Are you going to marry the love of your life and plan to settle in the United States? Or, is your spouse in the U.S., and you are considering going over there and settling down? Of course, you have to apply for a green card, right?

But wondering who is eligible for a green card, how you can get a marriage green card, and how long it takes to get one after marriage.

Before that, let me tell you that all the processes included in its application are really complex. But do not worry. I’ve got you covered for that. For all your questions, just go ahead and read further to get your answers.

1. What is a Green Card?

A green card
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A green card is an ID document that shows that an individual is a permanent resident of the United States. Officially, it is also known as a permanent resident card. It allows the individual to live and work permanently in the States.  Green card holders are formally addressed as Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs).

2. Types of US Visa

Before moving further, let me give you all a brief idea about the two major types of US visas.

2.1 Non-immigrant Visa

This Visa is usually for those going to the US for specific purposes (like studies, temporary business, tourism purposes, participants in any exchange program, etc.) for a particular period. Includes B-1 Visa, F-1 Visa, J-1 Visa, H-1 Visa, etc.

2.2 Immigrant Visa:

Immigrant Visa is for those who want to settle in the United States permanently. A Green Card is one of the methods to obtain a family-based immigrant visa in the US.

3.  Who Can Get a Green Card?

Man sitting on chair with luggage gazing a flight
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Being able to get a green card is not just a simple thing. For that, you should come under certain eligibility criteria. So, let me tell you what these criteria are.

You can get a green card if your family members are US citizens living abroad or lawful permanent residents. However, the green card holder can only apply for their spouse and unmarried children, not for their parents. Both U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents can apply for a green card for their parents.

The green card process takes place pretty fast in some cases, while some take super slow. The green card application process for spouses, parents, and children (under 21) takes much less time.

4. Eligibility Criteria for a Green Card after Marriage

How long to get a green card after marriage
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You and your partner should intend to live together as a married couple, i.e., the marriage must be legally valid and recognized in the jurisdiction where it occurred. In that case, your US-citizen spouse can file a petition for your green card in the US.

5. Documents Required to Get a Green Card

US passports
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There are some documents and assessments that are important for green card application, and based on these documents, USCIS gives its approval for its issuance. The necessary forms which are generally required while applying for a marriage green card are:

5.1 Identity and Civil Documents

The identity and civil documents include your and your spouse’s passport (primary page of your passport/ biographical page). Both your birth certificates and marriage certificates (proving the validity of marriage).

5.2 Proof of US Citizenship or Green Card Status (of the Sponsoring Spouse)

Copy of US passport (for your U.S. citizen spouse) or Green card (for your foreign spouse, who is LPR).

5.3 Form I-130

Your U.S. citizen or Green Card holder spouse should file a completed I-130 form with their signature as a petitioner. I-130 is the form submitted for the petition of immigrating a related family member to the US.

5.4 Form I-485 and Form DS-260 (Application to Register Permanent Residence)

Various documents and forms
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If you are applying in the US, a completed and signed I-485 form for your immigrant visa application is required, along with two passport-sized photos of you and your spouse.

The I-693 form needs to be filled for the Report of Examination and Vaccination Record by a designated civil surgeon. The I-864 form is considered for an Affidavit of Support by your US citizen or LPR spouse to provide financial support to you.

If you are applying through consular processing and present outside the US, a completed Form DS-260 for the immigrant application has to be submitted electronically.

5.5 Proof of Continuous Living and Evidence of Bona-Fide Marriage

It includes the documents proving that you and your spouse live together and have a genuine marital relationship (like a joint bank account, utility bills, and pictures).

5.6 Proof of Termination of Prior Marriages

Divorce documents or death certificates of your previous spouse (if applicable).

5.7 Police Clearance Certificates

Police clearance certificates are required from the spouse’s country and every country they have lived in for a year or more after age 16.

6. Steps to Apply for a Marriage Green Card

You must undergo some necessary processes while applying to get a marriage visa or green card. In the case of marriage-based green cards, you have to follow three general steps.

6.1 Establishment of the Marriage Relationship

How long to get a green card after marriage
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This is the first step in getting a marriage-based green card. You must submit Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative,” to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS is a part of the US Department of Homeland Security.

The main purpose of the I-130 form is to establish that a qualifying relationship exists between you and your spouse, which may include a kid, parent, or sibling. The list of supporting documents required varies according to specific relationships.

Officially, the spouse filing the I-130 form is called the petitioner/sponsor, a U.S. citizen, a current green card holder, or an LPR. While the spouse seeking a green card is called the immigrant spouse/the beneficiary/green card applicant.

After filing the I-130, mail it to the appropriate USCIS address. Once USCIS receives the package, they will send your sponsoring spouse an official acknowledgment (i.e., receipt notice). This receipt notice is sent within two weeks.

Further, if USCIS needs more information to process the filing, they will send your sponsoring spouse a Request for Evidence (RFE). Once USCIS gets everything they need, they will decide on this application. The processing time of this form depends on which USCIS service centre has your forms.

