Applying for a marriage green card, also known as a spousal visa, is a crucial step for many foreign spouses of U.S. citizens and permanent residents. This process allows them to live, work, and build a life together in the United States. Obtaining a marriage-based green card can be a complex and time-consuming process, but it ultimately grants the foreign spouse the legal status to live and work permanently in the country.
In this article, we’ll explore the eligibility requirements, application process, required documentation, and other essential aspects of applying for a marriage green card.
Eligibility for Green Card through Marriage
To be eligible for a marriage green card, both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse must meet certain requirements. These eligibility criteria are essential for ensuring the authenticity of the marriage and the intentions of the couple. Here are the key criteria that must be met for a successful spousal visa application:
In order to qualify for a marriage-based green card, both the foreign spouse and the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse must fulfill specific requirements. These eligibility criteria are designed to ensure the authenticity of the marriage and the intentions of the couple. The following key criteria must be met for a successful spousal visa application:
The couple must have a legally valid marriage that is recognized in the jurisdiction where it took place. The marriage must be bona fide, which means it was entered into in good faith and not solely for immigration purposes. To prove the legitimacy of the marriage, the couple may be required to provide documentation such as a marriage certificate, joint financial records, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family members.
U.S. Citizen or Permanent Resident Sponsor
The U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse is required to act as the sponsor for the foreign spouse’s green card application. The sponsor must provide evidence of their legal status in the United States, such as a birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or green card, and demonstrate their ability to financially support the foreign spouse.
The U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor must meet the minimum income requirements set by the U.S. government, which are based on the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This ensures that the foreign spouse will not become a public charge, and demonstrates the sponsor’s ability to support their spouse financially. In some cases, the sponsor may be required to submit an Affidavit of Support, which is a legally binding agreement to provide financial support for the foreign spouse.
The foreign spouse must be admissible to the United States, meaning they have no disqualifying factors such as a criminal history, prior immigration violations, or certain health-related issues. Inadmissibility can be a complex area of immigration law, and it is important to consult with an experienced Green Card lawyer if there are concerns about potential inadmissibility issues.
Both spouses must complete and submit the necessary forms and documentation for the marriage green card application. This includes providing evidence of the bona fide nature of the marriage, as well as meeting all other requirements set forth by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Applicants should expect to submit documents such as birth certificates, passports, and financial records, along with the appropriate USCIS forms, such as Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) and Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status).
By meeting these eligibility criteria, couples can proceed with the application process and work toward obtaining a marriage green card for the foreign spouse, allowing them to live and work permanently in the United States.
Marriage Green Cards Cost
The cost of obtaining a marriage-based green card can vary depending on several factors, such as filing fees, medical examination fees, and potential legal fees. Here is a breakdown of the primary costs involved in the process:
USCIS Filing Fees
For spouses living in the U.S. (Adjustment of Status):
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): $535
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status): $1,225 (includes the $1,140 base fee and an $85 biometrics fee)
For spouses applying from outside the U.S. (Consular Processing):
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): $535
- Department of State (DOS) fees: $325 (Immigrant Visa Application Processing Fee) + $120 (Affidavit of Support Review Fee)
- Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support), if required: No additional fee
Medical Examination Fees
The cost of the required medical examination varies depending on the physician and location, but generally ranges between $200 and $500.
If any of your documents are not in English, you will need to have them translated by a professional translator. Fees for this service can range from $20 to $50 per page, depending on the complexity of the document and the language.
If you choose to hire an immigration attorney to assist with your marriage-based green card application, fees can vary widely depending on the attorney’s experience and the complexity of your case.
Marriage Green Card Timeline
The timeline for obtaining a marriage-based green card can vary significantly depending on factors such as your specific circumstances, USCIS processing times, and whether you are applying for an adjustment of status or consular processing. Below is a general overview of the timeline for each process:
Adjustment of Status:
- I-130 Petition Processing Time: 7 to 15 months
- I-485 Application Processing Time: 9 to 24 months
- Total Time: Approximately 16 to 39 months
- I-130 Petition Processing Time: 7 to 15 months
- National Visa Center (NVC) Processing Time: 2 to 4 months
- Consulate/Embassy Processing Time: 2 to 6 months
- Total Time: Approximately 11 to 25 months
Please note that these timelines are only estimates and can vary depending on your specific situation and any delays in processing. It’s essential to stay up-to-date on USCIS processing times and be prepared for potential changes in the timeline.
