How to Get a Marriage Green Card in the United States
Marriage can be complicated, but especially if you have to worry about obtaining your spouse’s green card. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to apply for a marriage green card in the United States without having to leave the country, and this guide will give you all the information you need to make sure your application goes through smoothly in 2022!
Marriage Green Cards are one of the most common ways to immigrate to the United States, but they’re not always easy to get. One of the biggest challenges with obtaining a marriage green card in the U.S. is that you have to marry an American citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR). These individuals make up less than 10% of the U.S. population, and only about 3% of all marriage green cards issued go to couples in which one spouse is a U.S. citizen and the other is an LPR.
If you’re currently living in the United States and are hoping to get married to your partner, you may be wondering how to get a marriage green card. Fortunately, there are several ways to do this if you both plan on staying in the U.S., and many of them can be processed right within the country’s borders! If you want more information about what options are available and how to go about getting them, keep reading for everything you need to know about marriage green cards in the United States in 2022.
What is a Marriage-Based Green Card?
If you’re married to a U.S. citizen, it might be possible for you to receive permanent resident status (commonly referred to as getting your green card). A marriage-based green card is valid as long as your marriage is still intact and it can lead to citizenship down the road. These steps will guide you through applying for your green card if you're married in 2022.
Whether or not your application will be approved depends on many factors, including how strong your case is and whether or not you have any potential red flags that could affect your application process. Check out our full report for details about all of these factors—and some strategies for improving them!
Bona Fide Marriage
To satisfy U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you’ll need evidence that your marriage is bona fide, meaning it was entered into for love and not solely for immigration purposes. This can be tricky since many couples are married simply to help one spouse obtain residency status. Take time documenting your relationship as well as taking care of each other by doing things such as communicating about family issues or going out on date nights together. If you follow these guidelines, USCIS will have no reason to question whether your marriage is genuine, thereby granting you permission to apply for a green card through marriage.
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It’s best to wait until your marriage is at least two years old before applying for a green card, and it will be five years old by then if you apply based on your marriage having taken place less than two years ago. If either you or your spouse wants or needs to work while waiting for USCIS approval, file form I-765 Application for Employment Authorization along with Form I-485 Adjustment of Status application. Once USCIS approves these forms, it will send your case over to U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with an employment authorization document granting you permission to work legally in America. However, no one can employ you unless he or she files form I-9 on your behalf within three days of hiring you.
To establish the bona fides of your marriage, the following items are examples of acceptable forms of evidence:
- Documents showing co-mingling of financial resources such as joint bank accounts, credit card statements, tax returns, insurance policies, home mortgages, or other loans
- Documents showing joint ownership of property such as a home or auto title
- A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence
- Birth certificates of children born into the marriage
- Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship.
Requirements for a Marriage-Based Green Card
To be eligible for a Green Card through marriage, there are certain criteria that must be met. These requirements are grouped as follows:
Requirements for your marriage
You need to be legally married for at least three years before you can apply for permanent residence based on your marriage. If you are not legally married but have been living together as spouses for at least three years, then you may still be eligible. However, if your spouse is either under 21 or over age 31 when you submit your application, you will need to meet an additional requirement: that both of you must file an I-864A affidavit of support with USCIS.
This is an important aspect of any marriage-based green card application and is explained below. You should speak with an immigration attorney about whether you qualify for certain exemptions from filing I-864A before applying (for example, if your spouse has already obtained LPR status).
Requirements for the petitioner
The petitioner must be a U.S. citizen and at least 18 years old when he or she files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The U.S. citizen can file jointly with his or her spouse, but that doesn’t have any effect on your visa application process (your spouse will still be required to prove he or she has been living with you for two years).
That said, most people don’t marry the love of their life while they are waiting for immigration paperwork; instead, they marry someone who is just their friend now (but could potentially become their spouse once they get married). You might want to consider marrying someone other than your fiancé if it will make things easier for you.
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Requirements for the Beneficiary
In order for your partner to qualify for a marriage green card, they must prove that you are both legally married, i.e., that your marriage is not fraudulent and does not violate U.S. immigration law, and that he or she is admissible into the country as an immigrant. A person who enters into a fraudulent marriage could face criminal penalties and have their visa petition denied or revoked by USCIS.
