Green Card through Marriage

How to Get a Green Card Through Marriage to a U.S. Citizen?

Following some important steps can help you get a green card to live in the United States permanently through marriage.

The first thing you need to do is make sure you are eligible to apply. To be eligible, you must be legally married to a U.S. citizen, and your marriage must be real - not just for the papers.

Once you know you can apply, your U.S. citizen spouse must complete form I-130. This form shows immigration that you have a valid relationship with the sponsor. They will need documents like your marriage license.

After the I-130 form is approved, where you go will depend on where you live now. If you are in the U.S., you and your spouse fill out Form I-485 together to request your green card. If you are abroad, you use Form DS-260 to get an interview at the U.S. embassy.

During the application review, immigration will want to see proof your marriage is genuine. Things like shared bank accounts, mail sent to the same home, and photos of you together help show it's real.

Many people apply without a lawyer, but if there are any issues, like being undocumented, it's safer to get an immigration attorney to make sure everything goes smoothly.

It is crucial to follow all the steps carefully so you can be approved to live in America legally with your spouse.

Eligibility Requirements

Specific criteria must be met to qualify for a permanent residency status or green card based on marriage. First, the applicant must be legally married to a United States citizen, lawful green card holder, or permanent resident. The marriage must also be valid and recognized under immigration law.

It is also required that neither spouse is married to anyone else at the same time. If previously married, documents like a divorce decree must be submitted, proving any prior marriages have legally ended.

Another essential eligibility factor is having a bona fide or legitimate marriage. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will examine evidence demonstrating the relationship is genuine and not entered into solely to obtain immigration benefits.

Submitting proofs such as shared assets, commingled bank accounts, joint tax returns, and affidavits from family and friends can help establish a genuine marriage.

Meeting these prerequisites is necessary before beginning the application process for a green card through a spouse or partner living in America.

Qualifying Relationship

To qualify for a marriage-based permanent residency or green card, the applicant must be in a particular relationship with a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. One aspect is being legally married to either. U.S. citizens and green card holders can petition for a spouse or partner to receive immigration status. Marriage provides the link between individuals, allowing one to sponsor the other.

Valid documentation must prove the status of the sponsoring spouse. A U.S. citizen can show evidence, such as a birth certificate displaying birth inside the country. A green card holder's permanent resident card is sufficient evidence of lawful status. Establishing the immigration status of the petitioning spouse is a fundamental part of demonstrating a qualifying relationship.

Legal Marriage

In addition to the relationship components, the marriage itself must be legitimate in the eyes of the law. Valid marriages are recorded by the government, where they are celebrated and follow all regulations.

Requirements like minimum age, a license, and no prior existing marriages ensure a legal union. Proving the marriage is officially recognized supports that a real relationship, not just a fake paper marriage, exists between the spouses.


Proper documentation, such as the marriage certificate, displays crucial details that are evaluated. Information such as the spouses' full names and the date and location of the ceremony allows verification that all legal standards for a bona fide union under immigration rules are satisfied.

Establishing a valid legal marriage anchors the entire basis for the qualifying relationship for potential immigration sponsorship.

Bona Fide Marriage

Government immigration seeks confirmation any marriage is accurate, not an arrangement of convenience. Commingling finances jointly presents evidence two people live as partners, not just legally married strangers. Paying living costs from shared accounts shows economic support between spouses and not independent lives.

Officials consider jointly owning assets like a home or vehicle as solid demonstrations of the long-term sharing of lives. Combining finances reflects trust and commitment, contrasting a fraudulent paper union.

Regular contact maintained even if separate residences, like through shared correspondence at different addresses, can satisfy authorities of a genuine marriage. Photo albums or videos capturing life events together over time are visual proofs of a genuine spousal relationship.

More than minimal interactions or disjointed financials, immigration expects substantiated relationship indicators across areas to establish a marriage of substance, not names alone.

The Application Process

Getting a green card through marriage requires completing formal immigration applications and providing supporting documentation. That begins the process, which will ultimately be reviewed to determine if the individual can receive lawful permanent residence. Carefully following each prescribed step is vital for approval of the request.

