How to Obtain Green Card Through Marriage to US Citizen or a Green Card Holder
Are you married to a US citizen or a green card holder? If you are, congratulations on your marriage and being eligible to obtain a green card. However, to get permanent residency in the US, you need to apply for a marriage-based green card.
Applying for a green card can be a relatively easy process if you consult an immigration lawyer for the best legal advice and complete the hectic paperwork on your behalf. Terra Immigration attorneys are skilled in getting immigrant visas and making the green card process easy and shorter.
In this guide, you will learn what is a marriage-based green card and the steps to obtain one.
What Is a Marriage-Based Green Card?
A marriage-based green card allows the spouse of a US citizen or green card holder to live and work permanently in the US. It is issued by the USCIS for a certain period, can be renewed, and can lead to US Citizenship.
If you qualify for a green card through a marriage that is less than two years, you will be initially handed a CR1 Green card, which is a conditional residency. After two years, you can apply for permanent residency in the US, which will be verified through an IR1 Green Card valid for ten years.
Eligibility Criteria of a Marriage-Based Green Card
You must meet the following criteria to be eligible for a green card through marriage.
- If you are living outside the United States, your marriage is considered legal. The marriage should be in official government records and should be verifiable;
- Being married to a US citizen or a permanent resident is necessary. Spouses of temporary visa holders can not apply for a green card. Moreover, immediate family members, including spouses of US citizens, are prioritized in the application process of green cards. You prove this by providing evidence of their birth certificate, naturalization documents, or US passport;
- Your marriage must be bona fide. Many people get married temporarily and fake their marriage to obtain permanent residency. USCIS is well aware of this fact and requires the couples to prove their marriage’s legitimacy and establish a strong relationship with a planned future;
- USCIS requires proof that the marriage is legitimate and real. If you have been married before, you must prove that the previous marriage was nulled by divorce, death, or annulment. You must provide documentary evidence that proves your past marriage ended before you entered into the current marriage. The same thing is required from your spouse if he/she was married before.
How to Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage?
Applying for a marriage-based green card is generally a three-step process.
Step 1: Submitting the Alien Petition Form I-130
By submitting Form I-130, your spouse establishes that you married a US citizen or lawful permanent resident. With the form I-130, your spouse needs to submit the following documents to complete this step:
- Proof of US citizenship or permanent residency through a birth certificate or naturalization certificate;
- Proof of your marriage is legal through marriage certificates;
- Proof that your marriage is bona fide through a joint bank account or photographs of your marriage and with family and friends;
- Proof of previous marriage being officially terminated through divorce papers or a death certificate.
Step 2: Applying for your Green Card Through Marriage
After you have successfully submitted the form I-130 and it has been approved, you can apply for the marriage green card. The process depends on your location, i.e., applying for a green card from within the US or an immigrant visa outside the United States.
When applying for a marriage green card from within the US, you need to submit form I-485, which calls to “Adjust your Status.”
The documents required to submit with the I-485 form are:
- Copy of your birth certificate;
- Copy of your valid visa and passport to prove valid entry into the US;
- Original of a certified immigration medical exam;
- Proof of the US citizen or green card holder spouse being financially able to support.
In case your spouse is a US citizen, you can submit this form with the I-130 form together with your I-485. This is called “concurrent filing.” This process is usually faster, and therefore, it is recommended.
On the other hand, if you are applying for a green card through marriage from outside the US, you will apply with the NVC (National Visa Centre) through “Consular Processing.” You are required to fulfill these requirements in consular processing:
- Pay $445 for the government fees;
- Submit the DS-260 form;
- Submit a copy of your valid passport;
- Submit a copy of the Police Clearance certificates;
- Submit form I-864 (Affidavit of support);
- Medical exam.
Step 3: Attending Your Green Card Interview and Wait for Approval
Once the above applications are processed, you will be required to appear in an interview. The goal of this interview is to validate your marriage’s legitimacy. You will be asked about your and your spouse’s life and relationship in general to have an idea about your marriage. Your answers will be judged against your proof of marriage to verify authenticity.
If you have applied for adjustment of status, you will be called for an interview at the closest USCIS office, and both parties need to appear in the interview. However, if you have applied from outside the US through NVC, you will appear at the US embassy of your respective country. The US citizen or green card holder does not need to appear in this interview.
Hire an Immigration Lawyer to Obtain a Green Card Through Marriage
USCIS presumes that marriages are fraudulent for the purpose of obtaining US permanent residency. Therefore, it is extremely important to do the process right the first time. Mistakes can be timely and costly. If you are living in the US at the time of applying for the marriage-based green card, the process generally takes 10-13 months. In other cases, the processing time can range between 11-32 months. Another factor in the processing time is your spouse’s status of US citizenship or a green card residency.
USCIS charges approximately $1,760 for the green card through marriage if you apply from within the US. If you are living abroad, the government charges approximately $1,200. Hiring an immigration attorney is an essential investment in the process. It will save you valuable time and resources in the future. Our lawyers based in Florida provide services worldwide, making your process faster and efficient.
Contact us today by calling our office at 1(407) 818-1244. We speak English, Spanish and Portuguese.