This guide is for married couples where both spouses live in the United States and the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen.
If you haven’t already, first make sure to read our general overview of the marriage-based green card process, explained in plain language. If you have, great! In this guide, we’ll walk you through the process of applying for a spouse visa (marriage-based green card) step by step.
Our other start-to-finish guides can explain the process for couples in different circumstances.
How long does it take to get a spousal green card?
13.5-20.5 months for application processing, including the interview
(more details on timing)
What is the estimated cost of a spousal green card?
$1760 (excludes roughly $200 for medical exam)
(more details on cost)
Boundless has helped more than 100,000 people reach their immigration goals. We’ll be your visa planning partner from beginning to end. Get started today!
IMPORTANT UPDATE: The marriage-based green card process could get significantly more expensive in the coming months due to USCIS’ new proposed fee structure.
In January 2023, USCIS announced plans to increase filing costs for many different visa categories, including marriage-based green cards. The new fees are not yet in effect, but Boundless is tracking government updates closely. Be sure to check out our USCIS fees guide to see if your application would be affected and how much you can expect to pay should the proposal be finalized.
If you both live in the United States and the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen, you’re in luck! You can save time by combining two parts of the process in one “concurrent filing” that you send in a single package to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the government agency that handles these applications:
- Establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130, officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”)
- Applying for the green card (Form I-485, officially called the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status”)
Getting a medical exam
All spouses seeking a green card need to complete a medical exam. You have two options as far as when to schedule your appointment with a civil surgeon. You can either attend the appointment before you file, and then include the exam with your application, or you may submit your medical exam to USCIS soon after submitting your application or bring the results with you to your green card interview.
Filing the application
Required government forms
The following forms are required as part of the full spousal green card application package (Boundless can help you complete them all):
- Family sponsorship form (I-130)
- Supplemental information form (I-130A)
- Adjustment of Status form (I-485)
- Financial support form (I-864)
Optional government forms
If the spouse seeking a visa (marriage-based green card) wants to work in the United States or travel internationally, the following additional forms can also be included in the full spouse visa application package (Boundless can help you complete these, too):
Mandatory government fees
All other forms — the work permit application, travel permit application, and financial support form — do not require additional government fees. And again, the medical exam fee is paid directly to the doctor.
Within about two weeks after mailing the complete application package to the appropriate USCIS address, you should receive official “receipt numbers” in the mail from USCIS (one each for the family sponsorship form, green card application, work permit application, and travel permit application).
Not sure what costs to expect? Boundless’ USCIS fee calculator can help determine the exact government fees for your application. We also help you pay your costs in installments, so you can get started now and pay later. Learn more.
Attending your biometrics appointment
You will then receive notice of a biometrics appointment, usually about one month after USCIS receives your application package. The appointment is typically scheduled at the USCIS field office closest to where you live and is usually low-stress — USCIS will simply take fingerprints and photographs of the spouse seeking a green card, in order to conduct background and security checks. The sponsoring spouse is not required to attend this appointment and often does not attend.
If USCIS needs more information or documents to process your application, they will send you a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), typically within 2–3 months.
Attending your green card interview
Once USCIS has completed all the background processing of your visa application materials, your file is transferred to your nearest USCIS field office. This local office will then send you an appointment notice with the time, date, and location of an interview that both spouses must attend.
This interview is the last big step in the application process, and it’s normal to feel intimidated and stressed by this part — most couples do. But don’t worry! You can help reduce the stress by knowing what to expect and assembling an organized file to bring to your interview. Check out these resources for more details:
- Guide to the marriage green card interview
- Common interview questions (these can get very personal!)
A USCIS officer will conduct the interview. If they’re sufficiently convinced that you and your spouse married “in good faith” — that is, your marriage is not fraudulent (see our guide to proving your marriage is authentic) — they may approve your spousal visa application on the spot. It’s important to understand all the possibilities, though.
Receiving your spousal visa (green card)
Your physical spouse visa (also called a “green card” because of its color) will arrive by mail, typically within two to three weeks of approval. The green card entitles you to work anywhere in the United States and take international trips without separate work and travel permits.
The type of green card you receive will depend on how long you and your spouse have been married at the time of visa approval:
If you’ve been married for less than two years
Your green card will be marked “CR1” for “conditional green card.” This type of green card is valid for only two years, at which point you and your spouse must jointly file another form to “remove the conditions” — giving USCIS one more opportunity to make sure that the marriage is authentic — and then get a permanent green card.
If you’ve been married for more than two years
Your green card will be marked “IR1” for “immediate relative green card.” This green card (also called a “permanent green card”) is valid for 10 years, and renewal is typically a simple process.
Boundless’ easy questionnaire helps find the right visa for you. Learn more.