However, there are numerous legitimate reasons why an applicant may be unable to get married immediately; an example of one such reason would be if one spouse needs time to obtain permission from his or her employer in order to receive vacation time off work without losing his or her job.
If you are living in an undocumented relationship, then there is no need for you to fear. The fact that your visa has expired and you have not applied for adjustment of status does not mean that you can be deported just because one of your spouses lost their immigration status or was out of status. There are special marriage-based applications that provide relief to undocumented spouses who qualify under certain conditions.
Undocumented spouses can file Form I-601A (application for provisional unlawful presence waiver) and apply for advance parole travel documents at a US Embassy or Consulate abroad while they wait for their waivers to be approved. If they qualify, then they would get their green card through adjustment of status rather than consular processing abroad.
Entered the U.S. with lawful means that have now expired
People that have lawfully entered the U.S. were generally inspected by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a port of entry such as an airport, seaport, or border crossing. The individual would have entered with one of the following:
- Valid non-immigrant visa (i.e. tourist visa, student visa or temporary worker visa); or
- Advance parole; or
- Border crossing card; or
- Under the Visa Waiver Program.
If that lawful means of entry has now expired, the immigrant is out of status and considered to be undocumented.
Entered the U.S. without any visa
If you entered on a K-1 fiancé visa and have been married for more than two years (no petition needed), then you may apply for your green card by submitting Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. The green card that you’ll receive after being approved is proof that you are legally allowed to work and live in the U.S. permanently as an immigrant, provided certain requirements are met.
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It will have an expiration date from 10 years down until just 1 year depending on how long you’ve been married at your time of application; however, it will be valid indefinitely if divorce proceedings were started before that time had elapsed.
Marriage-Based Green Cards for Same-Sex Couples
LGBTQ couples that are already married may utilize the U.S. immigration system as would any other opposite-sex married couple. However, only a relationship legally considered to be a marriage in the jurisdiction where it took place establishes eligibility as a spouse for immigration purposes. Gay people cannot “legally” marry in every country of the world. Provided the marriage is lawful in the state, province, or country where it took place, you can use the same processes described in the previous sections of this article.
How to Apply for a Marriage-Based Green Card
There are two ways you can apply for a marriage-based green card (sometimes called an adjustment of status) if you're already married to a U.S. citizen: filing either an immediate relative petition or consular processing. Either way, your spouse will need to be legally residing in the U.S., and you'll need to get all marriage documents translated into English from your native language and any other languages, as well as apostilled.
To determine whether you should apply for an adjustment of status through consular processing or an immediate relative petition, it's important that you talk with an immigration attorney who has experience working with clients applying for marriage-based green cards through both methods.
Present Form I-130
To begin with, the first step in the process of applying for a marriage-based green card completing Form I-130 (petition for alien relative). However, the purpose of the I-130 petition is to establish that you have a valid marriage to a US citizen or LPR. Moreover, along with the completed form, you must also provide your marriage certificate and documents showing that your marriage is legitimate.
Apply for your marriage-based green card
You'll first need to apply for what's called an immigrant visa or, simply, a green card. You'll do that by filing Form I-130 with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The form is one of several you must complete when petitioning for permanent residence. (The initial step is called adjustment of status.)
Note: This guide focuses on obtaining your marriage-based green card through adjustment of status, but you can also obtain it through consular processing if you are eligible and choose that route instead.) Here’s how to apply for your marriage-based green card if you have been living together with your spouse as husband and wife for at least two years
How long does it take to get a marriage green card?
It depends on your individual situation, but it usually takes about a year. Your US citizen spouse can begin processing your application for permanent residency, also known as a green card, immediately after you get married.
So if you have already tied the knot—congratulations! If not, don't fret: Although there are some restrictions on when you can apply for an adjustment of status based on marriage, there's still plenty of time to apply. In fact, most immigrants who marry US citizens do so within three years of their arrival in America. Here's how long it'll take you to get a green card if you're applying through marriage.
What is the Green Card Sponsor Income Requirements
Immigration law states that your sponsor must have an income that is 125% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for your household size. If you are sponsored by an employer, they can sponsor you at 100% FPL if they meet certain requirements and guidelines. This number changes each year so be sure to check back often or sign up for updates below.
