank accounts, leases, and pictures together, for example.
  • Proof that any previous marriages have been terminated; this is usually a divorce document from the proceeding

a couple holding hands

Step Two: Establishing Eligibility 

Establishing Your Spouse’s eligibility: Form I-485

If you currently reside in the U.S., and meet certain requirements (you entered with inspection or were paroled into the U.S.,  there is a visa immediately available for you)  you might be able to  file Form I-485, also called an “Adjustment of Status” application at the same time you file your I-130 petition. You must file this form with the USCIS to establish your eligibility for a green card.

Items Needed to Complete the I-485

The essential components of an I-485 Form are:

  • A total filing fee of $1,225.
  • Proof of nationality for the green card beneficiary. For example, a copy of their passport or birth certificate.
  • Proof that they entered the U.S. lawfully. Prior visas or an I-94 travel record, for example.
  • A medical examination performed by a doctor approved by USCIS.
  • Proof that the sponsor can financially support the beneficiary- Form I-864, pay stubs, and previous tax returns. 

Step Three: The Interview

Green Card Interview & Approval 

The third and final step to obtaining a marriage green card is the interview with USCIS. The purpose of this interview is to determine whether your marriage is authentic or not. The questions will typically focus on your relationship history, plans for the future, and daily activities. If the interviewer is convinced that your marriage is not fraudulent, you will get approved for the marriage green card.

Spouses who live in the U.S. and are seeking a green card must attend the interview with their sponsoring spouse at the local USCIS office. If your green card application is approved, you will receive it in the mail in 2-3 weeks afterward.

Related: Immigration Interview Questions

immigration lawyer smiling

How an Immigration Attorney Can Help

If any part of the process to obtain a green card through marriage seems confusing, it’s best to talk with an immigration attorney. If you have faced deportation proceedings, entered the U.S. unlawfully, or have a criminal history, an immigration attorney can help you resolve these issues to give you a better chance of having your marriage green card approved by USCIS.

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