How to Get a Marriage-Based Green Card
Have you married a United States citizen or a person who holds a green card? If so, congratulations on your marriage! As the spouse of a citizen or green card holder, you are eligible to get a green card yourself—which is great news if you wish to reside in the United States.
What Is a Green Card?
A marriage-based green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to also become a permanent resident of this country. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants this card as a type of immigrant visa that allows you to live and work in the U.S. Your green card gives you “permanent resident status” until you apply for full citizenship.
Getting your green card is the first step towards U.S. citizenship. Normally, green card holders must wait for five years before they are eligible to apply for citizenship. However, when you have a marriage-based green card, you only have to wait three years before you can apply to become a full citizen.
Three-Step Process for Getting Your Marriage-Based Green Card
There are essentially three steps to getting your green card based on marriage. And although there are “only” three steps, the details of each step can be intricate. Navigating successfully through the process is much easier when you have competent and compassionate legal counsel at your side. The lawyers of the Jarbath-Peña Law Group are here to help! We can help avoid costly mistakes and make this process far less stressful than attempting to do it all on your own.
Step One: Establishing the Marriage
The first step is to establish that a valid marriage exists. You do this by filing Form I-130, which is also called the Petition for Alien Relative. The spouse that is already a U.S. citizen or green card holder is the sponsoring spouse, and the spouse seeking citizenship is called the “beneficiary” or green card applicant. The sponsor must submit Form I-130 to USCIS along with any other necessary supporting documents to get the process started.
To properly complete this form, you need to include some critical information, including the following.
Proof of a valid marriage: You’ll need to provide a copy of your marriage certificate that includes the names of both spouses and at least the location and date of the ceremony.
Proof that previous marriages are terminated: If either spouse was previously married, they would have to provide proof that they legally terminated the prior marriage.
Proof that the marriage is authentic: The USCIS is interested in proof that the marriage is genuine and not just a ploy to get a green card. You’ll need to include documentation of a joint lease, joint bank account, photos of the two of you together in the past, or anything that indicates the marriage is genuine.
Proof that the sponsoring spouse is a citizen or permanent resident: You can prove this by providing a copy of the sponsor’s birth certificate, naturalization papers, or green card.
Finally, you must submit payment of the $535 government filing fee.
If the USCIS wants more documentation, they will send the sponsor a Request for Evidence within a few months. It can take a year or slightly more for the USCIS to approve your Form I-130, but once approved, you’ll move on to the next step.
Step Two: Establishing Green Card Eligibility
There are two different processes used to determine if you are eligible for your green card.
Living in the U.S.
If you (the beneficiary or green card seeker) currently lives in the U.S., you’ll file a Form I-485, also called the Adjustment of Status Application. There are several critical elements that must be included when you file this form, such as proof of the beneficiary’s nationality, lawful entry into the U.S., medical examination, and proof that the sponsoring spouse can support you. This application comes with a filing fee of $1,225. If the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen, you can file your Form I-130 and Form I-485 together to save time. Your attorney can advise you as to any other essential details concerning the proper filing of these documents.
Living outside of the U.S.
If you do not live in the U.S., you must file an application package to the State Department-run National Visa Center (NVC). The NVC looks over the application to decide if you are ready to interview at the U.S. embassy abroad.
This application requires a $445 filing fee, proof of nationality, proof that you filed an application for your green card, a copy of police clearance from your current country (your criminal record, if any), and proof that the sponsoring spouse can financially support you.
Step Three: Attend Interview and Await Decision
The final step of the process is attending a green card interview. The primary purpose of this interview is to evaluate the marriage and assess whether or not the marriage is genuine. The interviewer must be convinced that the marriage is not fraudulent to approve the issuance of a green card.
If you live in the U.S., you’ll attend this interview with your spouse at the local USCIS office. If you live outside the U.S., you will attend this interview alone, without your spouse, at a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country.
If you live in the U.S. and are approved after the interview, you’ll likely get your physical green card in the mail within two to three weeks. If you live abroad and are approved, you’ll get a visa stamp in your passport that allows you to travel to the U.S. You must pay the fee of $220 before your physical green card is issued. Your card typically arrives at the couple’s U.S. address within two to three weeks of the spouse’s arrival.
It Is Our Honor to Serve You!
The experienced and knowledgeable attorneys at The Jarbath Peña Law Group are intimately familiar with the complex process of applying for a marriage-based green card. We want to help ensure that your paperwork is properly filled out and filed with the correct filing fee so that your application does not get unnecessarily delayed. We are here to serve South Florida, so don’t delay! Call today at 305-615-1005 to set up a free initial consultation, or contact us through our online contact form.