Applying for a Green Card Through Marriage


If you are recently married, planning to get married soon, or have been married for a while, and you are ready to take another important step towards your future as a married couple, then complete the free Preliminary Questionnaire to find out if you and your spouse are eligible to apply for a Marriage Green Card, and download a detailed Initial Evidence Checklist for your reference.

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Here we answer some questions to help you understand the Green Card application process based on your marriage.

1. What is a Marriage Green Card?
2. How to apply for a Marriage Green Card?
3. What is the Marriage Green Card process if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States?

4. What is Concurrent Filing?
5. What are the eligibility requirements for a Marriage Green Card if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States?
6. What are the grounds of inadmissibility?
7. What happens after USCIS receives the application package?
8. What is a Request for Evidence (RFE)?
9. What is the processing time for a Marriage Green Card?
10. What is the Marriage Green Card process if the Spouse Beneficiary lives outside the United States?
11. How much does it cost to apply for a Marriage Green Card?
12. What is the USCIS Immigrant Fee?
13. Do we need to attend a Marriage Green Card interview?
14. Why is my Green Card only valid for two (2) years?
 

 

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1. What is a Marriage Green Card?

A “Marriage Green Card” is a common phrase used to describe a Permanent Resident Card obtained through marriage. U.S. Immigration Laws allow U.S. Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents to petition their foreign-born Spouses so that they can work and live permanently in the United States.

A Green Card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen is the most common way to become a Permanent Resident of the United States. The foreign-born Spouse of a U.S. Citizen is considered an “Immediate Relative” and there are no numerical limits on who can get a Green Card through marriage to a U.S. Citizen.

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2. How to apply for a Marriage Green Card?

To apply for a Marriage Green Card, the U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse (the Petitioner or Sponsor) submits a Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS Form I-130 and I-130 Supplement A) to establish the existence of a relationship together with proof that their marriage is bona fide and true.

Filing a Petition is only the first step in the process to help a foreign-born Spouse immigrate to the United States. The filing or approval of a Petition does NOT yet give the foreign-born Spouse (or Spouse Beneficiary) any status in the United States.

Once the Petition is approved, there are two ways to apply for a Green Card:

1.    Adjustment of Status:  Adjustment of Status is the process used to apply for Lawful Permanent Resident status (also known as applying for a Green Card) when the Spouse Beneficiary is present in the United States without the need to return to his/her home country to complete visa processing.

2.     Consular Processing:  Consular processing is the process when applying for an Immigrant Visa (also known as applying for a Green Card) from outside the United States in order to enter or return to the United States and be admitted as a Permanent Resident.

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3. What is the Marriage Green Card process if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States?

If the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States through lawful admission (e.g., last entered the U.S. with a Visitor Visa and overstayed, F-1 Student Visa, Temporary Worker, Paroled, or is protected under §245(i) of the INA, etc.) he/she can apply to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status concurrently or at the same time as the filing of the Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS Form I-130), OR if the Petition was already filed by itself, once it is approved by USCIS, he/she can then apply for Adjustment of Status.

In some cases, if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States, but is NOT eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status, he/she needs to file a Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS Form I-130) and then obtain a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (USCIS Form I-601A) BEFORE departing the United States to appear at the U.S. Consulate in his/her home country for an Immigrant Visa interview in order to be admitted as a Permanent Resident upon return to the United States. Signature can also help couples in this situation.

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4. What is Concurrent Filing?

Concurrent filing is when an Adjustment of Status Application is filed at the same time as the underlying Immigrant Visa petition (in this case, Form I-130) which is prior to the approval of the visa petition.  Concurrent filing is only applicable when an Immigrant Visa is immediately available and when a Petition and the Adjustment of Status Application are filed at the same time, mailed together with all the required filing fees and supporting documentation to the same filing location.

When adjudicating concurrent filings, USCIS determines the eligibility for the Immigrant Visa Petition first and if the visa petition is approvable, USCIS will consider the Adjustment application at the same time (which in most cases requires an interview).

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5. What are the eligibility requirements for a Marriage Green Card if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States?

If the Petitioner is a U.S. Citizen, these are the eligibility requirements for a Spouse Beneficiary who is already in the United States:

If the Petitioner is a Lawful Permanent Resident and if the Spouse Beneficiary is already in the United States, all the same, eligibility requirements listed above apply.

