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How to Apply for Marriage Green Card

Step by step Guidelines on how to apply for a marriage green card and detailed documents(updated 2021)

For many people, marriage is one of the happiest days of their lives. It is the chance to celebrate the beginning of a lifelong relationship with a spouse whom they love.
If you are an immigrant, marriage can offer an opportunity to celebrate another reason for happiness. Immigrants who are married to U.S. citizens or U.S. green cardholders can obtain a green card and become lawful permanent residents of the United States. With a green card, you can live and work in the United States and receive certain health, education, and other benefits.
Whether called “Marriage Green Card”, “Green Card Through Spouse”, “Spouse Green Card”, “Green Card Husband”, or “Green Card Wife”, this article examines the concept of getting a green card through marriage:

1. How Do You Get A Green Card Through Marriage?

2. Steps To Apply For Green Card Through Marriage – First Step – Form I-130

3. Steps To Apply For Green Card Through Marriage – Second Step – Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

4. Types of Marriage Green Cards

5. Marriage green card FAQ

apply marriage green card

How Do You Get A Green Card Through Marriage?

Marriage Green Card if Married to a U.S. Citizen: 

The marriage visa green card process will vary based on whether you are marrying a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green cardholder.
If you are marrying a U.S. citizen, you are eligible for an “immediate relative” green card.
As an immediate relative, you will probably have the easiest path to obtain a green card.
Green cards for immediate relatives are unlimited and always available.

Marriage Green Card if Married to a U.S. Green Card Holder:

If you are marrying a U.S. green card holder, it is still possible to get a green card, but the marriage visa green card process is more complicated. It will take longer to get a green card if you are marrying someone with a green card than if you are marrying someone who is a U.S. citizen.

Marrying a U.S. green cardholder will not qualify you as an immediate relative, but instead can qualify you for a “family preference” green card. Specifically, as the husband or wife of a U.S. green cardholder, you can qualify for a family preference green card in the F2A second preference category.

Unlike green cards for immediate relatives, family preference green cards are numerically limited, so they are not always immediately available. Instead, if you are marrying a U.S. green card holder, you must “wait in line” until there is green card availability in the F2Afamily preference category.

Green card availability under the F2Afamily preference category principally will depend on the number of green cards allocated to the F2A family preference category, the demand for green cards in the F2A family preference category, your foreign country of birth (as there are certain specific country green card limitations), and your applicable “Priority Date” (generally the date that the below-described Form I-130 was filed for you).

The U.S. Department of State publishes a monthly Visa Bulletin showing what “Priority Dates” are available for family preference green cards in the F2A family preference category.

Steps To Apply For a Green Card Through Marriage –

First Step – Form I-130

The first step in the marriage visa green card process is the filing of Form i-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”. With the Form I-130, as part of your marriage green card application, among the documents you will need to submit are:

  • Form I-130A. Form I-130A collects additional information about you, as the “spouse beneficiary” of a U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder;
  • A copy of your civil marriage certificate;
  • A copy of all divorce decrees, death certificates, or annulment decrees that demonstrate that all previous marriages entered into by you and/or your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse was terminated;
  • Passport style photos of you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse;
  • Evidence of all legal name changes for you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse;
  • Evidence of your U.S. citizen spouse’s citizenship status (including a copy of a valid U.S. passport, a copy of a U.S. birth certificate, a copy of a naturalization certificate, or a copy of a certificate of citizenship) or evidence of your U.S. green cardholder spouse’s green card status (including a copy of Form I-551 (the green card)); and
  • One or more of the following types of documentation to prove that you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse have a bona fide marriage:
  1. Documentation showing joint ownership of the property;
  2. A lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence, meaning you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse live at the same address together;
  3. Documentation showing that you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green card holder spouse have combined your financial resources;
  4. Birth certificates of children born to you and your U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder spouse together;
  5. Affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of your marital relationship; or
  6. Any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union.
  • A filing fee of $535.00.
    The Form I-130 instructions describe the Form I-130 requirements in detail.
    Form I-130 is filed with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”). It can be filed online (you need to create a USCIS account)or by mail.
  • If filed by mail, and you live in the United States (or the territories described below), it should be filed either:

