The Ultimate Green Card Marriage Guide


When United States citizen or permanent resident marries a foreign national, his or her spouse becomes eligible for a green card. There are conditions attached to the green card, though, and you must petition the U.S. government to remove the conditions after a certain length of time. This guide to green card marriage explains what you need to know – and remember, your Dallas immigration attorney is just a phone call away if you have questions.

The Basics of Marriage-Based Green Cards

The spouse of a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can apply for a green card based on marriage. With a green card, a person can live or work anywhere in the United States, and after the appropriate amount of time has elapsed, can apply for U.S. citizenship.

How Do You Get a Green Card Through Marriage?

Family Immigration Green Cards - Davis & AssociatesYou can get a green card through marriage when you:

  • Show the United States government that you’re married
  • Apply for it using the appropriate form
  • Attend a marriage green card interview

Form I-130 and Green Card Marriage

Your Dallas immigration attorney can fill out and file all the paperwork you need to apply for a green card based on your marriage to a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. The first step in the process is to use Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. This form shows the government that you’re in a legal marriage – and that your marriage is valid. That means you’re not only married to a citizen or lawful permanent resident for immigration benefits.

With this form, your spouse is actually petitioning for you. You can’t petition the government for a marriage-based green card on your own.

When your attorney files Form I-130 for you, he or she will include supporting documentation that you provide, such as a copy of your sponsor’s birth certificate or naturalization certificate, passport or green card. Your lawyer will also need a copy of your marriage certificate so the U.S. government can tell that your marriage is legal, as well as some type of proof that your marriage isn’t fraudulent. That kind of evidence can include things like a joint lease, mortgage documents, shared bank account information, and even pictures of you and your spouse together. If either of you were previously married, your attorney will also need to include proof that the previous marriage was terminated (such as a divorce decree or a death certificate).

Your lawyer will send your I-130 packet with all of this information to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. If USCIS needs more information to review your packet, the agency will let you know within a few months. However, if USCIS has everything it needs, you’ll usually receive a decision on that application within 7 to 15 months.

Eligibility for a Marriage-Based Green Card

The U.S. government will need to determine whether you’re eligible for a green card based on your situation. To do so, your attorney will file Form I-485 after you receive approval on your Form I-130. Form I-485, Adjustment of Status, establishes that you’re eligible for a green card. You’ll have to pay the filing fee and provide proof of:

  • Your nationality. You can use a copy of your birth certificate and your passport’s photo page, or other proof that’s widely accepted as proof of nationality.
  • Your lawful entry to the United States. You can use a copy of your I-94 travel record and a prior U.S. visa, such as a K-1 visa.
  • A medical examination performed by a USCIS-approved physician.
  • Your spouse’s ability to financially support you. Generally, you’ll need Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and supporting documentation (like your spouse’s pay stubs and tax returns).

The I-485 Filing Package and Concurrent Filing

If your spouse is a U.S. citizen, your attorney may be able to file your Form I-130, Form I-485 and all your supporting documentation together. This is called concurrent filing. USCIS usually processes concurrently filed applications within 9 to 12 months. Unfortunately, concurrent filing is not available to spouses of lawful permanent residents – only to spouses of U.S. citizens. If you’re married to a green card holder, your attorney will have to file your I-485 after USCIS has approved your Form I-130. The process can take up to a year.

What if You’re Living Abroad?

If you don’t live in the U.S. but you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder, you can still apply for a green card. (Technically, your spouse still applies for you.) Your application will have to go through the National Visa Center, or NVC, which is part of the U.S. State Department. The NVC will collect:

  • Your filing fee
  • Form DS-260
  • Proof of your nationality, such as a birth certificate and a copy of your passport’s photo page
  • A copy of a police clearance certificate that shows if you had previous interactions with law enforcement officials
  • Proof that your spouse can financially support you, such as tax returns and pay stubs

The NVC will process your application, which usually takes 3 to 5 months, and forward it to a U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. From there, you’ll go through consular processing.

How Long Will it Take to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?