The F2A Family Preference category for Spouses and Children of Permanent Residents has been “Current” since July 2019, but in reality, the process to apply for a Green Card depends on the Spouse Beneficiary’s immigration status in the United States.

In order to file an Adjustment of Status application, the Spouse Beneficiary of a Lawful Permanent Resident must be lawfully present in the United States on a temporary visa (e.g., H-1B or L-1 status, or possibly F-1 student status, etc.), and only if his/her temporary status is not due to expire before he/she can apply for adjustment. If the Spouse Beneficiary of a Lawful Permanent Resident is in the United States on a B-1/B-2 Visitor Visa, the chances are likely that he/she will not be able to adjust.

The Spouse Beneficiary of a Lawful Permanent Resident is not considered an “Immediate Relative” and must demonstrate that he/she is not subject to any grounds of inadmissibility. For example, if the Spouse Beneficiary violated the terms of his/her visitor’s visa by overstaying beyond the period of authorized stay, he/she is not eligible to adjust. The same problem exists if he/she failed to continuously maintain lawful status since his/her entry into the United States.

If the Spouse Beneficiary is in the United States but is NOT eligible to apply for Adjustment of Status, he/she needs to file a Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS Form I-130) and then obtain a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver (USCIS Form I-601A) BEFORE departing the United States to appear at the U.S. Consulate in his/her home country for an Immigrant Visa interview in order to be admitted as a Permanent Resident upon return to the United States.

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6. What are the grounds of inadmissibility?

Individuals who are inadmissible are not permitted by law to enter or remain in the United States. The Immigration and Nationality Act sets forth grounds of inadmissibility. The general categories of inadmissibility include health, criminal activity, national security, public charge, lack of labor certification (if required), fraud and misrepresentation, prior removals, unlawful presence in the United States, and several miscellaneous categories. For certain grounds of inadmissibility, it may be possible for a person to obtain a waiver to overcome the inadmissibility. In some cases, exceptions are written into the law and no waiver is required to overcome the inadmissibility because the inadmissibility does not apply if the individual can meet some exception. If the Spouse Beneficiary believes that he/she may be subject to any of the grounds of inadmissibility, we recommend speaking to one of our experienced independent Immigration Attorneys.

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7. What happens after USCIS receives the application package?

Once USCIS receives the applications, the following will be received:

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8. What is a Request for Evidence (RFE)?

A Request for Evidence (RFE) is a written request letter usually sent by USCIS because the Immigration Officer reviewing your case has not yet decided whether or not your Petition should be approved and needs more evidence to make that determination. An RFE should be read immediately and responded to carefully since it is an opportunity to improve your case.

It is essential to respond to this request ON TIME and in a satisfactory manner. If you do not respond at all or your response is deficient, then your Petition or application will likely be denied.

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9. What is the processing time for a Marriage Green Card?

Concurrent filing cases are processed at the USCIS Chicago Lockbox (Chicago, IL). Due to the delays caused by COVID-19, current processing times are between 10.5 to 21.5 months.

The filing location for the Petition depends on where the Petitioner lives and the processing times are different for each location.

To keep track of the processing times, you can visit the USCIS Check Case Processing Times page.

For the National Visa Center processing steps and timelines, you can visit the NVC Processing page.

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10. What is the Marriage Green Card process if the Spouse Beneficiary lives outside the United States?

If the Spouse Beneficiary lives outside the United States, USCIS will send the approved Immigrant Visa Petition to the Department of State's National Visa Center (NVC) to initiate the Immigrant Visa pre-process, including the collection of any applicable fees, the Immigrant Visa Application, supporting civil documents, police certificate(s), Affidavits of Support, and financial documents. This pathway is referred to as Consular Processing.

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11. How much does it cost to apply for a Marriage Green Card?


IF THE SPOUSE BENEFICIARY IS IN THE U.S.

The cost or Government filing fees to apply for a Green Card, by filing the adjustment of status application and the petition concurrently or at the same time is $1,760 total. See chart below.

FORM FILING FEE
I-130 Petition $535
I-485 Adjustment Application $1,140
I-485 Supp A, if applicabale *
I-765 Work Permit Application $0
I-131 Travel Document $0
Biometrics $85
TOTAL $1,760
I-693 Medical Examination Cost varies
Passport Photographs Cost varies

* add an additional $1,000 ONLY if filing under §245(i) using Form I-485 Supp A.