1- If you are only filing Form I-130, and you live in:
– Alaska;
– American Samoa;
– Arizona;
– California;
– Colorado;
– Florida;
– Guam;
– Hawaii;
– Idaho;
– Kansas;
– Montana;
– Nebraska;
– Nevada;
– New Mexico;
– North Dakota;
– Northern MarianaIslands;
– Oklahoma;
– Oregon;
– Puerto Rico;
– South Dakota;
– Texas
– Utah
– Virgin Islands;
– Washington; and
– Wyoming
For U.S. Postal Service (“USPS”) deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: I-130
P.O. Box 21700
Phoenix, AZ 85036

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: I-130
1820 E. Skyharbor Circle 5
Suite 100
Phoenix, AZ 85034;

2- If you are only filing Form I-130, and you live in:
– Alabama
– Arkansas
– Connecticut
– Delaware
– Georgia
– Illinois
– Indiana
– Iowa
– Kentucky
– Louisiana
– Maine
– Maryland
– Massachusetts
– Michigan
– Minnesota
– Mississippi
– Missouri
– New Hampshire
– New Jersey
– New York
– North Carolina
– Ohio
– Pennsylvania
– Rhode Island
– South Carolina
– Tennessee
– Vermont
– Virginia
– Washington, D.C.
– West Virginia; and
– Wisconsin

For USPS deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: I-130
P.O. Box 650264
Dallas, TX75265

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
Attn: I-130
2501 S. State Hwy, 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067; or

3- If you are filing Form I-485 with Form I-130 (as described below), and you live in the United States:
For USPS deliveries:
USCIS
P.O. Box 805887
Chicago, IL 60680-4120

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:
USCIS
FBAS
131 South Dearborn, 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

4- If filed by mail, and you live outside of the United States, it generally should be filed:

For USPS deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: I-130
P.O. Box 650264
Dallas, TX 75265

For FedEx, UPS, and DHL deliveries:

USCIS
Attn: I-130
2501 S. State Hwy, 121 Business
Suite 400
Lewisville, TX 75067
As USCIS addresses may change, you should always check and confirm the currently applicable address before filing Form I-130.

Second Step – Adjustment of Status or Consular Processing

The second step in the marriage visa green card process will depend on whether you are then located in the United States.

Adjustment of Status Procedure

If you are then located in the United States, you will be subject to the “adjustment of status” procedure.
Under the adjustment of status procedure, you will file Form I-485, “Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status”.

If you are subject to the adjustment of status procedure and are marrying a U.S. citizen, you can file Form I-485 with Form I-130. If you are subject to the adjustment of status procedure and are marrying a U.S. green cardholder, you cannot file Form I-485 until your Form I-130 is approved and a family preference green card is then available.

With the Form I-485, as part of your marriage green card application, among the documents you will need to submit are:

  • Two passport-style photographs;
  • Copy of your government-issued identity document with photograph;
  • Copy of your birth certificate;
  • Copy of your passport page with nonimmigrant visa (if applicable);
  • Copy of your passport page with admission or parole stamp (if applicable);
  • Copy of Form I-94, “Arrival/Departure Record” (if applicable);
  • Form i-864 or Form I-864EZ, “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA”. These “Affidavit of Support” forms show that “a sponsor” can provide you with sufficient financial support so that you will not become a public charge;
  • Form I-693, “Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record”. Form I-693 establishes that you are not inadmissible to the United States on public health grounds;
  • Certified police and court records of all criminal charges, arrests, or convictions (if applicable);
  • Form I-601, “Application for Waiver of Grounds of Inadmissibility”. The “I-601 waiver” enables you to waive grounds of inadmissibility that would otherwise prevent you from being admitted to the United States; and
  • A filing fee of $1,140 and, if you are between 14 and 79 years of age, a biometrics service fee of $85.

The Form I-485 instructions describe the Form I-485 requirements in detail.
After the Form I-485 is filed, you will receive notice of a biometrics services appointment (at which you will provide your fingerprints, photograph, and/or signature, which will be used for identification purposes and to run background checks) and an in-person interview (“green card marriage interview”).

Under the adjustment of status procedure, the green card marriage interview will be at a USCIS office. You will have to answer questions (‘marriage interview questions”) from a USCIS officer about your green card marriage application.
After your green card marriage interview, USCIS will send you a written notice of whether your green card marriage application has been approved.

Consular Processing Procedure

If you are not then located in the United States, you will be subject to the “consular processing” procedure.
Under the consular processing procedure, you first need to have your Form I-130 approved.