Filing Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative)

Filing Form I-130 is the first step in applying for a marriage-based green card. This form notifies U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services of the relationship between an immigrant and their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse.

Complete information must be provided for processing.

By submitting Form I-130, the petition aims to gain approval of the immigrant spouse's placement in a qualifying family relationship category. Approval means that the USCIS recognizes the marriage link and visa availability for permanent residency based on family ties. It forms the basis for subsequent applications.

Once completed truthfully with supporting records, the form must be signed and filed by the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse as petitioner. As the qualified sponsor, the immigrant's backing is a requirement.

Only on endorsement from an eligible sponsor can an immigrant pursue lawful permanent status through marriage. Careful preparation leads to the best chances of approval.

Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

The process for obtaining permanent residency status in the U.S., also known as a green card through marriage, varies depending on the immigrant's location when applying. If residing in the United States, adjustment of status allows applying without leaving the country. Consular processing at a foreign U.S. embassy or consulate is necessary for those abroad.

Adjustment of status permits eligible married immigrants physically present on U.S. soil to change their nonimmigrant statuses, such as visitors or students, directly to permanent residents without traveling overseas. By applying simultaneously with Form I-485, eligible couples can request green cards promptly without delays from visa wait times.

When applying, immigrants outside America must use consular processing at the nearest U.S. diplomatic mission in their home country. Consular officers abroad directly issue immigrant visas, or green cards, to married applicants once they are approved following an interview appointment. This permits travel and lawful entry as permanent residents.

Depending on current circumstances like visa expiration, undocumented status concerns, or preexisting international travel restrictions, immigrants must carefully consider whether to adjust their status from inside America or process abroad through consular means to obtain the sought green card successfully through their U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse. Each pathway necessitates tailored preparation.

Required Documentation

Obtaining a green card through marriage necessitates assembling certain vital records. Proper documentation proves the relationship criteria and accurately identifies both spouses to immigration officials. Without complete evidence, applications may be denied or experience delays.

  • Proof of the petitioner's status is fundamental. For citizen spouses, a birth certificate or passport corroborates nationality. Lawful permanent residents supply their resident cards as status evidence. Concurrent with this goes the official marriage license as the legal union certification.
  • Supplementary identification in the applications establishes applicants' identities. Photographs and copies of passports with names, dates, and photos matched prevent mistaken identities during processing. Signatures on forms and files have to correlate throughout, too.
  • Further documentation may include relevant documents when applicable, such as dissolution papers if prior marriages existed. Overall, the goal is to offer undeniable information, leaving no questionable aspects of the bona fide qualifications or individual identities.
  • Organized record submission gives applications the best potential for smooth approval decisions.

    Adjustment of Status in the United States

    If an immigrant has been unlawfully present in the U.S., it can impact the application process. Additional forms, like I-601A, may be needed to waive periods of unlawful presence before traveling abroad for a visa interview. It is highly recommended that you work with an immigration attorney specializing in marriages in these situations.

    Travel During Processing

    Leaving the U.S. while an application is pending can trigger visa bans, making returning difficult. Unless advance parole is obtained beforehand, travel abroad isn't recommended until a green card is acquired. The process is safer from within U.S. borders.

    Other Eligibility Issues

    Certain criminal histories, immigration violations, or other problems can make an applicant ineligible for obtaining permanent residency through marriage. Health-related grounds or security concerns are also carefully evaluated. All factors must indicate that the applicant meets the definition of an immigrant.

    After Getting the Green Card

    Once approved, a conditional green card is issued if the marriage is less than two years old. After two years, a new joint filing removes residency conditions. Once a green card holder for five continuous years, individuals can apply for naturalization as U.S. citizens if they meet citizenship requirements.

    Consular Processing

    Consular processing is necessary for married immigrants outside America when seeking a green card. Upon I-130 approval, the case transfers for immigrant visa application at a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad.

    The National Visa Center is the first stop for receiving approved petitions. They collect payment and initial paperwork before processing it to the relevant diplomatic facility. Applicants track case statuses online using the receipt numbers provided.

    Once with the designated consulate, the second application initiates its review. Form DS-260 starts immigrant visa requests for married applicants. Comprehensively, it covers biographic and eligibility requirements for issuing a green card abroad.

