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Getting a United States Green Card Through Marriage

Getting a United States Green Card Through Marriage

Are you married to an American citizen or a permanent resident of the United States? Or you are about to marry a United States citizen or permanent resident? If so, you should be aware that you are entitled to a green card through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident.

A green card (sometimes referred to as a permanent resident card) is a legal document that allows immigrants to reside and work in the United States for the rest of their lives. Many non-citizens who are married to an American citizen or permanent resident need a green card to start a new life with their partner.

Getting married to a US citizen or permanent resident is a thrilling experience for anyone. But after getting married, you may be wondering, “How long does it take to get a green card through marriage?” If done correctly, getting a green card through marriage can be relatively simple.

The length of the marriage green card process will depend on several factors, including whether you will adjust your status in the United States or apply for an immigrant visa abroad. Keep reading the useful guide below to get an idea of how the process and timeline work.

Getting a green card through marriage

If you are the spouse of an American citizen or a permanent resident of the United States, you are entitled to apply for a green card through marriage. The gist of it is that you may be eligible to obtain your green card if you have a valid and lawful marriage to an American citizen or resident.

To obtain a green card through marriage, your spouse must file an I-130 petition on your behalf. The US citizen or permanent resident spouse is the petitioner (the person filing the petition), and the non-US spouse is the beneficiary (the person benefiting from the petition). There are additional steps to filing a petition (which will be covered later).

A green card allows you to live, work, and travel in the United States. It also entitles you to attend US schools and to apply for US citizenship. Getting a green card through marriage isn’t as straightforward as you may think. There are several requirements and steps that need to be followed closely.

If you don’t file your case properly or don’t follow each of these steps, your case may be delayed or even denied. The requirements for a green card through marriage vary slightly depending on whether you are getting married to a US citizen or a permanent resident. You should speak to an immigration lawyer to get a unique solution for your needs.

The gains of a marriage green card

There are several things you gain after you obtain a green card through marriage, including but not limited to:

  1. The ability to reside and work in the US.
  2. The possibility of adjusting status in the US, even if your visa has expired or you are out of the country.
  3. The fact that you do not need to be sponsored by a US company through an employment offer.
  4. The freedom to travel within and outside the US.
  5. The right to sponsor your unmarried children under the age of 21 as derivative beneficiaries of your case.
  6. The possibility of sponsoring your relatives after you become a permanent US resident.
  7. Right to study in US schools.

These are just a few of the things you stand to gain with a US green card. You can learn more about the things you can enjoy in the US with a marriage green card by talking with an immigration lawyer.

The marriage green card process

1. A valid and lawful marriage.

The first step in the marriage green card process is to marry an American citizen or a lawful permanent resident of the United States. This marriage must be performed before any immigration documents are filed.

The marriage must be legal and valid in the state in which it was performed. The marriage must not be fraudulent (i.e., not for immigration benefits only). It must not be contrary to federal or state law or to public policy. The most important factor in determining the validity of a marriage is whether the parties intended to have a life together when they entered into it.

2. The I-130 petition.

Once you marry a US citizen or a lawful permanent resident, the next step is to file the I-130 petition.  Form I-130 is the first form your US citizen or permanent resident spouse will need to file with the USCIS. This form is also known as the ‘Petition for Alien Relatives.’

You need to prove the validity of the marriage by providing a marriage certificate. You will also need to file copies of your passports, together with pictures of you and your spouse, a tax return, etc. This means that while submitting the I-130 form, you will also need to provide proof that you meet all of the criteria for a green card through marriage.

Generally, only US citizens or permanent resident spouses can sign the form. Once you have completed the form, please send it to the designated USCIS office. You will receive a notification of receipt within approximately two weeks. If additional information is requested, USCIS will issue a Request for Evidence.