Once your Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, you cannot proceed until a green card is available for you. As described above, if you are marrying a U.S. citizen, an immediate relative green card is always immediately available for you and thus you can immediately proceed; on the other hand, if you are marrying a U.S. green cardholder, you may have to wait until a family preference green card is available before you can proceed.

After a green card is available, USCIS will forward your case to the National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC, part of the U.S. Department of State, will advise you on what fees must next be paid (generally $445) and then what documents must next be submitted (generallyForm !-864 or Form I-864EZ, “Affidavit of Support Under Section 213A of the INA”, Form DS-260, “Online Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration Application”, and various supporting civil documents).

Once your fees and documents are submitted, the NVC will transfer your case to your nearest U.S. consulate, which will arrange a green card marriage interview for you. Before the green card marriage interview, you will need to have a medical exam from a USCIS-approved doctor.

Under the consular process procedure, the green card marriage interview will be at the U.S. consulate with a consular officer. You will have to answer marriage interview questions from the consular officer about your green card marriage application. You will need to bring your original “Affidavit of Support” form to the U.S. consulate.

The consular officer will decide whether to approve your green card marriage application.

Types of Marriage Green Cards:

There are two types of marriage green cards:

  • If you have been married for at least two years before applying for your green card, you can receive the IR-1 green card (“permanent green card”), which will last for 10 years.
  • If you have been married for less than two years before applying for your green card, you can receive the CR-1 green card. The disadvantage of the CR-1 green card relative to the permanent green card is that a CR-1 green card is a “conditional” green card that lasts for only two years.

How do you get a permanent green card after two years of marriage? Within 90 days before the expiration of the two-year CR-1 green card, you can file Form I-751, “Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence”, to obtain a permanent green card (again, which will last for 10 years)

Tip 1: When you are coming to the United States and getting married on a B-1/B-2 visa, you must be careful to avoid charges of marriage fraud – getting married for the purpose of avoiding U.S. immigration laws. If you get married within 90 days of entry into the United States, USCIS may have reasonable grounds to argue that you have committed marriage fraud.

It takes more than just showing a legal marriage certificate to rebut charges of marriage fraud. Instead, you need to show that you and your spouse truly intend to share a life together. Evidence that you and your spouse live together, take vacations together, celebrate important events together, have children together, and own financial assets (such as through joint ownership of homes, cars, bank accounts, or stocks) and incur financial liabilities together (such as through joint mortgages or credit cards), can help you defend against charges of marriage fraud.

DYgreencard.com can help you understand what evidence you need to produce in your specific factual circumstances if USCIS accuses you of marriage fraud.

Tip 2: If you have children with a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green cardholder, you also may be able to apply for a green card for these children. Unmarried children who are under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen qualify as immediate relatives and can obtain an immediate relative green card.

Unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older of a U.S. citizen (in the F1 family preference category), unmarried children who are under 21 years of age of a U.S. green cardholder (in the F2A family preference category), unmarried children who are 21 years of age or older of a U.S. green cardholder (in the F2B family preference category), and married children of a U.S. citizen (in the F3 family preference category), can qualify for a family preference green card (although the child will need to “wait in line” until there is green card availability in the specifically applicable family preference category).

A separate Form I-130 must be filed for each child.

Tip 3: While waiting for USCIS and NVC approvals, you should start work on the documents and evidence you will need for the next step of your marriage green card application. With this approach, you are more likely to be ready to proceed with this next step quickly after receiving USCIS or NVC approval, saving significant time.

Other Frequently Asked Questions:

1. How does divorce affect a marriage-based green card?

The answer depends on the timing of the divorce.

  • If the divorce occurs after you have received a permanent green card, it should not affect the validity of the permanent green card.
  • If the divorce occurs after you have received a CR-1 green card, but before you have received a permanent green card, the issue is unclear.

When you file form I-751 to obtain a permanent green card, you will have to show USCIS that your marriage was initially valid and not a sham (i.e. you did not intend to get divorced when you were initially married). Much of the same type of evidence described above to rebut charges of marriage fraud would also be helpful to produce here to USCIS to receive a permanent green card. Again, DYgreencard.com can help you understand what evidence you need to produce in your specific factual circumstances to obtain a permanent green card after divorce.

If the divorce occurs before you have received a CR-1 or permanent green card, you will not be able to obtain a marriage-based green card attributable to your prior marriage.

2. How Is same-sex marriage treated for marriage green card purposes?

USCIS treats applications for green cards from same-sex couples (“gay marriage green cards”) the same as applications for green cards from heterosexual couples.

