Foreign nationals who are married to a U.S. citizen can get a marriage based green card in one of two ways. If you are currently living in the United States, you can apply to adjust your status. If you’re outside the country, you can apply for a green card through a Consular process in the country where you live. Below are the steps that are involved.
Adjustment of Status
Generally, to be eligible to adjust your status, you must be present in the United States and, with certain limited exceptions, you must have been “inspected and admitted” or “inspected and paroled” by an immigration officer. Further, none of the grounds for inadmissibility – such as if you have been convicted of certain crimes or if you are judged likely to become primarily dependent on the government – can apply to you.
To adjust your status, you will need to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence to Adjust Status, and supporting documentation. Your spouse will also need to file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative on your behalf, if this has not already been done. When adjusting status, Form I-485 may be filed concurrently with Form I-130, while Form I-130 is pending or after it has been approved.
From start to finish, it takes about eight months to a year to adjust your status.
If you are living outside the United States at the time of application, your spouse should first file Form I-130 with United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If USCIS approves the petition, it will be forwarded to the Department of State’s National Visa Center, which will notify you when it’s time to submit supporting documentation and processing fees. You will then be contacted for an interview at the Consular office. If you are approved and pay the USCIS immigrant fee, you will receive your green card about 45 days after being admitted to the United States. The entire process, from the time your spouse files a Form I-130, takes about 18 months.
In addition to showing you are not otherwise inadmissible, you will have to prove that your marriage is bona fide. USCIS approaches applications for marriage-based green cards with a considerable amount of scrutiny. In addition to your marriage certificate, you will need to submit documents that show you share a life together, and then answer questions about your marriage during an interview.
Documentation can include joint bank account statements, titles or deeds to jointly owned real estate or vehicles, mortgage or loan documents, joint auto, health or home insurance policies, and life insurance policies listing each other as the primary beneficiary. If you have a child together, the child’s birth certificate or adoption records showing the names of both spouses as parents is compelling evidence of an authentic relationship.
As many bona fide weddings are celebrated joyously and followed by a honeymoon, presenting wedding photos as well as photos and itineraries from your honeymoon or other trips together, along with cards and letters you received as a couple, can provide supporting evidence that your marriage is genuine.
Note that if you are married for less than two years at the time your green card is approved, you will receive a conditional green card. A conditional green card holder has the same rights and privileges as a permanent resident, except you will need to renew your green card after two years rather than 10. You and your spouse must jointly submit Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, during the 90-day period prior to the expiration of your conditional green card, at which point you will receive a green card that is valid for 10 years.