It’s not uncommon to find love while deployed or stationed abroad. But once you’ve met and married your true love, how will you bring your new spouse to the United States in order to start a life together?
The answer is a marriage green card. A green card would allow your non-American spouse to live and work anywhere in the United States while providing a path toward U.S. citizenship after 3–5 years.
Before you start the application process, you’ll need to know some basics. This guide will walk you through the steps and help you determine if you qualify. Read on to learn everything you need to know about green cards for military spouses.
Depending on whether or not you apply from within the United States or abroad, you can expect to wait 10–38 months, not including possible delays. The process generally takes longer for spouses of green card holders — who must wait for a “visa number” before applying — than for spouses of U.S. citizens.
You’ll pay $1,200–$1,760 in government fees, depending on where the spouse seeking a green card lives. A required medical examination will cost an additional $100–$500.
Congratulations on your marriage! The first step toward a marriage green card is to make sure you qualify for one. Couples generally must meet a number of requirements, such as proving the authenticity of their marriage, earning at least 100% of the poverty guidelines for your household size.
USCIS Military Spouse Green Card Requirements
For sponsoring spouses on active duty:
- Be a U.S. citizen or green card holder (permanent resident)
- Earn at least 100% of the poverty guidelines for your household size
- Accept financial responsibility for your spouse
- Not have previously committed certain types of crimes
For spouses seeking a green card:
- Prove your identity, nationality, and current U.S. immigration status, if any
- Not have previously committed certain types of crimes or immigration violations (or seek a waiver)
For both spouses:
- Whether the sponsoring military spouse is a U.S. citizen or green card holder
- Whether the spouse seeking a green card lives in or outside the United States.
Your situation determines which forms to complete, how much you’ll pay, and how long you’ll wait.
What’s the right process?
- When both spouses live in the United States: You’ll file an “Adjustment of Status.” The spouse seeking a green card won’t need to leave the United States. This is true for spouses of green card holders as long as they maintain a valid student or work visa while waiting for approval. But spouses of U.S. citizens need not maintain a valid immigration status while waiting. They can also file all required forms at the same time, a process called “concurrent filing.”
- When the spouse seeking a green card lives abroad: You’ll go through “Consular Processing.” The spouse seeking a green card must apply through a U.S. consulate or embassy.
- When both spouses live abroad: You can complete the first step through an international U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office — if available in your current country — to speed up the process. This is only an option until all international USCIS offices close by October 2019. Alternatively, you can file with a U.S. consulate or embassy.
how to apply for a military spouse green card
Getting a military spouse green card is a four-step process:
- Establish marriage validity.
- Apply for the green card (from within the United States or from abroad) and prove the sponsoring spouse’s ability to financially support their spouse.
- Attend an interview.
- Wait for approval.
The U.S. government conducts an in-person interview to evaluate the authenticity of your marriage. If it’s legitimate, you shouldn’t worry.
Where’s the interview?
- If applying from within the United States: You’ll go to a local USCIS office. Both spouses attend unless the sponsoring military spouse is deployed, in which case their spouse (attending alone) should bring evidence of the overseas military assignment — a photocopy of the official orders or letter from the commanding officer — to the interview.
- If applying from abroad: You’ll go to a U.S. consulate. In most cases, only the spouse seeking a green card will attend.
The physical green card arrives 2–3 weeks after final approval (if applying from within the United States) or after arriving in the United States (if from abroad).
But not all green cards are created equal:
- If you’ve been married less than 2 years: You’ll receive a “conditional” (CR1) green card that expires in 2 years. At that time, both spouses will need to apply to “remove conditions” and attend a second interview with USCIS to re-authenticate the marriage.
- If you’ve been married at least 2 years: You’ll receive a “permanent” green card valid for 10 years. Renewing is usually a simple process and doesn’t require proving the authenticity of your marriage a second time.
How much does it cost to apply for a military spouse green card?
The government filing fee for military spouses applying from within the United States is $1,760 and $1,200 for applicants filing from within the United States. That does not include the cost for the required medical exam, which can cost anywhere from $100-$500.
How long does it take to get a military spouse green card?
It can take between 10 and 38 months or more to receive a green card, depending on where you are applying from. The process is typically longer for spouses of green card holders, who must wait for a “visa number” to become available before applying.
How do I contact USCIS with questions?
You can contact the toll-free military help line at 877-CIS-4MIL (877-247-4645, TTY 800-877-8339). Representatives are available Monday through Friday from 8am to 4pm (CST), except on federal holidays. You can also email USCIS with questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I received an appointment notice for my adjustment of status interview, but my U.S. citizen spouse is currently stationed abroad. Can I attend the appointment without my spouse?
Yes, if your citizen spouse is currently deployed overseas, USCIS will conduct the interview without them. You will need to bring proof that your spouse is stationed abroad, such as a photocopy of the official orders or a letter from your spouse’s commanding officer.
How do I get citizenship through the military?
If you are foreign-born and a current or former member of the U.S. military, then you may be eligible to apply for citizenship. For more information, visit www.uscis.gov/military/military.
Am I eligible for U.S. citizenship if I’m a military spouse?
If you are the the spouse of a service member who is a U.S. citizen, and the citizen spouse will be deployed overseas, you may be eligible to apply for expedited naturalization. To apply, you will need to be 18 years or older and prove your spouse is a U.S. citizen who will be stationed abroad for one year or more. For more info, USCIS provides a full list of requirements.