6.2 Submission of Form I-485 and Priority Date

Note that the US government follows two processes to determine a spouse’s eligibility for a marriage green card. The right process depends on where that spouse (applicant) currently lives.

6.2.1 Living in the US

how long to get a green card after marriage
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If you physically live in the United States, the next step is to file an I-485 form (“Adjustment of Status”) application. Form I-485 is filed with USCIS. The primary goal of this form is to establish that the applicant is eligible for a green card.

The following are the important elements while filing your application: Form I-485- proof of your (the spouse seeking a green card) nationality, i.e., a copy of the birth certificate and passport photo page; proof of your lawful entry to the US, i.e., copy of I-94 travel record and prior US visa; your medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor; proof of your spouse’s (the sponsoring spouse) ability to financially support you (including Form I-864, “Affidavit of Support,” and evidence like tax returns).

If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, this I-485 filing package can be combined with the I-130 form and supporting assessments described above in Step 1. This process is officially known as concurrent filing.

Suppose you are the spouse of a U.S. green card holder. In that case, the I-485 filing package cannot be submitted until the US Department of State determines that a green card is available in the visa bulletin, given various annual caps.

According to recent information, the wait is currently about one and a half years, but this waiting period can also vary by a few months, depending on the home country you are living in.

6.2.2 Living Abroad

how long to get a green card after marriage
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If you (the applicant) are living abroad, your next step is to file an application package with the National Visa Center (NVC), managed by the State Department. The NVC collects all the required documents and forms and decides whether you are ready for a marriage green card interview at a US embassy or consulate abroad (consular processing).

Important elements while filing a National Visa Center (NVC) package are Form DS-260 (filing green card application online), proof of your nationality, i.e., a copy of your birth certificate and passport photo page, a copy of your police clearance certificate (showing that you have no criminal record), proof of your spouse’s ability to financially support you, i.e., Form I-864.

The process takes at least 1-2 months, and then they forward the application to a US embassy or consulate in your home country.

6.3 Attending the Interview and the Green Card Arrival

An Interview
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The last step in this process is attending a green card interview. The interviewer’s or you can say the interviewing officer’s main purpose is to evaluate the authenticity of the marriage.

Questions can be based on your personal life, relationship history, hobbies, etc. If they are convinced that your marriage is not fraudulent, then you will be approved for a permanent marriage green card.

If you live in the US, you will attend the interview with your spouse at a local USCIS office. If you live abroad, you must attend the interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Here, your spouse is unable to attend the interview with you.

Once USCIS approves, you will receive a visa stamp in your passport, allowing you to travel to the States. The green card will be mailed to your US address within six months of arrival.

7. If Married for Less than Two Years

How long to get a green card after marriage
Source: Unsplash

Are you thinking that you can still get a marriage visa even if you have been married for less than two years? Then, the answer is both yes and no. You will get a marriage-based green card, which will be approved under some conditions.

If you have been married for less than two years, you will receive a CR1, i.e., a conditional marriage green card, valid for only two years. You and your spouse must immediately file a fully signed form of Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence,” during the 90 days before your conditional green card expires to remove the conditions and get a permanent green card.

When USCIS receives this form, they will re-evaluate your marriage to ensure that it is authentic and that you did not marry for immigration purposes.

8. If Married for More than Two Years

If you have been married for over two years, you will receive an IR1, i.e., immediate relative or permanent resident status green card. This green card is valid for 10 years. Renewing your green card after 10 years is a simple process and does not require the authenticity of your marriage with your spouse.

9. Common Questions Asked in the Green Card Interview

Although the question asked in a green card interview varies, still let me list down the questions which are generally asked by the interviewing officers-

  1. When did you meet your spouse for the first time?
  2. How did you meet?
  3. When was the date of marriage?
  4. How was the proposal?
  5. Did you do anything to celebrate your wedding afterward?
  6. What are your spouse’s parents’ names and siblings’ names?
  7. If you or your spouse were ever married before this marriage?
  8. Why did you or your partner get divorced (if married before)?
  9. What was the name of your previous spouse (if married before)?
  10. When did the divorce happen (of any previous marriage if married before)?
  11. How do you share household responsibilities?
  12. What are your future plans with your spouse? Where do you see yourselves in 5-10 years?
  13. How do you both communicate and resolve conflicts, if any?

10. Naturalization v/s Citizenship

How long to get a green card after marriage
Source: Pexels

Usually, people get confused between naturalization and citizenship. Let me tell you the difference between them in a very understandable manner.

Citizenship is that which is granted at birth only. It means that if your parents were citizens of the United States, then when you are born, you will be ultimately regarded as a US citizen.

Naturalization simply means a process that confers citizenship. Simply, it means that if you are born outside the States but want to be a US citizen, you must go through some processes to gain US citizenship.

11. At the End

Getting a green card after marriage varies according to specific individuals. The requirements of specific documents may differ depending on the applicant’s nationality, the location of the application, and many other factors.

Therefore, it is advisable to be thorough with the instructions provided by USCIS and contact an immigration attorney for your application to be complete and accurate.

Last Updated on by Pranshu Rakhecha

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