How to Change From Temporary Protected Status to a Marriage Green Card


Navigating from TPS to a spousal visa


If you have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a marriage-based green card (also called a spousal visa) could help you remain permanently in the United States and gain a path to full U.S. citizenship.

TPS lets people from 10 designated countries live and work in the United States following conflict or natural disasters in their home countries. If you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, it’s worth considering changing status to a marriage green card.

In this guide, you’ll learn about:

Not sure if you qualify for a marriage-based green card? You can check your eligibility through Boundless without providing any personal or financial information. When you’re ready to apply, Boundless can guide you through every milestone of the marriage-based green card process, starting with your Form I-130 all the way to the finish line. Learn more, or find out if you’re eligible today.


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Changes to the TPS Program


While TPS holders often live and work in the United States for decades, they can only lawfully remain as long as their home countries continue to be designated as TPS-eligible. Check the USCIS website for updates about your home country’s current TPS designation.

Remember, if your country’s TPS designation is terminated, you’ll have to leave the United States. Filing a marriage green card application could allow you to keep living and working in the United States, while also offering a path to eventual U.S. citizenship.

For the flat rate of $950, Boundless helps you complete your entire marriage-based green card (spousal visa) application — including all required forms and supporting documents, independent attorney review, and support — from the moment your application is filed until you receive your green card. Learn more or check your eligibility without providing any personal or financial information.


The Paths to a Marriage Green Card


There are two different pathways for transitioning from TPS to a marriage green card. The path you must follow depends on whether you are married to a U.S. citizen or to a green card holder.

Let’s discuss each path in more detail:

Path 1: If you’re married to a U.S. citizen

You must follow the same procedure for most other spouses living in the United States and married to a U.S. citizen, using the Adjustment of Status (AOS) process to file your application from within the United States.

You and your spouse will first need to file the following forms — typically at the same time (filing these separately is an option but would be unusual in most cases):

  • The family sponsorship form — or Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) — to be completed and signed by your spouse who is a U.S. citizen
  • The green card application — or Form I-485 (officially called the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”) — to be completed and signed by you, the F-1 student

As long as you married your U.S.-citizen spouse “in good faith” — that is, you did not marry for the sole purpose of obtaining a green card, which you’ll need to prove to the U.S. government — you should be able to receive your green card within 10 to 13 months from the time USCIS receives your application package.

IMPORTANT! While your Form I-485 is pending, you must not travel outside the United States until you’ve obtained a travel permit. Otherwise, the U.S. government will consider your marriage-based green card application “abandoned,” and you will need to start the application process all over again.

Boundless stays with you until the green card finish line, helping you keep on top of interview preparation, follow-on forms, and every other important milestone along your immigration journey. Learn more, or check your eligibility for free.

Path 2: If you’re married to a green card holder

As the first step in this process, your spouse who is a green card holder must file the family sponsorship form, or Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”). Once the Form I-130 is approved, you must wait to receive a visa number. (Only once your visa number becomes available will you be able to apply for a marriage-based green card. Visa numbers are immediately available to spouses of U.S. citizens but not to spouses of green card holders.)

The next step depends on whether or not your visa number becomes available while you’re still eligible for TPS.

If a visa number becomes available while your country’s TPS designation remains active, you will be able to stay in the United States and follow the same green card application (AOS) process for most other spouses living in the United States and married to a green card holder using Form I-485 (officially called the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”).

Once your marriage-based green card application is approved, your physical green card will arrive, typically 29 to 38 months after USCIS originally received your Form I-130.

If a visa number will become available after your country’s TPS designation is terminated, you will need to leave the United States and follow the same green card application process for most other spouses living abroad and married to a green card holder using the online green card application, or Form DS-260 (officially called the “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application”).

Once your marriage-based green card application is approved, you will typically receive your physical green card 23 to 32 months after USCIS originally received your Form I-130.

You must follow this procedure unless you can secure a different type of temporary visa (such as a B-2 visitor visa) to stay legally in the United States, in which case you may follow the process for spouses living in the United States and married to a green card holder.

If your spouse who is a green card holder becomes a U.S. citizen while you are waiting for a visa number, you can switch to the process described in Path 1 above.

Boundless stays with you until the green card finish line – and we can help your spouse with their naturalization application, too. Learn more, or check your eligibility for free.


What If You Entered Without Inspection?


People who enter the United States without being inspected by a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a port of entry can’t usually apply for a marriage green card through AOS.

For TPS holders, though, the situation is a bit different: several U.S. courts have ruled that receiving TPS status counts as being lawfully inspected and admitted to the United States, even if you originally crossed the border without inspection. This means that a person who did not enter the United States lawfully, but who was later granted TPS, can now apply for a marriage based green card via AOS without having to leave the country.

IMPORTANT! These decisions only apply in the Ninth Circuit (which covers the western United States) and the Sixth Circuit (which covers Tennessee, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky). If you were admitted without inspection, you might wish to move to one of these jurisdictions. Otherwise, there is a risk your application will be denied.

Do you have confidential questions about how your situation might affect your green card application? With Boundless, you get an independent immigration attorney who can help you understand your options. Find out more about what you get with Boundless, or check your eligibility now.


TPS to Green Card: Special Considerations


  • If you are currently in the United States without lawful status, but your home country is designated as TPS-eligible, you may be able to apply for TPS. You’ll need to have been physically present in the United States for a number of years, but depending on your situation obtaining TPS might give you an easier route to a marriage green card. Check the USCIS web page for your home country for full details.
  • If your country’s TPS designation is terminated, be careful not to “overstay” — that is, to remain in the United States longer than allowed. Overstaying is an immigration violation that could lead to you being barred from re-entering the United States for several years, depending on how long you remained in the United States without valid status.
  • If you were inspected by CBP when you first entered the United States, Boundless can assist you with your marriage green card application. If you entered without inspection and live outside the Sixth or Ninth Circuits’ jurisdiction, or if you have a criminal history or have been placed in deportation proceedings, then you might wish to seek an attorney to handle your case.