What is a marriage green card?
A “marriage green card” refers to the process of obtaining lawful permanent residency (a green card) in the United States based on marriage to a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident (LPR). When a foreign national marries a U.S. citizen or LPR, they may be eligible to apply for a green card that allows them to live and work in the United States permanently.
Here are some key points about the marriage green card process:
- Eligibility: To be eligible for a marriage-based green card, the foreign spouse must be legally married to a U.S. citizen or LPR. The marriage must be genuine and bona fide, meaning it was not entered into solely for immigration purposes.
- Two-Year Conditional Residence: In cases where the marriage is less than two years old when the green card is granted, the foreign spouse will typically be granted conditional permanent residency for a period of two years. This conditional green card must be converted into a permanent green card through a separate application process before it expires.
- Process: The process involves filing Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, which is filed by the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse on behalf of the foreign spouse. Once the I-130 is approved, the foreign spouse can file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, to apply for the green card.
- Interview: Most applicants, along with their U.S. citizen or LPR spouses, will need to attend an adjustment of status interview at a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office. The purpose of the interview is to verify the authenticity of the marriage and assess the eligibility of the foreign spouse for a green card.
- Evidence: Both the I-130 and I-485 applications require substantial documentation to prove the legitimacy of the marriage and the eligibility of the foreign spouse. This may include documents such as marriage certificates, joint financial records, shared lease agreements, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
- Work Authorization and Travel: While the green card application is pending, the foreign spouse can apply for work authorization (Form I-765) and a travel document (Form I-131) to allow them to work and travel while awaiting the green card decision.
- Interview and Adjudication: After the interview, USCIS will determine whether the foreign spouse qualifies for a green card. If approved, the foreign spouse will be granted either conditional or permanent residency, depending on the length of the marriage.
It’s important to note that the marriage green card process can be complex, and the specific requirements and procedures can vary based on individual circumstances. If you’re considering applying for a marriage-based green card, it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative to ensure that you understand the process and provide accurate documentation.
What are the marriage green card application requirements?
The application requirements for obtaining a marriage-based green card (lawful permanent residency) in the United States can vary based on the specific circumstances of the marriage and the individuals involved. However, here are some general requirements that applicants typically need to fulfill:
- Valid and Legally Recognized Marriage: The marriage must be legally valid and recognized in the jurisdiction where it took place. It must also be a genuine and bona fide marriage, not entered into solely for the purpose of obtaining immigration benefits.
- Petitioner’s Status: The petitioner (U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse) must have the appropriate immigration status to sponsor a family member for a green card.
- Eligible Relationship: The relationship between the petitioner and the foreign spouse must meet the eligibility criteria for the specific category of family-based green card being pursued.
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative: The petitioner must file Form I-130 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to establish the qualifying family relationship and initiate the green card process.
- Supporting Documentation: Both the petitioner and the foreign spouse need to provide evidence that the marriage is genuine and ongoing. This can include documents such as marriage certificates, joint financial records, shared lease agreements, photographs, and affidavits from friends and family.
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status: Once the Form I-130 is approved, the foreign spouse can file Form I-485 to adjust their status to that of a lawful permanent resident. This form includes information about the intending immigrant’s background, immigration history, and criminal record.
- Biometric Services: The foreign spouse will need to attend a biometrics appointment to have fingerprints and photographs taken as part of the background check process.
- Medical Examination: USCIS requires a medical examination to ensure that the intending immigrant is not carrying any communicable diseases of public health significance.
- Affidavit of Support (Form I-864): The petitioner must submit an Affidavit of Support to demonstrate that they have the financial means to support the intending immigrant at a level above the minimum required threshold.
- Adjustment of Status Interview: Most applicants will need to attend an adjustment of status interview at a USCIS office. The interview is an opportunity to verify the authenticity of the marriage and assess the eligibility of the foreign spouse for a green card.
It’s important to note that the specific requirements and documentation needed can vary based on individual circumstances and the USCIS service center processing the application. Additionally, immigration laws and regulations can change, so it’s advisable to consult with an immigration attorney or accredited representative to ensure that you meet all the eligibility criteria and provide accurate documentation for your marriage-based green card application.
