How Long to Get Green Card After Marriage? 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 thinking of going over there and settling down? Of course, for that 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 to get a green card after marriage?
Before that, let me tell you that all the processes included in its application are really complex. But do not worry, I 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 is an ID document which 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.
- Non-immigrant Visa: This Visa is usually for those who are going to the US for any specific purposes (like for 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, and so on.
- Immigrant Visa: This is for those who want to immigrate and permanently settle down in the US. Green cards come under this.
3. Eligibility Criteria for a Green Card
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
3.1. Applying for a Green Card through a US Citizen
You can apply for a green card through any of your family members who is a US citizen. As a US citizen, he/she can apply for his spouse, children of any age, parents and brothers and sisters.
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 pretty much less time while for brothers and sisters and children (over 21), it takes over years.
3.2. Applying for a Green Card through a Green Card Holder
You can get a green card if any of your family members holding a green card lives abroad or is a lawful permanent resident. But, the green card holder can only apply for his/her spouse and children. He/She cannot apply for their parents.
The green card application process takes place pretty fast in the case of a spouse, then for children ( under 21) and, lastly for children (over 21).
4. Eligibility for a Green Card after Marriage
There are certain eligibility criteria for the application for a marriage green card. These are as follows
4.1 Eligible for a Green Card through a Marriage to a US Citizen
- You are legally married to a u.s. citizen.
- You and your partner intend to live together as a married couple, i.e., common-law marriage.
- Your US citizen spouse files a petition for you.
- You can apply for a green card in the US. If outside the US, you can apply through consular processing.
4.2. Eligible for a Green Card through a Marriage to an LPR
- You are legally married to one of the legal permanent residents.
- Your u.s. green card holder spouse files a petition.
- You can apply for a green card in the US. If outside the US, you can do it through consular processing.
Even though spouses of green card holders can apply, still their cases will not be reviewed until the priority date is current.
5. Documents Required to Get a Green Card
There are some documents and assessments which are important for green card application, as 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
- Includes passport (primary page of your passport/ biographical page) of yours and your spouse.
- Both of your birth certificates.
- Marriage certificate (proving the validity of marriage).
5.2. Proof of US Citizenship or Green Card Status (of the Sponsoring Spouse)
US passport or Green card (for your foreign spouse, who is LPR) and naturalization certificate (for your U.S. citizen spouse).
5.3. Form I-130 ( Petition for Alien Relative)
A completed I-130 form with signature filed by your U.S. citizen spouse or Green Card holder spouse.
5.4. Form I-485 and Form DS-260 (Application to Register Permanent Residence)
If you are applying in the US,
- A completed and signed I-485 form for your immigrant visa application
- Two passport-sized photos of your and your spouse.
- I-693 form, Report of Examination and Vaccination Record (by a designated civil surgeon).
- I-864 form, 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 with a signature for the immigrant visa application.
5.5. Proof of Continuous Living and Evidence of Bona-Fide Marriage
Here, 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 together).
5.6. Proof of Termination of Prior Marriages
Divorce documents or death certificates of your previous spouse (if applicable).
5.7. Police Clearance Certificates
It may or may not be required. This certificate should be from the country where you lived for a long time.
6. Steps for the Application of Marriage Green Card
To get a marriage visa or green card, you have to go through some necessary processes while applying for it. And in the case of marriage-based green cards, you have to follow three steps in general.
6.1. Establishment of the Marriage Relationship
This is the first step in the process of getting a marriage-based green card. You have to submit Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative” to 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 valid marriage exists between you and your spouse. The list of supporting documents required for it has already been mentioned above.
Officially, the spouse filing the I-130 form is called the petitioner/sponsor, who is a U.S. citizen or 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.
While filing for an I-130 form, there are some important elements to include-
- The government filing fee is $535.
- Proof that your sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (copy of the sponsor’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate) or legal permanent resident (copy of the sponsor’s green card).
- Proof that a legally valid marriage exists between you two (marriage certificate).
- Proof that your marriage with your spouse is not fake (joint bank account statement, pictures together).
- Proof that any previous marriage of either yours or your spouse has been terminated, i.e., a divorce document.
After the filing of the I-130, mail it to the appropriate USCIS address. Once USCIS receives the package, they will send an official acknowledgement, (i.e., receipt notice) to your sponsoring spouse. This receipt notice will take up to three weeks and maximum of two weeks to arrive.
