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Marriage Green Cards, Explained


How to get a green card through marriage


Green Card (Marriage)


Congratulations on your marriage!

If you and your spouse plan to live permanently together in the United States, the next big thing on your mind may be applying for a marriage green card. Not sure if you qualify to apply? Start by checking your eligibility.

What is a marriage green card?

A marriage green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or green card holder to live and work anywhere in the United States. A green card holder will have “permanent resident” status until they decide — if they wish — to apply for U.S. citizenship, for which they become eligible after three years.

Are you and your spouse interested in applying for a marriage green card? Boundless offers personalized support and expert guidance putting together all required forms and documents. We’ll even help you submit your application to the government. Get started now!

How do I get a marriage green card?

Getting a green card through marriage is generally a three-step process.

This guide will walk you through each step, with links to more detailed information along the way. We’ll also explain the process for green card applicants living in the United States versus green card applicants living abroad.

You can also view the types of questions that you’re likely to encounter on a marriage green card application.

But first, we’ll go over the timeline and cost of applying for a marriage-based green card.

If you need help applying for your marriage green card, Boundless has got you covered. We provide top-rated support putting together all required forms and documents and submitting them to the government. Get started now!


Boundless reduces your risk of application rejection or denial by 25%


Marriage-Based Green Card Timeline


The total processing time for a marriage-based green card averages 17 months, depending on whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green card holder (lawful permanent resident). Boundless has put together an in-depth guide detailing the processing times for your marriage green card application.

To ensure your application doesn’t hit any processing delays or roadblocks, its best to complete and file all of your forms and supporting documents correctly the first time around. With Boundless, our team of specialists will help reduce your risk of common mistakes and make sure your paperwork is ready for attorney review and in the best possible shape before filing. Learn more, or find out if you’re eligible to apply for a green card.

Not sure what costs to expect? Boundless’ USCIS fee calculator can help determine the exact government fees for your marriage green card application. We also help you pay your costs in installments, so you can get started now and pay later. Create a free account to use our fee calculator and explore your payment options.


Marriage-Based Green Card Cost


The government filing fees for applying for a marriage-based green card is $1,760 for a spouse living in the United States or $1,200 for a spouse living outside the United States. Note, this does not include the cost of the medical examination, which varies from roughly $200 to $500. Boundless has put together a detailed guide breaking down the costs of a marriage green card depending on your situation.

Have additional questions? With Boundless, you’ll get an experienced independent attorney who will review your entire application and answer any legal immigration questions you may have — for no extra cost. Get started on your application today!


Establish the marriage relationship (Form I-130)


Establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130)

The first step in the process of getting a green card through marriage is to submit Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The main purpose of the I-130 form, along with supporting documents, is to establish that a valid marriage exists.

The spouse filing the I-130 is called the “petitioner” or “sponsor.” This is the spouse who is a U.S. citizen or current green card holder. The spouse seeking a green card is called the “beneficiary” or “green card applicant.”


Critical elements of a complete I-130 filing package include:

  • Government filing fee of $535
  • Proof that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (copy of the sponsor’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or valid U.S. passport photo page, for example) or permanent resident (copy of the sponsor’s green card, for example)
  • Proof that a legally valid marriage exists (for example, a marriage certificate showing the names of both spouses, as well as the place and date of the marriage)
  • Proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (for example, a joint lease, joint bank account statements, and pictures together)
  • Proof that any previous marriage of either spouse has been terminated (typically, a divorce document)

Once the I-130 filing package is complete, it must be mailed to the appropriate USCIS address. USCIS will then send the sponsoring spouse an official acknowledgement (or “receipt notice”) in the mail, typically within two weeks.

If USCIS needs more information or documents to process the filing package, they will send the sponsoring spouse a Request for Evidence (RFE) within 2–3 months. Once USCIS has everything they need, they will typically make a decision on the I-130 application within 13– months, depending on the couple’s situation.

After receiving notice that the I-130 form has been approved, the next step will be to determine whether the spouse seeking a green card is eligible for one.

With Boundless, you get the confidence of an independent immigration attorney who will review all of your materials and answer any questions you have — for no additional fee. Learn more about how we can help you.


Apply for the green card (Form I-485 or Form DS-260)


Establishing the spouse’s eligibility for a green card

The U.S. government follows two different processes to determine a spouse’s eligibility for a marriage-based green card. The right process depends on where that spouse currently lives:


FOR GREEN CARD APPLICANTS LIVING IN THE UNITED STATES

If the spouse seeking a green card physically lives in the United States, the next step is to file Form I-485 (officially called the “Adjustment of Status” application). The I-485 is filed with USCIS, and its primary purpose is to establish that the spouse is eligible for a green card.

Adjustment of status is the immigration process for the following marriage visa types:

  • IR6/CR6 spouse and accompanying IR7/CR7 child when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen
  • F2A category (F26 spouse; F27 child) when the sponsor is a legal permanent resident (aka green card holder)
  • CF1 spouse; CF2 child when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen and the foreign spouse is adjusting status from a K fiancé visa

Note adjustment of status can also be used to apply for employment-based, humanitarian, and diversity visa lottery green cards.


