Marriage offers a legal path to permanent residency for foreign nationals. Among other requirements, the sponsoring spouse must be able to financially support their spouse. The minimum annual income required to sponsor a spouse for a marriage green card is 125% of the federal poverty guideline levels.
This ensures that the sponsoring spouse is financially stable enough to support their spouse. The actual dollar amount will depend on household size and location. The lowest acceptable income is $21,775, but family size and location may require a higher income to sponsor a relative for a green card.
What Are the Benefits of a Marriage Green Card?
A permanent resident card, also known as a green card, will allow a foreign national to live and work in the United States. A U.S. citizen or permanent resident may sponsor a spouse for a green card through marriage. Green card holders may sponsor other relatives for a green card and apply for U.S. citizenship.
Eligibility Requirements to Be a Financial Sponsor
To sponsor someone for a green card through marriage, the sponsor must meet eligibility requirements. To sponsor your spouse for a green card, you must be:
- At least 18 years old
- A U.S. citizen or green card holder
- Able to financially support your spouse
- A U.S. resident
Complications may arise if a U.S. citizen is living abroad when they meet and marry someone from another country. If you are traveling but primarily live in the United States, you may still serve as a sponsor.
What Is the Minimum Income to Sponsor an Immigrant?
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will likely deny a green card to someone who may become a public responsibility if allowed to live in the U.S. The minimum income required to sponsor a spouse for a green card is 125% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines.
For a household of two people living in the continental United States, the income requirement is $21,775. Residents of Hawaii must make at least $25,050. Alaska residents must make at least $27,212. This number increases with the number of people living in your household.
The minimum annual income requirement for active military service members is 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This is only $17,420 for two people living in the continental United States. Residents of Hawaii must earn at least $20,040. Alaska residents must earn at least $21,770.
Can You Include Income From Relatives?
If an individual sponsor does not meet the minimum income requirement, you may include income from other relatives. This may include:
Your relatives will need to submit Form I-864A, Contract Between Sponsor and Household Member. This verifies their agreement and commitment to make their income available to help sponsor your spouse.
Can You Include Income From the Spouse Seeking the Green Card?
If your spouse is working, you may include their income in your household total to meet the requirement. If your spouse does not live in the U.S. yet, you may still count their income towards your total so long as they intend to continue working for the same employer after becoming a green card holder.
How Hard Is It to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?
To deter fraudulent green card applications, USCIS will closely review each green card petition for validity and eligibility. You will need to demonstrate that your marriage is bona fide or real using a variety of evidence. The process takes less than one year on average and costs about $1,760 in government filing fees. It’s a complicated process but you may get help from an immigration filing service, an attorney, and a translator to simplify matters.
How Long Do I Have to Be Married to Get a Green Card?
You may apply for a green card immediately after getting married, however your case may be under more scrutiny than an older marriage. A successful application will award your spouse a conditional marriage green card. Your spouse can apply to have conditions removed two years after the issuance of the conditional green card.
Can Your Spouse Work While Waiting for a Marriage Green Card?
Green card applications may take months or more to process. In the meanwhile your spouse may work in the U.S. if you apply for work authorization. Form I-765 will allow you to request a work visa while your green card application is processing.