Marriage-Based Green Card Application Process
The application process for obtaining a marriage green card involves several steps that ensure the legitimacy of the relationship and that both parties meet the eligibility requirements. The process varies depending on whether the foreign spouse is already in the United States or resides abroad. Here is a more detailed overview of the application process:
Step 1. File the Petition
The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse must initiate the process by filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). This petition establishes the relationship between the spouses and the sponsor’s intent to bring the foreign spouse to live in the United States as a permanent resident.
Step 2. Collect Supporting Documents
The couple should gather all the necessary supporting documents, such as marriage certificates, birth certificates, financial records, and evidence of the bona fide nature of the marriage. Examples of evidence include photographs from the wedding and other events, joint bank statements, joint leases or mortgage documents, joint tax returns, and affidavits from friends or family members attesting to the authenticity of the relationship.
Step 3. Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing
If the foreign spouse is already in the United States on a valid non-immigrant visa, they can file for Adjustment of Status using Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This form is typically filed concurrently with the I-130 petition. If the foreign spouse is living abroad, they will need to undergo Consular Processing, which involves applying for an immigrant visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country.
- Adjustment of Status: The foreign spouse should file Form I-485, along with the necessary supporting documentation, such as medical examination results, evidence of financial support, and any required waivers or additional forms.
- Consular Processing: The foreign spouse will need to complete Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application, online and submit it to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC will review the application, supporting documents, and affidavit of support before scheduling an interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the foreign spouse’s home country.
Step 4. Biometrics Appointment
The foreign spouse will be required to attend a biometrics appointment at a USCIS Application Support Center. At this appointment, their fingerprints, photograph, and signature will be collected for background checks and identity verification purposes.
Step 5: Interview
Both spouses will be required to attend an interview with a USCIS officer (if adjusting status) or a consular officer (if applying through consular processing). During the interview, the officer will ask questions about the couple’s relationship, living arrangements, and plans for the future. The officer may also inquire about the foreign spouse’s immigration history, employment, and any potential grounds for inadmissibility.
Step 6: Decision
After the interview, the USCIS or consular officer will make a decision on the marriage green card application. If approved, the foreign spouse will either receive their green card (if adjusting status within the United States) or be granted an immigrant visa to enter the U.S. and receive their green card upon arrival (if applying through consular processing).
The marriage green card application process can be complex and lengthy. It is crucial for both spouses to be honest, thorough, and timely with their submissions. Any errors or inconsistencies may lead to delays or even the denial of the application.
Required Documentation for Marriage Green Cards
When applying for a marriage green card, it is essential to provide the necessary documents to establish the legitimacy of the relationship and prove that both spouses meet the eligibility requirements. The following is a list of the required documentation for a marriage green card application:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: This form must be completed and submitted by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to initiate the application process.
- Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary: This form provides additional information about the foreign spouse and must be completed by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse.
- Proof of the Petitioner’s U.S. Citizenship or Lawful permanent Resident Status: This can be a U.S. birth certificate, naturalization certificate, certificate of citizenship, valid U.S. passport, or a copy of the petitioner’s green card.
- Marriage Certificate: An original or certified copy of the marriage certificate must be provided as proof of the couple’s legal marriage.
- Evidence of the termination of any prior marriages: If either spouse was previously married, provide divorce decrees, annulment documents, or death certificates to prove the termination of all previous marriages.
- Passport-Style Photographs: Two passport-style photographs of both the petitioner and the beneficiary are required.
- Evidence of a bona fide marriage: Provide documentation that proves the marriage is genuine and not entered into for immigration purposes. This can include joint bank account statements, joint lease or mortgage agreements, joint tax returns, photographs from the wedding and other events, and affidavits from friends or family members attesting to the authenticity of the relationship.