How much does it cost to apply for a marriage green card?
The cost of applying for a marriage-based green card (lawful permanent residency) in the United States can vary based on several factors, including the specific forms you need to file, your current immigration status, and any additional services you might require. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) periodically updates its fee schedule, so it’s important to check the USCIS website for the most up-to-date fee information. Here are some potential costs that might be associated with the marriage green card process:
- Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative): This form is filed by the U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to establish the relationship between the petitioner and the foreign spouse. As of my last update, there was a filing fee for Form I-130.
- Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status): This is the main application for adjusting status to that of a lawful permanent resident. The filing fee for Form I-485 includes the cost of processing the application, as well as the cost of biometric services (fingerprinting and photograph). The fee amount can vary based on your age and specific eligibility category.
- Form I-765 (Application for Employment Authorization): If you want to obtain work authorization while your green card application is pending, you can file Form I-765. As of my last update, there was a filing fee for Form I-765.
- Form I-131 (Application for Travel Document – Advance Parole): If you need to travel outside the United States while your green card application is pending, you can file Form I-131 to request advance parole. As of my last update, there was a filing fee for Form I-131.
- Medical Examination: USCIS requires a medical examination as part of the green card application process. The cost of the medical examination can vary depending on the doctor’s fees and location.
- Translation and Documentation: You might need to translate documents into English if they are in a foreign language. Additionally, there may be costs associated with obtaining copies of marriage certificates, birth certificates, and other required documentation.
- Attorney’s Fees: Many individuals choose to work with an immigration attorney to navigate the complex green card application process. Attorney’s fees can vary based on the complexity of the case and the services provided.
- Other Costs: Depending on your specific situation, there might be other costs associated with the application process, such as travel expenses to attend interviews or appointments.
It’s important to carefully review the USCIS website for the most current fee information and to consult with an immigration attorney if you’re unsure about the costs and requirements. Additionally, be prepared for potential changes in fees and requirements over time. An attorney can help ensure that you’re well-informed about the costs and processes associated with obtaining a marriage-based green card.
How long does it take to obtain a marriage green card?
The processing time to obtain a marriage-based green card (lawful permanent residency) in the United States can vary significantly based on a variety of factors. These factors include the USCIS service center handling your case, the complexity of your case, the volume of applications being processed, and any potential delays.
Here are some factors that can influence the processing time for a marriage-based green card:
- USCIS Service Center: USCIS has multiple service centers across the United States that handle different types of applications. Processing times can vary between these centers.
- Case Complexity: The complexity of your case, including the accuracy and completeness of your application, the amount of supporting documentation, and any potential issues that require further review, can impact the processing time.
- Demand and Backlog: The demand for green cards and the overall backlog of applications at USCIS can affect processing times. High demand or a backlog of cases can lead to longer processing times.
- Biometrics Appointment: After filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, you’ll be scheduled for a biometrics appointment, where your fingerprints and photograph will be taken. The availability of appointment slots can influence the overall processing time.
- Adjustment of Status Interview: In many cases, USCIS will require an adjustment of status interview for marriage-based green card applicants. The scheduling and availability of interview slots can affect processing time.
- Request for Evidence (RFE): If USCIS requires additional documentation or information to make a decision on your case, they will issue a Request for Evidence (RFE). Responding to an RFE and USCIS reviewing the response can add time to the processing.
- Security and Background Checks: USCIS conducts security and background checks as part of the application process. The time required for these checks can impact processing times.
- COVID-19 Impact: Processing times have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with potential delays due to office closures, reduced staffing, and changes in procedures.
- USCIS Backlog Reduction Efforts: USCIS has taken steps to address backlogs and streamline processing, but these efforts can impact processing times as they adjust procedures.
Given the potential variations and changes in processing times, it’s recommended to monitor the USCIS website or consult with an immigration attorney to obtain the most accurate and up-to-date information. USCIS provides estimated processing times for different types of applications on their website, which can give you a general idea of what to expect. Keep in mind that processing times can change, and there might be additional steps or requirements specific to your case that influence the overall timeline.