If you are married to a United States citizen or permanent resident, you may be eligible to apply for a green card. The process can be confusing, especially given the convoluted online application process over at the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).
There are two basic paths to apply for a green card through marriage: Adjustment of Status and consular processing. Adjustment of Status is for people who currently live in the U.S. on a temporary, nonimmigrant visa. Consular processing is for people who live outside the U.S.
Step 1: Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
Before you can file an application for a green card, you’ll need your spouse to file a Petition for Alien Relative (also known as Form I-130). This petition will cover details about your life designed to confirm your marital status and eligibility for a green card.
Unfortunately, some applicants might perceive a few complications with this form, including:
- High pricing ($535)
- Length (over 12 pages long)
- The requirement of supporting documents
Our instant error reporting software and lawyer review services can help ensure that you submit the best possible petition despite these complications. Immigration services can be complex and difficult to navigate, but experts are available to help you.
Step 2: The Green Card Application
The next step is to file the application for a green card. This is where the process differs depending on whether you live in the U.S. or outside the country.
If you live inside the U.S., you will apply for a green card through adjustment of status using the USCIS Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This process is designed to change your status from visa-holder or documented immigrant to lawful permanent resident.
If you live outside the U.S., your situation is covered under family immigration rules. After your spouse files Form I-130 to petition for you, the rest of the process will be completed at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence.
Before getting your green card, you’ll need to apply for an immigrant visa into the U.S. Once you are here, your green card will be mailed to you.
The Benefits of a Marriage-Based Green Card
You get the same benefits as any lawful permanent resident when you obtain a green card. These include:
- Easier travel into and out of the U.S.
- Ability to live and work in the U.S.
- Pathway to citizenship after five years
- Ability to sponsor other relatives for green cards and visas
There are also less obvious benefits, such as paying less for university tuition since your place of residence is no longer outside the country.
How Long Do You Have to be Married to Get a Green Card?
There is no required length of marriage to qualify for a green card. You can even start your path to a green card as a fiance! However, a major part of the green card through marriage process is proving that your relationship is valid and not fraudulent. In other words, you must prove that you didn’t get married simply to get a green card.
A longer marriage could show the USCIS that you are committed to the relationship beyond the immigration benefits.
How Much Does It Cost to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?
Filing inside the U.S. (adjustment of status) has a total cost of $1,760, including the costs of form I-130, your adjustment of status application fee of $1,140, and an $85 biometrics services charge. Filing outside the U.S. (consular processing) has a total cost of $860, which includes the petition cost as well as the $325 charge for family-based immigrant visa applications.
However, immigration fees can change from year to year. It’s best to check with the USCIS website to ensure that you have the most up-to-date, accurate information about applicable fees and charges.
How Long Does It Take to Get Your Green Card Through Marriage?
Since there are different avenues for getting a marriage-based green card, the process can last longer for some applicants. In general, the average wait time before getting your legal permanent resident status is as follows.
- For spouses of U.S. citizens (living in U.S.): 10-13 months
- For spouses of U.S. citizens (living outside U.S.): 11-17 months
- For spouses of green card holders: two years to 38 months
It’s best to file your application for a green card through marriage as soon as possible to ensure that you get your green card in a timely manner. Once you have the green card, you have all the rights of a lawful permanent resident!
How to Get Your Fiancé(e) a Green Card
It’s also possible to bring your fiance into the United States, though the process is somewhat different. If you are not yet married, you will need to file for a K-1 visa. You will need to fill out Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.
When that request is granted, they can come to the United States. Then, within 90 days of arriving in the U.S., you will need to get married to maintain your spouse’s status.
Getting Citizenship After Your Marriage-Based Green Card
After you or your spouse have green cards, you may want to consider getting citizenship. Green card holders who have had their green cards for five years may be able to apply for citizenship. However, green card holders who got their green cards through marriage only have to wait three years to start their application for citizenship.
Get Help With Your Green Card Application Today
Form I-130. Form I-485. Adjustment of Status. Consular processing. These terms are confusing, the process is difficult to understand, and yet the consequences of misfiling paperwork can be disastrous. Luckily, FileRight has the tools you need to ensure that you apply for your marriage-based green card appropriately.
We have downloadable forms to help you obtain a family-based green card that you’ll need for your application. Error-checking software will help weed out any mistakes, and our lawyer review services should catch any issues you’ll need to clarify, such as additional documentation. Get the help you need to get your green card as quickly as possible.