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support: The U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse must submit this form to demonstrate their ability to financially support the foreign spouse. They may also need to provide evidence of their income and assets, such as tax returns, W-2 forms, and bank statements.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (for Adjustment of Status applications) or Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Electronic Application (for Consular Processing Applications): The foreign spouse must complete the appropriate form depending on their location and current immigration status.
- Medical Examination Results: The foreign spouse must undergo a medical examination by a USCIS-designated civil surgeon (for Adjustment of Status applications) or a panel physician affiliated with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate (for Consular Processing applications). The results of the examination must be provided in a sealed envelope.
- Police Clearance Certificates: The foreign spouse may be required to obtain police clearance certificates from their home country or any other country where they have lived for more than six months since turning 16.
It is important to provide accurate and complete documentation to avoid delays or potential denials in the application process for the marriage-based Green Card.
The Marriage Green Card Interview
The marriage green card interview is a crucial part of the application process, as it helps determine the legitimacy of the marriage and verify the information provided in the application. Depending on the applicant’s location and whether they are applying for an adjustment of status or consular processing, the interview location and attendees may vary.
Scheduling the Interview
Once the initial processing of the application is complete, either the USCIS or the U.S. Embassy or Consulate will schedule a Green Card interview for the couple.
- Adjustment of status: When the foreign spouse is applying for an adjustment of status while living in the U.S., both the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse and the foreign spouse must attend the interview at a USCIS field office.
- Consular processing: When the foreign spouse is applying for a marriage-based immigrant visa through consular processing, only the foreign spouse is required to attend the interview at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in their home country. Although not mandatory, the attendance of the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse can be beneficial in some cases.
Preparing for the Interview
To prepare for the interview, couples should review their application forms, supporting documents, and any additional evidence that demonstrates the bona fide nature of the marriage. They should be ready to answer questions about their relationship, how they met, their wedding, and their daily lives together.
The Marriage Green Card Interview
During the interview, the immigration officer will ask questions to verify the information provided in the application and assess the legitimacy of the marriage. The officer may inquire about the couple’s relationship history, living arrangements, finances, and future plans. The officer may also request additional evidence of the relationship, such as photographs or correspondence.
Results of the Interview
If the immigration officer is satisfied with the couple’s answers and supporting evidence, they may approve the marriage green card application. However, if the officer is not convinced of the legitimacy of the marriage or requires additional information, they may request further evidence or schedule a second interview, known as the “Stokes interview,” where the spouses will be interviewed separately.
To ensure a successful outcome, it is vital to be well-prepared and honest during the marriage green card interview.
Conditional Residence and Removing Conditions
Conditional residence is granted to foreign spouses who have been married to their U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse for less than two years when their green card application is approved. The conditional green card (CR1 visa) is valid for two years and is issued as a way to ensure that the marriage is genuine and not entered into solely for immigration purposes.
Before the two-year conditional residence period ends, the couple must jointly file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to convert the conditional green card to a permanent one (IR1 visa). The application should be filed within the 90-day window before the conditional green card expires. Along with the form, the couple must provide evidence demonstrating that the marriage is still valid and ongoing.
If the couple fails to file Form I-751 within the specified timeframe or if the marriage ends in divorce, annulment, or death of the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse, the foreign spouse’s conditional residence may be terminated, and they may face removal proceedings. However, in certain cases, such as divorce due to abuse or extreme hardship, the foreign spouse may apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement and submit Form I-751 individually.
Once the conditions are successfully removed, the foreign spouse will receive a permanent green card (IR1 visa) with a 10-year validity, which can be renewed indefinitely.
Common Issues and Challenges During Marriage Green Card Process
Applying for a marriage green card can be a complex and challenging process. Applicants often face various issues and obstacles throughout the journey. Here are some common issues and challenges encountered by couples:
Applicants may face delays or denials if they fail to submit sufficient documentation to prove the legitimacy of their marriage. This includes evidence of joint assets, cohabitation, and other aspects of a shared life.
Ineligibility Due to Previous Immigration Violations
If the foreign spouse has prior immigration violations, such as overstaying a visa or illegal entry, they may be ineligible for a marriage green card. In some cases, waivers may be available to overcome these grounds of inadmissibility.