Critical elements of an I-485 filing package include:

  • Government filing fees of $1,225 (including $1,140 for the green card application and $85 for biometrics)
  • Proof of nationality of the spouse seeking a green card (copy of birth certificate and passport photo page)
  • Proof of lawful entry to the United States by the spouse seeking a green card (copy of I-94 travel record and prior U.S. visa)
  • Medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved doctor
  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (including Form I-864, or “Affidavit of Support,” and evidence such as tax returns and pay stubs)

For spouses of U.S. citizens, this I-485 filing package can usually be combined with the I-130 form and supporting documents described in Step 1 above (a process known as “concurrent filing”). USCIS typically processes this concurrent filing within – months.

For spouses of U.S. green card holders, however, the I-485 filing package cannot be submitted until the U.S. Department of State determines that a green card is available in the visa bulletin, given various annual caps. The wait time is currently about one and a half years, but this can vary by a few months, depending on the home country of the spouse seeking a green card. Once the I-485 filing package is submitted, USCIS will typically process it within 12-22 months (although it could be longer depending on your local field office).

Boundless can help U.S. citizens and U.S. green card holders sponsor their spouses for marriage green cards through the adjustment of status process. Create your free account to get started.


FOR GREEN CARD APPLICANTS LIVING ABROAD

There is a different process to sponsor a green card for a spouse living abroad. The next step is to file an application package with the National Visa Center (NVC), which is run by the State Department. The NVC gathers the necessary forms and documents and decides whether the spouse is ready for an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad (a procedure known as “consular processing”).

Consular processing is the immigration process for the following visa types:

  • CR1/IR1 spouse and the accompanying CR2/IR2 child when the sponsor is a U.S. citizen
  • F2A category (F21 spouse; F22 child) when the sponsor is a legal permanent resident (aka green card holder)

Note consular processing can also be used to apply for employment-based, humanitarian, and diversity visa lottery green cards.


Critical elements of an NVC filing package include:

  • Government filing fees of $445 (including $120 for the financial support form and $325 for the State Department processing fee)
  • Form DS-260 (green card application filed online)
  • Proof of nationality of the spouse seeking a green card (copy of birth certificate and passport photo page)
  • Copy of a police clearance certificate for the spouse seeking a green card (showing previous interactions with law enforcement, if any)
  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support the spouse seeking a green card (including Form I-864, or “Affidavit of Support,” and evidence such as tax returns and pay stubs)

For spouses of U.S. citizens, the NVC typically processes an application package within 1-2 months.

For spouses of U.S. green card holders, the NVC typically processes an application also within 1-2 months.

Once processed, the NVC then forwards it to a U.S. embassy or consulate in the home country of the spouse seeking a green card.

Do you have confidential questions about your eligibility for a marriage green card? Boundless can guide you through the entire green card process and answer any questions you may have. We can also help you include your children on your green card application for just $450 per child.


Attend the green card interview and await approval


Attending the green card interview and awaiting approval

The final step in the marriage-based green card process is the green card interview. The interviewing officer’s primary goal is to assess the authenticity of the marriage. Questions can focus on the couple’s relationship history, as well as their daily activities and future plans together. If the interviewing officer is sufficiently convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent, they will approve the spouse for a green card.

The location of the interview — in addition to whether the sponsoring spouse must also attend — depends on where the spouse seeking a green card currently lives:


DOES YOUR SPOUSE LIVE IN THE UNITED STATES?

A spouse applying for a green card from within the United States will attend their interview with the sponsoring spouse at their local USCIS office. The physical green card will typically arrive by mail within 2-3 weeks of case approval.


DOES YOUR SPOUSE LIVE ABROAD?

A spouse applying for a green card from abroad will attend an interview at a U.S. Embassy or consulate in their home country. The sponsoring spouse does not attend this interview.

The spouse seeking a green card will then receive a visa stamp in their passport, allowing for travel to the United States. The USCIS Immigrant Fee ($220) must be paid online before a physical green card can be issued. (USCIS recommends paying this fee before the spouse leaves for the United States.) The green card is typically mailed to the couple’s U.S. address within 2-3 weeks of the spouse’s arrival.

With Boundless, you get the confidence of an independent immigration attorney who will review all of your materials and answer any questions you have — for no additional fee. Learn more today!


What's next?


What happens next depends on the length of the marriage at the time of green card approval:

Have you been married for less than two years?

The spouse will receive a CR1 (or “conditional”) green card. Conditional green cards are valid for only two years. Couples together must file Form I-751 (officially called the “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”) during the 90-day period immediately before the expiration of the conditional green card in order to “remove the conditions” and obtain a permanent green card. Upon receiving this form, USCIS will re-evaluate the couple’s marriage to make sure it is authentic and that the couple did not marry only for immigration purposes.

Have you been married for more than two years?

The spouse will receive an IR1 (or “immediate relative”) green card — a “permanent” green card that is valid for 10 years. In most cases, renewing this 10-year green card is a simple process and does not require the couple to prove the authenticity of their marriage again.

With Boundless, your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed. See how we help you.