Congratulations on your marriage! After celebrating the big day, couples who plan to live in the U.S. permanently start thinking about getting a marriage green card. Not sure where to begin and how to apply? Well, this step-by-step guide to getting a U.S. marriage green card will take you through the process.
What is a Marriage Green Card?
A marriage green card authorizes the spouse of a U.S. green holder or citizen to live and work in the United States. The United States Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIC) issues this type of immigrant visa. It gives you the permanent resident status that leads to U.S. citizenship.
This is a temporary visa that lasts for 10 years (IR1 green card) if you have been married for more than two years at the time of applying. If the marriage is less than two years old, you will get 2 years (CR1 green card) visa. You can renew the “Conditional Green Card” after two years and get a 10-year green card.
Marriage Green Card Eligibility
To show your eligibility, you need to provide the following documents:
- Proof of legal marriage: You need to prove that you are legally married to a U.S. permanent resident or citizen. Moreover, your marriage must be officially recognized in the country where it took place.
- Marriage with a permanent resident: If you are married to a permanent resident (green card holder), you need to provide a copy of your spouse’s green card.
- Marriage with a U.S. citizen: In the green card process, the immediate relatives of a U.S. citizen get priority over permanent residents. You need to provide a copy of the certificate of citizenship, U.S. passport, and birth certificate of your spouse with your application.
- None of you are married to anyone else: You have to prove that both of you are not married to anyone else. If you were married before, you need to attach a death or divorce certificate with your application.
How to Apply for a Marriage Green Card?
If you are eligible for the marriage green card, you can move to the next step. Here is the three-step process to apply:
Establish the Marriage Relationship (Form I-130)
When it comes to applying for the marriage green card, the first step is to fill the Form I-130. The form is also known as a petition for alien relative which establishes that you are married to a U.S. permanent resident or citizen.
Aside from the form, you need to provide supporting documents to prove that you have a valid marriage. For instance, you can attach a document showing you have a joint bank account or a joint lease. Moreover, you can include pictures of your marriage and after marriage. In addition, you also need to pay a government filing fee of 535 US dollars.
After completing the form and supporting documents, you need to send them to the USCIS address. Within two weeks, the USCIS will send an official acknowledgment to the sponsoring spouse. They may send a Request for Evidence if they need more documents to process your application. Once they receive everything they need to process your application, they will make a decision within 7 to 15 months.
Apply for the Green Card (Form I-485 or Form DS-260)
The second step is to apply for permanent residency in the United States. The application procedure varies depending on whether you reside in the U.S. or outside the country at the time of application.
Adjustment of Status (Form I-485)
For those who are living in the United States, you need to fill the “Adjustment of Status form” Form I-485. It allows you to change your status to a marriage green card. Apart from Form I-485, you need to provide the following documents.
- Applicant’s birth certificate
- Supporting documents that show your spouse can financially support you in the U.S.
- Immigration medical examination document
- Evidence of your lawful entry into the U.S.
- Government filing fee ($85 for biometrics and $1,140 for the green card application)
If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you can combine this form with your Form I-130. It is called “concurrent filing.” The USCIS takes about 5 to 16 months for processing the concurrent filling.
For spouses of green card holders, you can’t attach the I-485 with your I-130 package. You have to wait until the government indicates to you that it is time to file Form I-485.
For applicants who are living outside of the United States, you need to follow a different process. After the approval of I-130, the USCIS will forward your application to the NVC run by the State Department. You have to file an application with the National Visa Center (NVC) when they send you a notice by email or mail.
The NVC package includes:
- Form DS-260 (online application)
- Evidence of your nationality (birth certificate and passport)
- Police clearance certificate
- Evidence that shows your spouse can financially support you in the U.S. It will include Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and supporting documents such as pay stubs, tax returns, and more
- Government filing fee ($320 for the State Department processing fee and $120 for the national support form)
Regardless if you are the spouse of a U.S. permanent resident or citizen, the State Department will take 1 to 2 months to process the application.
Attend Your Green Card Interview
Finally, it is time for the green card interview. The main purpose of this interview is to evaluate the authenticity of your marriage. Usually, the interviewer asks questions about your relationship and future plans. They may ask how you met, your daily routine, and more stuff about your relationship.
In a few situations, you can expect extra questions. These situations could be:
- There is a large gap between you and your spouse.
- There is a huge difference between your and your spouse’s cultural background.
- You know your spouse for less than two years before getting married.
- Both of you have different addresses showing online.
If you Applied for the Adjustment of Status
If you are living in the United States, you have to attend the interview with your partner. Usually, it takes about two to three weeks to get your green card after approval.
If you Applied for the Consular Processing
While living outside, you will be invited to a U.S. consulate or embassy in your home country for the interview. Your sponsoring spouse doesn’t need to attend the interview. After the approval, you will get a visa stamp on your passport allowing you to travel to the U.S. To get a physical card, you need to pay the $220 USCIC fee online. Your card will be dispatched to sponsoring spouse within two to three weeks.
The Bottom Line
Now, the process is fairly simple and straightforward if you have a valid marriage. More importantly, you must have all the supporting documents to prove the legitimacy of your marriage.
If you are not confident to file the marriage green card, hiring a professional lawyer is the perfect solution. Since they handle marriage green card applications regularly, they can handle your application perfectly. Best of luck!