How to File for a Green Card After Marriage?
Getting a Green Card, or a Permanent Resident Card, after marrying an American citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR, or Green Card holder) is not as easy as some movies would have you believe. A foreign national is not automatically entitled to a Green Card after marriage but must go through a costly and paperwork-heavy process that can take anywhere from several months to a few years from start to finish.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, including spouses, have priority over other categories of eligible Green Card applicants, and there’s no cap on the number of such Green Cards that can be issued.
If you’re wondering how to apply for a Green Card after marriage, the exact process will depend on your situation. For example, couples living abroad will need to go through consular processing in that country.
However, if your spouse is a U.S. citizen or LPR, you are already legally in the U.S., and you are not inadmissible, the basic steps are:
- Fill out forms
- Create your application packet and mail it in
- Wait for a reply
- Go to your biometrics appointment
- Go to your interview
- Receive your Green Card
- Get your 10-Year Green Card
We’ll look at each step in more detail below.
Start by Filling Out Forms
The primary forms you and your spouse need to fill out are:
- Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative (I-130; can be filed online)
- Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (I-485)
- Form I-693, Report of Immigration Medical Examination and Vaccination Record (I-693)
If the non-U.S. citizen spouse is already legally in the U.S. at the time of application and is being sponsored by a U.S. citizen, these forms can be submitted at the same time. If they are being sponsored by a LPR, then Form I-130 must be filed first and the rest of the application must wait until a visa number becomes available, which can take significantly longer.
Other forms you may need or want to file, depending on your situation, include:
- Form I-131, Application for Travel (I-131) if you plan to travel out of the country while your Green Card application is pending
- Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (I-765; can be filed online) if you want to work before becoming a LPR and you do not already have other authorization to work
- Form I-864, Affidavit of Support (I-864) or Form I-864W, Request for Exemption for Intending Immigrant’s Affidavit of Support (I-864W) to show the applicant either has financial support from a sponsor (usually the U.S. citizen or LPR spouse) or has worked in the U.S. long enough
- Form G-1145, E-Notification of Application/Petition Acceptance (G-1145) if you want to receive text or email updates from USCIS rather than just mail
This list is not exhaustive.
Create Your Application Packet and Send It Off
Gather together the forms you filled out, required fees, and all of the necessary supporting documentation listed for each form. This includes things like copies of IDs, birth certificates, proof of your marriage, and so on. Documents in a foreign language must be accompanied by a certified translation. Many people include a cover letter listing all the contents of the application, too.
Where should you send your application packet? It depends on where you live. Find the correct USCIS mailing address here. USCIS has a helpful page with tips for filing forms by mail.
Wait for a Reply
USCIS will send you a receipt verifying that your application was received. The number on the receipt allows you to check the status of your case online.
You may instead receive an RFE, Request for More Evidence, if your application is incomplete. Respond by the date listed on the notice along with the requested evidence.
After your application has been accepted, you will later receive information about your biometrics appointment (see below). Separately, you will also receive a notice for your interview (see below).
Go to Your Biometrics Appointment
Most applicants (those between the ages of 14-79) need to go to a biometrics appointment to provide fingerprints, a signature, and a photograph. The USCIS schedules this for you and will notify you of the location, date, and time of your appointment.
Attend the Green Card Interview
The majority of marriage-based Green Card applications include an in-person interview. The main goal is for the USCIS officer to evaluate whether you have a bona fide marriage. USCIS does not want to give Green Cards to people who have married U.S. citizens solely for the purpose of being able to get LPR status and live and work in the U.S.
You can bring your immigration attorney to the interview with you if you would like. There are several reasons you may want to do this, for example, you have some criminal charges in your past that your attorney can help explain or you have had irregularities of any kind with visas, entry into the U.S., etc. in the past.
You are also free to bring an interpreter to the interview. The USCIS doesn’t provide an interpreter, so you might want to bring your own if you have concerns about your English proficiency.
Receive Your Green Card (or Not)
Typically, it’s just a matter of weeks before you receive your Green Card (Permanent Resident Card) after the interview. If you’ve been married for less than two years, you will receive a conditional Green Card that lasts two years and can’t be renewed (see below). If you’ve been married for two years or longer, you will receive a permanent Green Card that lasts for ten years and can be renewed.
What if you’re denied a Green Card? Don’t lose hope. You may have the option to appeal the decision or you may be able to file a motion to reconsider. This is a situation where you absolutely want to speak with an immigration attorney for advice.
Get Your 10-Year Green Card
If you originally received a two-year conditional Green Card, then you will need to file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence (I-751), within the 90 days preceding the expiration of your Green Card.
Theoretically, every I-751 applicant and their spouse should do an interview with a USCIS officer similar to the first interview. In practice, this requirement is often – but not always – waived. Again, the goal is to ensure that it’s a bona fide marriage. Evidence that shows you are building a life together, such as buying a house, having a baby, and so on, helps.
Have Questions about the Green Card Process? Call the Immigration Attorneys at The Carolina Law Group
Are you planning on applying for a Permanent Residence Card (Green Card) after marrying a U.S. citizen or LPR? The immigration attorneys at The Carolina Law Group can help.
The process described above is streamlined and doesn’t take into account all the possible situations and snafus you may encounter along the way. There are many Do’s and Don’ts and many ways to make a mistake. This is where an experienced immigration attorney can make all the difference. If you have any concerns about applying for a Green Card, such as immigration-related issues like overstaying a visa, past criminal history, or health issues, or you simply have questions about how to do it right, give us a call. We offer a free, no-obligation consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call one of the numbers below to schedule your consultation today.
The Carolina Law Group has four offices in South Carolina for your convenience: Greenville (principal office; call 864.312.4444), Greer (principal office; call 864.757.5555), Spartanburg (principal office; call 864.312.4444) & West Columbia (principal office; call 803.881.1110).
Call us at one of our four offices or contact us online to schedule your free consultation with one of our attorneys. Our business hours are Monday – Thursday 8:30am – 5:30pm & Friday 8:30 am – 5 pm. Weekend and evening hours by appointment only. Our Greenville, SC law firm offers Spanish, Hindi, and Gujarati language translation services for your convenience.