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For example, in 2021, Federal Poverty Guidelines were $11,880 per year ($816 per month) for one person, $20,160 per year ($1,407 per month) for two people, and $29,400 ($2k per month) for a family of four (Source: U.S. Department of Health & Human Services).
Attend your green card interview and receive your green card
If you’re married to an American citizen, you might be eligible for US citizenship after three years of marriage. During that time, you’ll need to maintain legal status and attend your green card interview. It’s important to keep your address up-to-date with USCIS because if they can’t find you, it will invalidate your status as a conditional resident.
After six months of waiting after attending your green card interview, you can receive your green card! A lot goes into applying for citizenship but getting married is just one step along the way. If all goes well, though, your new life as an American could officially begin soon!
How much does it cost to apply for a green card?
The cost of applying for a marriage-based green card depends on whether you're using an attorney. The most recent fee schedule from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) lists fees as follows: Premium processing ($1,225). You can have your application processed within 15 calendar days if you pay an additional $1,225 fee.
If you’re eligible for premium processing, USCIS will provide instructions on how to submit it with your application. The standard processing time is 11 months and 3 weeks, according to our data—but it’s possible that it may take longer if your forms are incomplete or don't comply with applicable laws and regulations.
How long does it take to get a marriage green card?
The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) offers two options for how long you can be married before applying for a marriage green card: 90 days or one year. After those time frames, you’ll have to prove that your marriage is valid; it doesn’t matter how long you’ve lived together.
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Of course, if your spouse files for citizenship before 2023, then only 90 days will be required to apply for a green card instead of one year. Be sure that you and your spouse have been together for at least 90 days before he or she submits their naturalization application.
What Documents Do We Need for a Marriage Green Card?
The documents required for a marriage green card vary by the situation but generally include the following:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage certificate
- Financial documents
- Proof of sponsor’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residence
- Proof of lawful U.S. entry and status, if applicable
- Police clearance certificate, if applicable
- Prior-marriage termination papers, if applicable
- Court, police, and prison records, if applicable
- Military records, if applicable
- Immigration violation records, if applicable
- Current/expired U.S. visa(s)
- Medical examination document
Here are the frequently asked questions about the US green card:
How long does it take to bring a spouse to the USA?
Average time - Between five and 14.5 months to get a Form I-130 petition (Petition for Alien Relative) approved by USCIS as of early 2022; another six to 11 months or longer to get an immigrant visa to come to the United States.
How long does it take for a green card holder to sponsor a spouse?
The petitioner (green card holder) has to file the Form I-130 package and Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, and wait for the approval of the green card application, usually about 7-10 months.
How long does it take to get a green card?
It takes 7 to 33 months to process a Green Card application.
The Green Card processing time depends on the type of Green Card you are applying for, the location of the processing office, and other factors. Family Preference Green Cards processing takes from 1 to 10 years depending on the wait time and yearly caps.
How long does it take to get i-130 approved for the spouse?
- between 5 and 14.5 months
- Form I-130 Processing Times
For immediate relatives (spouse, unmarried child under 21, or parent) of a U.S. citizen, the wait times for Form I-130 are currently between 5 and 14.5 months (as of June 2022). The sooner you get started on your I-130 application, the better.
How can I get a green card fast?
There are several quick ways to achieve that goal.
- Marriage to U.S. Citizen. This is the fastest way to immigrate.
- Immigration through family reunification.
- Political Asylum in the USA.
- Immigration of extraordinary ability people.
- Investment immigration.
Can I stay on a green card forever?
Although some Permanent Resident Cards, commonly known as Green Cards, contain no expiration date, most are valid for 10 years. If you have been granted conditional permanent resident status, the card is valid for 2 years. It is important to keep your card up-to-date.
The process of getting a marriage green card can be overwhelming and expensive. Depending on your situation, it may take anywhere from three months to three years. If you’re just starting out on your path to U.S. citizenship, whether it’s with or without your partner, there are some ways you can make sure that you stay on track and minimize extra costs by avoiding legal issues down the road.
The process takes time, but if done correctly, it doesn’t have to break your bank account or personal relationship with your spouse—but rather enrich both of those things. Making sure that you have everything set up properly at home before traveling abroad is important too—you don’t want any hassles at an airport 10 hours away from home!