Long Processing Times
The processing time for a marriage green card can be lengthy, sometimes taking more than a year, which can be challenging for couples waiting to be reunited or start their life together in the United States.
The U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse must demonstrate that they can financially support their foreign spouse. Failure to meet the minimum income requirement or provide adequate financial documentation may result in delays or denials.
The Marriage Green Card Interview
The interview process can be stressful for couples, as they must prove their marriage is genuine to an immigration officer. In some cases, the officer may separate the couple and ask detailed questions about their relationship.
Conditional Green Card Removal
Couples with a conditional green card must go through the process of removing conditions, which requires submitting additional documentation and, in some cases, attending another interview.
To minimize the potential issues and challenges faced during the marriage green card process, it’s essential to be well-prepared, organized, and thorough when submitting the application and supporting documents. Consulting with an experienced immigration attorney can also provide valuable guidance and assistance throughout the process.
How an Immigration Attorney Can Help
Navigating the marriage green card process can be complex and time-consuming. Partnering with an experienced immigration attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support, simplifying the journey for both you and your spouse. Here are some ways an immigration attorney can assist throughout the process:
An attorney can evaluate your eligibility for a marriage green card, identify potential issues, and pinpoint any complications that may arise during the application process, increasing your chances of success.
Comprehensive Guidance on Application Procedures
An immigration attorney can offer step-by-step guidance, ensuring you understand the application procedures, necessary documentation, and critical deadlines. This comprehensive support can help you navigate the process with confidence and ease.
Thorough Preparation and Review of Documentation
An attorney can assist you in collecting and preparing the required documents, making sure they are comprehensive, accurate, and well-presented. This attention to detail can help prevent delays and potential problems with your application.
Expert Legal Advice and Consultation
A seasoned attorney can address any concerns or queries you may have throughout the process and recommend the best course of action to optimize your chances of success. This expert advice can prove invaluable in navigating the complexities of immigration law.
Interview Preparation and Coaching
An immigration attorney can help you and your spouse get ready for the marriage green card interview by offering tips, guidance, and conducting mock interviews to help you feel more confident and composed. This preparation can help ensure a smoother interview experience.
Support During the Interview
If the marriage Green Card interview takes place in the U.S., an immigration attorney can attend the interview with you and your spouse, providing support and assistance during the process. Their presence can help alleviate anxiety and ensure that your rights are protected.
If any issues or complications arise during the application process, an attorney can help resolve them. This may include representing you in communications with USCIS or the consulate and advising on waivers or appeals if necessary.
Assist with Conditional Green Card Removal
An attorney can guide you through the process of removing conditions on your green card, ensuring you submit the required documentation and meet the deadlines. This assistance can help you maintain your permanent resident status without any hiccups.
By partnering with a knowledgeable and experienced immigration attorney, you can significantly increase your chances of a smooth and successful marriage green card application process, providing you with peace of mind and the best possible outcome.
Don’t leave your marriage green card application to chance. Reach out to Glenn Immigration, Atlanta’s premier immigration law firm, and let our experienced marriage Green Card lawyer guide you through the complex process with personalized attention and expert advice. Secure the best possible outcome for you and your spouse by contacting Glenn Immigration today.
Marriage Green Cards FAQs
Navigating the marriage green card process can be challenging and raise numerous questions. To help you better understand this complex process, we have compiled a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that address common concerns and provide insights into various aspects of applying for a marriage green card.
Can my spouse travel outside the U.S. during the marriage green card application process?
If your spouse is applying for a marriage green card through adjustment of status, they can apply for Advance Parole by filing Form I-131 concurrently with their adjustment of status application. With an approved Advance Parole document, your spouse can travel outside the U.S. and re-enter without jeopardizing their application.
What happens if my spouse and I divorce before my green card is approved?
Divorce may affect your green card application. If you have a conditional green card, you can apply for a waiver of the joint filing requirement to remove conditions on your residence. You must prove that the marriage was entered in good faith and not for immigration purposes.
Can I work in the U.S. while my marriage green card application is pending?