Further, if USCIS needs some more information to process the filing, within 2-3 months they will send your sponsoring spouse a Request for Evidence (RFE).
Once USCIS gets everything they need, they will decide on this application within 7-15 months.
The processing time of this form depends on which USCIS service centre has your forms.
After the interview and approval of the I-130 form, the next step will be to determine whether you are eligible for a green card or not.
6.2. Submission of Form I-485 and Priority Date
Note that the US government follows two different processes to determine a spouse’s eligibility for a marriage green card. The right process depends on where that spouse (applicant) currently lives.
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 for a Form I-485-
- The government filing fee is $1,225 which includes $1,140 for the green card application and $85 for biometrics (fingerprinting).
- Proof of your (the spouse seeking a green card) nationality i.e., 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, is 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. The processing time of this filing takes place within 9-11 months.
If you are the spouse of a U.S. green card holder, the I-485 filing package cannot be submitted until the US Dept. 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. After the submission of the I-485 filing package, USCIS will process it within 9-11 months.
If you (the applicant) are living abroad,
Your next step is filing 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 as follows-
- First and foremost, the government filing fee is $445, which includes $120 for the financial support form and $325 for the State Dept. processing fee.
- Form DS-260 (filing green card application online).
- Proof of your nationality, i.e., a copy of your birth certificate and passport photo page.
- 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 entire process takes at least 3-5 months, then they forward the application to a US embassy or consulate of your home country.
6.3. Attending the Interview and the Green Card Arrival
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, your 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.
The location of the marriage green card interview and if the sponsoring spouse should attend the interview completely depends on where the green card sponsor or applicant lives.
If you are living in the US, then you will attend the interview along with your spouse at a local USCIS office. And once USCIS approves, you will get your card within 2-3 weeks.
If you are living abroad, then you will need to 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, which will allow you to travel to the States.
Note that, the USCIS Immigrant Fee,i.e., $220 must be paid via online form before the issuance of your green card. Additionally, USCIS recommends that the applicant should pay this fee before he/she leaves for the States.
The green card will be mailed to your US address within 2-3 weeks of your arrival.
7. What Happens if You Have Been Married for Less Than Two Years?
Are you thinking that even if you have been married for less than two years, you will still be able to get a marriage visa? Then, the answer is both yes and no.
You will get a marriage-based green card, but it will be approved for you under some conditions.
If you have been married for less than two years then, you will receive a CR1, i.e., a conditional marriage green card, which is 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 make sure that your marriage is authentic and that you did not marry for immigration purposes.
8. What Happens if You Have Been Married for More Than Two Years?
If you have been married for more than two years, then 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 any authenticity of your marriage with your spouse.
9. How Long to Get a Green Card After Marriage?
The total time taken for processing your marriage green card application is somewhere near 10-38 months. But, it also depends on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or a Green Card holder.
Remember that, the best way to ensure your marriage green card application doesn’t get delayed is to file all of your paperwork correctly the first time.
10. Fees for the Green Card Application
The govt. filing fees for the application of a marriage-based green card also depends on where you currently live
- If you live in the US, then it is $1,760.
- If you live outside the States, then the fee is $1,200.
Also, note that the above-mentioned fees do not include the cost of medical examination. The cost of a medical exam is usually from $200 to $500.
11. 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-
- When did you meet your spouse for the first time?
- How did you meet?
- When was the date of marriage?
- How was the proposal?
- Did you do anything to celebrate your wedding afterwards?
- What are your spouse’s parents’ names and siblings’ names?
- If you or your spouse were ever married before this marriage?
- Why did you or your partner get divorced (if married before)?
- What was the name of your previous spouse (if married before)?
- When the divorce happened (of any previous marriage if married before)?
- How do you share household responsibilities?
- What are your future plans with your spouse? Where do you see yourselves in 5-10 years?
- How do you both communicate and resolve conflicts, if any?
12. Naturalization v/s Citizenship
Usually, people get confused between naturalization and citizenship. Let me tell you the difference between both of them in a very understandable manner.
Citizenship is that which is granted at birth only. It means, 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. In simple words, it means that if you are born outside the States, but want to be a US citizen, then you have to go through some processes to gain US citizenship.
In conclusion, I want you all to know that this article is not fully comprehensive. The requirements of specific documents may vary depending on the applicant’s nationality, location of the application.
Therefore, it is advisable to be thorough with the instructions provided by USCIS as well as get in contact with an immigration attorney for your application to be complete and accurate.