Green Card: Obtaining a Green Card through Marriage

Married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident? Then you may be eligible for a U.S. green card. Here’s an overview of the process.

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

In both cases, the first step is to have your U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse file the Petition for Alien Relative with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). The I-130 application collects biographic information that confirms your relationship and eligibility to apply. The form itself is 12 pages long, requires numerous supporting documents, and costs $535. It can be complicated and overwhelming. But there’s help! provides “do-it-yourself” software and lawyer review services to help you properly complete the immigration application process. Start your green card application now!

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.

If you live inside the U.S., then 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.

If you live outside the U.S., then you will apply for an immigrant (permanent) visa to the U.S. Besides the I-130 petition (which your spouse will file for you), the rest of the process will be completed at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your country of residence. Once you are in the U.S. you will receive your green card through the mail.

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?

There are two major costs to getting a green card through marriage. The first is the I-130 petition, which costs $535 as of 2018. The second is the green card application. If you’re filing through adjustment of status (live inside the U.S.) then the cost for the I-485 application is $1,140 plus an $85 biometric services fee. If you’re filing through consular processing, the fee is $325 for family-based immigrant visa applications.

Filing inside the U.S. (adjustment of status) has a total cost of $1,760. Filing outside the U.S. (consular processing) has a total cost of $860.

Immigration fees can change. These fees are current as of 2018. Check the USCIS and Department of State websites for the most current fees.


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