If you are recently married but one of you is not a permanent resident of the United States, you may be interested in obtaining a marriage green card. A green card marriage is considered a marriage of convenience between a legal U.S. resident and a person who may otherwise be ineligible for residency. The wait time to receive a marriage-based green card can range from 10 to 38 months on average. However, not everyone is eligible for a marriage-based green card based on United States immigration laws.
If you are legally married to a permanent resident or a U.S. citizen, you can apply for lawful permanent residence, also known as a marriage-based green card or immigrant visa. To be eligible for a green card, you will need to show proof that you are legally married, that your marriage is bona fide, proof of the petitioning spouse’s lawful permanent residence status or U.S. citizenship, and proof that neither you or your spouse is married to another person.
You do not need to have been married in the U.S. for your marriage to be legal. You can get married in your home country or other destination of choice.
Steps to Obtain a Marriage-Based Green Card
1. Submit Form I-130
The first step to getting a marriage green card in the U.S. is to submit Form I-130, or Petition for Alien Relative. This form must be filled in completely and sent to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The spouse that is the current green card holder or U.S. citizen is responsible for filing Form I-130. The spouse that is seeking a green card is referred to as the “beneficiary.”
When submitting the petition, you will also need to include a government filing fee of $535, proof that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (birth certificate, U.S. passport, etc.), proof that a valid marriage exists (marriage certificate), proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (joint bank account statements, photographs of the married couple, etc.), and proof that any previous marriage of either spouse has been legally terminated (divorce documents).
2. Submit Form I-485
The next step is to file Form I-485, Adjustment of Status. This application is filed with USCIS and helps establish a spouse’s eligibility for green card status. When submitting Form I-485, you will need to include government filing fees of $1,225, proof of nationality (copy of birth certificate, passport photo page, etc.), proof of lawful entry into the U.S. (copy of I-94 travel record), medical exam performed by a USCIS-approved physician, and proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to provide financial support (Form I-864 Affidavit of Support, pay stubs, tax returns, etc.).
If the spouse seeking a green card is married to a U.S. citizen, the I-485 filing package can be combined with the I-130 form and all supporting documents outlined in step one. If the spouse is married to a U.S. green card holder, the I-485 filing package cannot be sent until green card availability is published in the visa bulletin. There is an average wait time of 1.5 years. In both cases, there is a typical processing time of 9 to 11 months after the I-485 filing package has been submitted.
If the spouse that needs a marriage green card lives abroad, a different process must be followed. An application package must be filed with the National Visa Center (NVC) along with the necessary documents. The filing package should include government filing fees of $445, Form DS-260, proof of nationality, copy of a police clearance certificate, and proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to provide financial support. This type of application package is usually processed within 3 to 5 months.
3. Complete Green Card Interview
The last step in the process is completing the green card interview. This interview is designed to assess the authenticity of the marriage. During the interview, the officer may ask various questions about the couple’s relationship history, future plans, and daily activities. If the officer is convinced that the marriage is real, the green card will be approved.
If the spouse that is applying for the green card resides in the U.S., the interview will be conducted at a local USCIS office. If approved, the green card will usually arrive in the mail within 2 to 3 weeks. If the spouse seeking a green card lives abroad, he or she will need to complete the interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate.
While the sponsoring spouse has to attend the interview if it is in the U.S., this is not necessary if one spouse is located overseas. The spouse seeking a green card will then receive a visa stamp that will allow them to travel to the U.S. Once a $220 USCIS immigrant fee is submitted, a physical green card is issued.
Getting a Marriage Green Card
Want to learn more or need assistance getting a marriage-based green card? Contact Johnson and Masumi for more information.