Timeline for the I-130 petition

At this stage, the documents and wait time are the same for spouses of US citizens and permanent residents. However, the USCIS has to approve the I-130 form before they can proceed to the status adjustment step. Spouses of US citizens can file for adjustment of status at the same time as the I-130 petition, but spouses of permanent residents cannot do that.

After filing the I-130 form, your timeline to get a green card through marriage officially begins to run. Processing times for this form vary depending on the number of USCIS service centers that have your form. Also, the amount of time you will need to wait for this step will depend on whether your application is being processed at a service center or a field office.

Service center wait times average about 14 months, while at a field office, they can take up to 55 months. Sadly, the processing time for forms I-130 is longer for spouses who are legally permanent residents.

3. The interview.

Once you have completed the I-130 form and submitted it to USCIS, they may request an interview in your case. In most cases, they will schedule a marriage interview or investigation only if they have a more serious issue with your marriage.

When your marriage interview or investigation is scheduled, you will need to be prepared to provide evidence that shows that your marriage is legitimate. This could include photos and affidavits from your friends/family that your marriage is legal.

During the interview, you may be kept in the same room with the immigration officer or separated. It would be best if you were prepared to answer questions about:

  1. Your spouse’s upbringing and family details (how many siblings does he have?).
  2. Your relationship with him (where did you meet him?)
  3. The current state of your relationship (what did you do together last night?)
  4. How many TVs do you have in your house?
  5. Personal information (what is your spouse’s favorite food?), etc.

The interview is for you and your spouse within 6 to 9 months of filing the I-130 petition.

4. Adjust status/consular processing.

The form I-130 doesn’t give you immigration rights by itself. The I-130 is the foundation for your green card application. So, the next step in the application process is to either change your status (for spouses living within the US) or apply for an immigrant visa abroad (for spouses living outside the US). Each of these options has its own set of requirements. The choice you make will depend on your specific situation.

Adjustment of status (form I-485)

This step is for green card applicants who live in the United States. To complete this step, you will need to:

  • Have your spouse’s passport and birth certificate.
  • Have a copy of their travel record and previous US visa to prove that they entered the country legally.
  • Have a medical exam and a signed I-693 form no later than 60 days before applying.
  • Have a form I-864 to prove that the sponsoring spouse is financially able to support their spouse seeking a green card. This form requires proof of income, such as pay stubs or tax returns.

Timeline for form I-485

The average processing time is around 20 months, but it can range from 13 months to 40 months, depending on your location. The good news is that US citizen spouses can submit form I-485 at the same time as filing form I-130, meaning the USCIS will be able to process both forms at the same time, significantly reducing your wait time.

Don’t miss out on any forms, deadlines, or communication from USCIS. If you miss a step, your wait time will extend (or worse, you will be forced to start over!)

Immigrant visa application

If you need a green card through marriage but are living outside the US, you must complete form DS-260 to get an immigrant visa first instead of filing for an adjustment of status right away.

This form is an online database used by the United States Department of State to collect biographical information for immigrant visa applicants and those applying for a green card through marriage.

You will need to submit your birth certificate, passport photo page, police clearance certificate, form I-864, which shows proof that your spouse can provide financial support for you in the United States, and a medical exam.

The NVC will review your immigration application and arrange an interview with you at your home country’s embassy or consulate. This stage usually takes between 1 – 2 months. If you successfully complete all these steps, you will be issued a green card.

Spouses residing abroad will receive the physical green card through marriage at the US address provided in their application. This is typically within six months of their arrival in the US.

Get help!

With the above information, we believe you have a much better understanding of the process and timelines of getting a green card through marriage. Now that you have a better grasp of the basics knowing how this information applies to your unique situation might be confusing.

The required information might be overwhelming. But don’t worry! Working with an immigration lawyer can make your case much easier and less complicated. At Gehi and Associates, we understand that applying for a green card is not easy for most people.

After all, you have to fill out multiple forms and collect multiple bundles of documents. This is why we are here to make your application journey a pleasant one. Please speak to one of our immigration lawyers today!

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