Foreign nationals who marry legal United States residents may be eligible for a permanent resident card (green card). Getting a green card through marriage can take as little as a few months or over three years. Your place of residence and your sponsor’s status will determine how long it takes to obtain a marriage green card.
Green card applicants based in the United States will have a shorter process than applicants who live abroad. Green card holders and U.S. citizens may both sponsor a spouse for a green card but they will experience a slightly different application process.
The Four Methods of Getting a Green Card Through Marriage
Getting a green card through marriage could take months or years depending on which method applies to your case. You may apply for a green card while living in the United States or while living abroad. You can be sponsored by a spouse who is either a U.S. citizen or a green card holder.
Petitioners Living in the U.S. and Married to a U.S. Citizen
Green card applicants who live in the United States and are married to a U.S. Citizen will wait between 9-13 months in total.
Establish your relationship with Form I-130 and apply for your green card by filing Form I-485. You may file these two forms concurrently. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will take 8-11 months to process your application.
Depending on which field office reviews your application, you may wait up to two months for an interview with USCIS. Your interviewing officer can approve your green card petition the same day.
Petitioners Living in the U.S. and Married to a Permanent Resident
Stateside green card petitioners who are sponsored by a U.S. green card holder will wait between 22 and 36 months. This is currently the longest wait time of the four green cards through marriage routes.
Establish your relationship with Form I-130 and wait 8-11 months for USCIS to process it. Wait for a green card to become available in the visa bulletin.
File Form I-485 to apply for a green card and wait 13-24 months for it to be processed. Finally, your USCIS interview will be scheduled within one to two months.
Petitioners Living Abroad and Married to a U.S. Citizen
When U.S. citizens sponsor a spouse living abroad for a marriage green card, the total wait time ranges from 10-15 months.
Wait 8-11 months after filing Form I-130. Wait an additional two months after applying for a green card via the National Visa Center application process. Typically within two months after that, your USCIS interview will be scheduled.
Petitioners Living Abroad and Married to a Permanent Resident
When U.S. green card holders sponsor a spouse living abroad, the total wait time ranges from 10-15 months.
You can expect to wait 8-11 months after filing Form I-130. Apply for a green card to become available in the visa bulletin. Wait an additional two months after establishing eligibility via the National Visa Center application process. Usually, within two months after this point, your USCIS interview is scheduled.
Certain processing offices have longer processing times. You may experience delays if you are a resident of:
- New York
Sponsoring a Spouse as a Citizen vs. as a Permanent Resident
The main difference between sponsoring a spouse for a green card as a U.S. citizen versus as a permanent resident is that a U.S. citizen can concurrently file Form I-130 and Form I-485. A green card holder who sponsors a spouse must file these forms separately. Filing separately extends your green card wait time.
Marriage green card petitioners being sponsored by a spouse who is a permanent resident must also wait for a green card to become available in the visa bulletin. However, this may or may not add to your application timeline.
Please note that the wait times above are estimates and they vary from time to time.