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Marriage Green Card

tarjeta verde por el matrimonio

Marriage Green Card

Love crosses oceans. Yet, many bi-national couples quickly realize that in order to live together in the U.S., they will need to apply for a marriage green card. Our office works with U.S. citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents (LPRs,) to secure the necessary visas and approvals to allow them to transmit a green card to their spouse.

Marriage Green Card Requirements

Additional requirements can depend on the individual couple. However, the main requirements are as follows:

  • Proving a legal marriage. This sometimes requires proving that the marriage was legal where it took place and will be legal in the U.S. It also includes showing how any prior marriages ended.
  • The U.S. citizen or LPR spouse must demonstrate a minimum income according to the most recent poverty guidelines. An inability to meet the minimum income may require the use of a joint sponsor.
  • The couple must demonstrate that they are in a bona fide relationship. This means that the marriage is for love and not only to obtain a green card.
  • The Immigrant Spouse must be eligible to receive a green card. If they have committed certain U.S. immigration violations, they may not be allowed a green card at all or may need a waiver. Some examples include past criminal conduct, membership in certain groups, or prior instances of fraud. If the Immigrant Spouse did not enter legally into the U.S. a waiver very likely be required.

Marriage Green Card Process

The marriage green card process will depend on whether the Immigrant Spouse is in the U.S. or overseas.

Consular Processing

If overseas, the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse will file a Form I-130 Immediate Relative Petition on behalf of their Immigrant Spouse with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). This is called Consular Processing because the U.S. consulate overseas will conduct the final interview granting the visa to be used by the Immigrant Spouse in order to come to the U.S.  The immigrant visa application will first be reviewed and approved by USCIS.

The case is then transferred to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC prepares the file for interview at the U.S. Consulate. It does this by requesting several financial and personal documents before an interview can be scheduled. A medical exam is completed in the home country along with an interview of the Immigrant Spouse at the U.S. Consulate. A successful interview leads to the Immigrant Spouse being issued a visa allowing them to travel to the U.S. The green card is mailed within several weeks of arrival. If the marriage is under 2 years old on the date of the approval, the green card will be valid for only 2 years and will then need to be renewed.

Adjustment of Status

If the Immigrant Spouse is in the U.S., then the process they follow is called Adjustment of Status. This is because they will change from whatever status they are in to that of a Lawful Permanent Resident (green card). Under this process, two main applications are filed at the same time. The U.S. citizen or LPR spouse files Form I-130 Immediate Relative Petition and the Immigrant Spouse files a Form I-485 Application for Adjustment of Status along with other supporting applications, including an Affidavit of Support.

USCIS conducts background checks and a marriage interview of the couple at a local USCIS field office. After the interview, an approved case will generate a green card that is mailed out.  If the marriage is under 2 years old on the date of the approval, the green card will be valid for only 2 years and will then need to be renewed.

Marriage Green Card Wait

How long an application for a green card takes depends on several factors. For example, the spouse of an LPR will have to wait significantly longer than the spouse of a U.S. citizen. This is because LPR spouses have to wait until a visa is available according to the Department of State’s Visa Bulletin. The spouses of U.S. citizens are not limited by availability of visas.

The wait for a green card marriage interview in the U.S. varies from Field Office to Field Office. To see local processing times at the Field Offices, click here.

Someone going through Consular Processing can see delays at several stages since the file must go through three different agencies. Moreover, each Consulate sets their own schedule for interviews and waiting times vary. It some cases, it can be up to a year to bring a spouse to reside legally in the U.S.

Of course, delays due to sending in the wrong forms or not sending in the correct documentation can add to a couple’s wait for a green card. A major advantage of working with an experienced marriage green card attorney is that such unnecessary delays can be avoided.