Yes, if you are in the U.S. and have filed for an adjustment of status, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that allows you to work legally while your application is being processed.
Can I apply for a marriage green card if I am in the U.S. on a tourist visa?
It is possible to apply for a marriage green card while in the U.S. on a tourist visa; however, you must prove that you did not enter the country with the intention of getting married and adjusting your status.
How long does the marriage green card process take?
The processing time for a marriage green card varies depending on whether the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Generally, it takes around 10-13 months for the spouse of a U.S. citizen and 18.5-32.5 months for the spouse of a lawful permanent resident.
What is the difference between a conditional green card and a permanent green card?
A conditional green card is valid for two years and is issued to couples who have been married for less than two years at the time of green card approval. A permanent green card is valid for 10 years and is granted to couples married for more than two years. Conditional green card holders must apply to remove the conditions on their residence within 90 days before the card’s expiration.
Can my children also obtain green cards through my marriage green card application?
Yes, your children may be eligible for green cards as derivatives if they are under 21 and unmarried at the time of filing.
What happens if my marriage green card application is denied?
If your marriage green card application is denied, you may have the option to file an appeal or a motion to reopen or reconsider the decision.
How long do I have to be married before applying for a marriage green card?
There is no minimum time requirement for being married before applying for a marriage green card. You can apply as soon as you are legally married.
Do I have to live with my spouse during the marriage green card application process?
Yes, you and your spouse must prove that you have a bona fide marriage by living together and sharing financial responsibilities. Evidence of a shared life is crucial to the success of your application.
Can a same-sex couple apply for a marriage green card
Yes, same-sex couples can apply for a marriage green card as long as they are legally married and meet all other eligibility requirements.
How can I prove my marriage is genuine during the green card application process?
You can provide evidence of a bona fide marriage, such as joint bank accounts, joint tax returns, shared property ownership, photos together, affidavits from friends and family, and other documents that demonstrate your life together as a married couple.
Can I apply for a green card if my spouse is a U.S. citizen but I entered the U.S. without inspection?
If you entered the U.S. without inspection, you may not be eligible for adjustment of status within the country. However, you may still be eligible for consular processing.
Can I apply for a marriage green card if I overstayed my visa?
If you overstayed your visa but are married to a U.S. citizen, you may still be eligible for a green card through adjustment of status. However, if you are married to a lawful permanent resident, you may be ineligible.
Can my spouse’s criminal history affect my marriage green card application?
Yes, your spouse’s criminal history may impact your green card application.
Do I need to submit a new medical examination if I already had one for my non-immigrant visa?
Yes, you need to submit a new medical examination conducted by a USCIS-approved civil surgeon as part of your marriage green card application.
What happens if I forget to submit a required document with my marriage green card application?
If you forget to submit a required document, USCIS may issue a Request for Evidence (RFE), giving you the opportunity to provide the missing information. Responding to an RFE in a timely manner is crucial to avoid delays or denial of your application.
Can I change my last name after receiving my marriage green card?
Yes, you can change your last name after receiving your marriage green card. You will need to update your name with the Social Security Administration and your local Department of Motor Vehicles, as well as notify USCIS.
Do I need to renew my marriage green card if I become a U.S. citizen?
No, once you become a U.S. citizen, your marriage green card becomes obsolete. You will receive a Certificate of Naturalization as proof of your citizenship.
Can my spouse apply for U.S. citizenship after receiving a marriage green card?
If your spouse is a green card holder through marriage to a U.S. citizen, they may be eligible to apply for naturalization after three years of continuous residence in the U.S. as a lawful permanent resident. If the green card was obtained through other means, the waiting period is typically five years.
Can my spouse work in the U.S. while waiting for their marriage green card application to be approved?
Yes, your spouse can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by filing Form I-765 concurrently with their adjustment of status application. Once the EAD is approved, your spouse can work legally in the U.S.
Can I sponsor my spouse for a green card if I am a U.S. citizen living abroad?
Yes, U.S. citizens living abroad can still sponsor their spouse for a green card. However, the U.S. citizen must prove that they intend to re-establish domicile in the U.S. before or concurrently with their spouse’s immigration.