IF THE SPOUSE BENEFICIARY IS IN THE U.S. BUT CAN’T ADJUST AND NEEDS TO LEAVE THE COUNTRY

FORM FILING FEE
I-130 Petition $535
I-601A Waiver $715
Immigrant Visa $325
Affidavit of Support $120
USCIS Immigrant Fee $220
TOTAL $1,915
Medical Examination Cost varies
Passport Photographs Cost varies


IF THE SPOUSE BENEFICIARY LIVES ABROAD

FORM FILING FEE
I-130 Petition $535
Immigrant Visa $325
Affidavit of Support $120
USCIS Immigrant Fee $220
TOTAL $1,200
Medical Examination Cost varies
Passport Photographs Cost varies

USCIS FEES

USCIS filing fees can be paid with a money order, personal check, cashier’s check, or by credit card. If you pay by check or money order, you MUST make your check payable to: “U.S. Department of Homeland Security”. You must submit all fees in the exact amount. DO NOT MAIL CASH.

NOTE: USCIS filing fees and biometrics service fees are final and non-refundable, regardless of any action USCIS takes on your application or petition, or even if you withdraw your petition.

NVC FEES

NVC fees can be paid online by accessing the Spouse Beneficiary’s case at the
Consular Electronic Application Center (CEAC). A bank routing number and a checking or savings account number from a U.S. based bank will be needed.

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12. What is the USCIS Immigrant Fee?

If the Spouse Beneficiary appeared at a U.S. Consulate for an Immigrant Visa interview and immigrated to the United States as a Lawful Permanent Resident, he/she must pay the $220 USCIS Immigrant Fee online.

USCIS uses this fee to process the Immigrant Visa packet and produce the Permanent Resident Card (the actual Green Card). The Spouse Beneficiary will not receive his/her Green Card until the USCIS Immigrant Fee is paid. Failure to pay the USCIS Immigrant Fee will not affect the Spouse Beneficiary’s status as a Lawful Permanent Resident. However, the only evidence of lawful Permanent Status for one year from the date of admission is going to be reflected by the temporary I-551 stamp CBP placed in the passport when the Spouse Beneficiary entered the United States.

The USCIS Immigrant Fee is NOT required if the Spouse Beneficiary filed an Adjustment of Status Application.

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13. Do we need to attend a Marriage Green Card interview?

If the Spouse Beneficiary is in the United States and an Adjustment of Status Application is filed, an interview with an Immigration Officer will be scheduled unless the interview is waived by USCIS. The interview enables USCIS to verify important information to determine eligibility for adjustment. The Petitioner is required to appear at the interview with the Spouse Beneficiary.

If the Spouse Beneficiary is in the United States but is NOT eligible to adjust status, a Provisional Unlawful Presence Waiver must first be filed and approved and a DS-260, as well as all supporting documentation, must be submitted to the National Visa Center. Then the Spouse Beneficiary will be scheduled to appear at the U.S. Consulate in his/her home country for the Immigrant Visa interview in order to return to the United States and be admitted as a Permanent Resident. The Petitioner is not required to attend the interview abroad.

If the Spouse Beneficiary lives outside of the United States he/she will be scheduled to appear at a U.S. Consulate for the Immigrant Visa interview and the Petitioner is not required to attend the interview abroad.

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14. Why is my Green Card only valid for two (2) years?

If the Spouse Beneficiary applied for Adjustment of Status or for an Immigrant Visa abroad and the Green Card is only valid for two (2) years, that means that the Permanent Resident Status is Conditional (CR) because it is based on a marriage that was less than two (2) years old on the day the Spouse Beneficiary became a Permanent Resident.

The status is conditional until the Spouse Beneficiary can prove, after a specified period of time, that he/she did not enter the marriage to circumvent the immigration laws of the United States.

The Spouse Beneficiary must apply to Remove the Conditions of his/her Permanent Residence 90 days before the status expires. If the Spouse Beneficiary does not apply to remove the conditions in time, he/she could lose the Conditional Permanent Resident status and potentially be referred to the Immigration Court and be at risk of removal from the United States.

If the marriage was more than two (2) years old on the day the Spouse Beneficiary became a Permanent Resident, he/she will receive a ten-year (10) Green Card.

 

Last Reviewed/Updated: 06/01/2021

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