This guide is for married couples where one spouse is a U.S. citizen, one spouse is a foreign national seeking a green card, and both of you are living in the United States. We’ll go step by step through the process of obtaining a marriage-based green card.
If your circumstances are different, check out our other Start-to-Finish guides, and our general overview of the marriage green card process, explained in plain language.
10-13 months to obtain green card
(more details on timing)
$1,960 ($1,760 in government fees + $200 for medical exam)
(more details on cost)
If you are both living 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):
- Establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130, technically called the “Petition for Alien Relative”)
- Applying for the green card (Form I-485, technically called the application for “Adjustment of Status”)
Required Government formS
- Family sponsorship form (I-130)
- Supplemental information form (I-130A)
- Green card application form (I-485)
- Financial support form (I-864)
Optional government forms
If the spouse seeking a green card wants to work in the United States or travel internationally, the following additional forms can also be included in the full green card application package (and Boundless can help you complete these, too):
Before mailing off the application package, the spouse seeking a green card must have a medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor. You can find one in your area by using the USCIS find a doctor tool.
These medical exams typically cost $200 or more. Once the exam is complete, the doctor will give you a sealed envelope containing your exam results and vaccination record (Form I-693), which you must include in your application package.
Filing the application
Your complete marriage green card application package must include the above forms and supporting documents, plus a total of $1,760 in government fees:
- $525 for the Form I-130
- $1,140 for the Form I-485
- $85 for biometrics (fingerprints and photo)
All other forms, including the work and travel permit applications, do not require additional government fees.
After you mail the complete application package to the appropriate USCIS address, within about two weeks you should get official “receipt numbers” in the mail from USCIS (one each for the I-130, the I-485, the work permit application, and the travel permit application).
You will then receive notice of a biometrics appointment, usually about one month after USCIS receives your application. Typically, these appointments are scheduled at the local USCIS field office closest to where you live. This appointment is usually low-stress; it’s just the moment when USCIS takes fingerprints and photographs of the spouse seeking a green card, in order to conduct background and security checks. The U.S. citizen spouse is not required to attend this appointment, and often does not attend.
If USCIS needs more information or documents to process your green card application package, they will send you a “Request for Evidence” (RFE), typically within 2–3 months.
The Green Card Interview
Once USCIS has completed all the background processing of your green card application materials, your file is transferred to the local USCIS field office closest to where you live. The local office will then issue an appointment notice informing you that you must both attend an interview at a certain time, date, and location.
This interview is the last big step in the green card application process, and it can be the most intimidating and stressful element. You can help reduce this stress by knowing what to expect and assembling an organized file to bring to the interview. Check out these resources for more details:
- Guide to the marriage green card interview
- Common interview questions (which can get very personal!)
If the interviewing officer is sufficiently convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, they may approve your green card application on the spot. (It’s important to understand all the possibilities, though.)
What happens next
Your physical green card will arrive by mail, typically within 2–3 weeks of case approval. The green card entitles you to work in the United States and travel internationally without a separate permit.
This whole process, from start to finish, typically takes 10-13 months—first, 9-11 months for USCIS to process the green card application package, and then 1-2 months for USCIS to schedule the interview.
If you’ve been married for less than two years at the time of green card approval, then this green card will be marked “CR1,” for “conditional green card.” These green cards are valid for only two years, at which point you must jointly file another form to “remove the conditions,” giving USCIS one more opportunity to make sure that the marriage is real, and then get a permanent green card.
If you’ve been married for more than two years at the time of green card approval, then the green card will be marked “IR1,” for “immediate relative green card.” These green cards are valid for 10 years, and renewal is typically a simple process.