It can take between 10 and 38 months to get a green card through marriage. However, every case is different – and it depends on whether you’re married to a U.S. citizen or green card holder. If you’re married to a citizen, your attorney can use concurrent filing; if you’re married to a green card holder, you must wait for the U.S. government to approve your Form I-130 before your lawyer can file your Form I-485. It also depends on whether you currently live in the U.S. or abroad. If you live abroad, you’ll have to go through consular processing, which can take longer because the National Visa Center must process your petition before sending it on to the U.S. Department of State.

The Green Card Interview for Residency Through Marriage to a U.S. Citizen or LPR

Family Immigration Visas - Texas Immigration AttorneysMost people have to go through an interview process when applying for a marriage-based green card. Your interview will take place at a USCIS office. You’ll probably have to attend your interview a few months after your attorney files your petition.

The main purpose of the interview is for the U.S. government to ensure that your marriage is valid – and that you’re not only married so you can immigrate to the United states.

What Kinds of Questions Will They Ask You at the Green Card Marriage Interview?

Because the USCIS official interviewing you has to make sure your marriage is valid, you may have to answer questions about your relationship during your green card marriage interview. If you’re in a bona fide marriage, the interview will probably not be an issue for you – the questions aren’t incredibly complicated, but they do require you to know enough about your spouse to prove that you’re together as a couple.

You’ll want to provide the USCIS officer with proof of your “togetherness,” such as receipts for rent or mortgage payments, bills with both of your names on them, pictures of you two together, and other evidence that you have.

If the official handling your case doesn’t believe that you’re in a genuine marriage, he or she may ask questions about your relationship in what’s known as a Stokes Interview. Those types of interviews include things like:

  • When and where did you meet?
  • How often do you go out to eat?
  • How is your living room set up?
  • What does your spouse eat for breakfast?
  • What kind of nightly routine do you have before you go to bed?
  • What kinds of entertainment do you both enjoy?
  • What cell phone provider does your spouse use?

Does Everyone Have a Green Card Marriage Interview?

Everyone has a green card marriage interview, but not everyone has to answer questions about their relationship. If you can sufficiently show the immigration officer that you’re in a bona fide marriage, he or she is unlikely to delve into your personal life with questions like “What kind of toothpaste does your spouse use?”

What is a Marriage Green Card With Conditions?

A green card you obtain through marriage is nearly the same as any other green card; the key difference is that it comes with conditions attached. You can still live and work anywhere in the United States with a green card – you’ll be a conditional permanent resident. The conditions apply to people who have been married for fewer than two years. (If you’ve been married for longer, you won’t have conditions attached to your green card.)

All this really means is that you’ve been married for fewer than two years – and once you’ve been married for two years, the U.S. government can remove the conditions. You must petition the government to remove the conditions by using Form I-751, which your immigration attorney can fill out and file for you. Timing matters; your lawyer must file your I-751 during the 90-day window before your conditional permanent residency expires. If you file too early, the government will return your petition, and if you file too late, it’ll reject it entirely (unless you can explain valid reasons why it’s late).The form is a joint petition, which means both you and your spouse will have to sign it. You’ll also need to include evidence that you’re in a bona fide marriage, which means that you’re in the marriage for valid reasons (rather than simply married to obtain an immigration benefit, which can get you deported). By the time you file your I-751, you’ve been married for more than two years, so USCIS expects there to be real evidence of your marriage, such as:

  • Photos of you and your spouse together
  • Joint financial documents
  • Leases or mortgage statements with both of your names on them
  • Children’s birth certificates

Other types of proof are also acceptable, and your Dallas immigration attorney can talk to you about what needs to accompany your petition.

It’s really important to note that even if you’re a conditional permanent resident, you have all the same rights and responsibilities that any other permanent resident has – you just have to petition the government to remove the conditions after you’ve been married long enough. If you don’t remove the conditions on your permanent residency, you’ll be “out of status.”

That means you can be removed from the country because as soon as your conditional permanent residency expires, you’re in the United States illegally.

Do You Need to Talk to an Attorney About Getting a Green Card Through Marriage?

Many people benefit by working with an attorney to obtain a green card through marriage. Your lawyer will be there to answer your questions and guide you through every step of the process.

Your attorney can fill out and file your paperwork for you, help you determine what types of proof you need to provide USCIS and help you prepare for your interview. Call our immigration attorneys today; we’ll be happy to answer your questions and get you started on the right path.