    Scheduled visa interviews with consular officials occur following DS-260 evaluation. At these meetings, officers verify application answers match realities to authenticate qualifications before issuing immigrant visas allowing permanent residence upon stateside travel as lawful immigrants. Precise preparation helps appointments proceed smoothly.

    Processing Times

    Processing times fluctuate according to application volumes and specific circumstances involved. As general estimates, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services aims to complete I-130 petitions on average within 3-6 months.

    Adjustment of status from within America also has variable timeframes. I-485 can take 6-14 months to finish. If traveling abroad for consular processing instead, visa wait periods may add a year or longer.

    National Visa Center case management takes 2-4 months as the first step abroad. Subsequent consular processing at embassies commonly ranges from 6-12+ months before interview scheduling and final adjudication.

    Monitoring posted processing updates helps manage expectations appropriately. Slower cases often involve extra requests for evidence to verify details. Preparing thoroughly with requested documents can help keep review durations as brief as possible in most circumstances.


    Fees involved in obtaining a green card through marriage include specific government processing charges assigned to forms. Fee amounts may slightly change from year to year:

  • I-130 Petition cost: $535
  • I-485 Application: $1,225
  • Total Adjustment of Status: $1,760

  • National Visa Center: $220
  • Consular Processing (IV Fee) $270
  • Proper payment is required for any request to be accepted and worked on by immigration services and consulates. Not including necessary legal assistance if applicable.

    Common Reasons for Denial

    Some applications are refused due to various inconsistencies or issues coming to light during case reviews.

    Failed interviews especially risk denials if spouses appear unfamiliar with each other's basic life details.

    Marriage fraud is a main denial trigger if insufficient evidence proves the relationship is legitimate rather than convenience-based for immigration benefits alone. Minimal shared experiences raise fraud suspicions.

    Prior immigration violations can also lead to application refusals depending on an applicant's maintenance of continuous lawful status. Undocumented periods may require special waivers instead of routine processing.

    Criminal histories respectively lead USCIS to conclude applicants lack the good moral character necessary for permanent residence approval if convictions relate to moral turpitude, drug charges, or certain other crimes. Honest disclosure remains essential.

    Establishing a Bona-Fide Marriage

    Thorough documentation bolsters applications by supporting the committed nature of marriages through shared responsibilities like finances, dwelling, activities, and family connections demonstrated over time.

    Commingled finances, including joint bank accounts, assets, debt, or tax filings, reflect fiscal support between partners. Co-owning real estate especially demonstrates the seriousness of the long-term relationship.

    Further evidence includes coordinated medical coverage, retirement savings, child-rearing, and social media tagging/comments. Proof of regular interaction builds belief in authenticity through shared life course development publicly.

    Maintaining detailed recordkeeping from the outset creates advantages, allowing the selection of the most substantial evidence that verifies a substantive relationship to satisfy authorities for lawfully obtaining residence based on a legitimate marital union.

    Travel During the Process

    Travel is usually not recommended when a green card application is pending through marriage. If the applicant leaves the U.S., it could negatively affect their case. If leaving and returning to America, the person risks being denied entry at the border. They may be seen as abandoning their green card process by departing. It's best to stay in the country until the application is approved.

    In some cases, travel is unavoidable due to emergencies or other important reasons. The applicant should then apply for advance parole beforehand. That allows legal re-entry to the U.S. while still pursuing the green card. It's important to discuss any necessary travel plans with an immigration lawyer first.

    They can help avoid issues by properly filing for advance parole or other documents if the trip cannot be postponed. Following legal advice minimizes problems and keeps the application on track.

    WARNING: The foregoing is an article discussing legal issues. It is not intended to be a substitute for legal advice. We recommend that you get competent legal advice specific to your case.

    Resources / Helpful Links:

  • Green Card for Immediate Relatives of U.S. Citizen (USCIS)
  • Removing Conditions on Permanent Residence Based on Marriage (USCIS)
  • Immigrant Visa for a Spouse of a U.S. Citizen (US Department of State)
  • Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (USCIS)
  • Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (USCIS)
  • Tarjeta verde por matrimonio en Estados Unidos (K & G Law, LLP)
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