One possible issue is that the married gay or lesbian couple must have been married in a country that recognizes same-sex marriages, as, to obtain a marriage green card, your marriage must be valid in the place it was performed. If not, you cannot qualify for a gay marriage green card.

3. Can you be undocumented and married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green card holder and still qualify for a marriage green card?

If you are undocumented because you overstayed a legal status in the United States, you are still eligible to file a marriage green card application.

On the other hand, if you are undocumented because you initially entered the United States illegally, you first will need to meet certain requirements before you can file a marriage green card application. These additional requirements include leaving the United States, possibly (depending on how long you have been undocumented in the United States) not being allowed to return to the United States for three years or 10 years, and filing Form I-601.

4. How long do you have to be married to get a green card?

You can apply for a green card immediately after marriage (although, as described above, if, within two years of marriage, you will initially receive a CR-1 green card and not a permanent green card).

5. How long does it take to get a green card after marriage?

Based on our experience at DYgreencard.com, it will take a minimum of three months and a maximum of 24 months to get a green card after marriage.

6. How long does it take to get a work permit after marriage?

You apply for a work permit on Form I-765, “Application for Employment Authorization”. However, you cannot apply for a work permit until you have first filed Form I-485. Thus, if you are married to a U.S. citizen, as you can file for an immediate relative green card without waiting, you generally can obtain a work permit quicker than if you are married to a U.S. green cardholder (if the U.S. green cardholder has to wait to file for a family preference green card).

Real Cases

1. Lily and David are married. Lily is a U.S. citizen. David entered the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visa, but his status has expired and he has no legal status. Lily and David live in California.

In February 2020, Form I-130 and Form I-485 with respect to David were together submitted to USCIS. As Lily is a U.S. citizen, David can obtain an immediate relative green card, and Form I-485 can be filed together with Form I-130.

In May 2021, after having a successful green card marriage interview, David received a permanent green card.

2. Anthony and Grace are married. Anthony is a U.S. green cardholder. Grace is in the U.S. on an H-1B work visa and has legal status.

In December 2018, Anthony submitted Form I-130 with respect to Grace to USCIS. Because Grace would only be eligible for a family preference green card (as Anthony is a U.S. green card holder and not a U.S. citizen), and no family preference green cards are then available, no Form I-485 can yet be filed.

In June 2019, a family preference green card is then available for Grace. Thus, Form I-485 with respect to Grace is then submitted to USCIS.

In November 2020, after having a successful green card marriage interview, Grace received a permanent green card.

3. Tony and Amy are married. Tony is a U.S. citizen. Amy is outside of the United States.

July 2018, Tony submitted Form I-130 with respect to Amy to USCIS.

In April 2019, notice was received from USCIS that Form I-130 was approved and Amy’s case was transferred to the NVC. As Tony is a U.S. citizen, Amy can obtain an immediate relative green card.

In June 2019, the appropriate fees and documents (including Form DS-260) for Amy’s case were submitted to the NVC.

In July 2019, the NVC transferred Amy’s case to the nearest U.S. consulate.

In November 2019, after having a successful green card marriage interview, Amy received a permanent green card.

4. Sherry and Kate are married. Sherry is a U.S. green cardholder. Kate is outside of the United States.

In January 2019, Sherry submitted Form I-130 with respect to Kate to USCIS.

In January 2020, notice was received from USCIS that Form I-130 was approved and Kate’s case was transferred to the NVC. As Sherry is a U.S. green cardholder, Kate’s case could only be transferred to the NVC when a family preference green card would be available. In January 2020, a family preference green card is available for Kate, and thus Kate’s case could be transferred to the NVC.

In March 2020, the appropriate fees and documents (including Form DS-260) for Kate’s case were submitted to the NVC.

In May 2020, the NVC transferred Kate’s case to the nearest U.S. consulate.

In May 2021, after having a successful green card marriage interview, Kate received a permanent green card.

There is definitely a path to successfully file a green card application for a spouse. However, it can be a long and winding road, with many complex issues. DYgreencard.com can help you better understand these issues, including what form to file, how to complete it, when to file it, and what to expect as the next step after you file it.DYgreencard.com also can assist you in developing a marriage-based green card checklist. If you are married to a U.S. citizen or U.S. green cardholder and want to apply for a green card, please contact legaldos.com.