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Marriage Green Card Timeline: Facts about the U.S. Process

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Marriage Green Card Timeline Facts about the U.S. Process

Marriage Green Card Timeline: Facts about the U.S. Process

Key Takeaway

Obtaining a marriage green card in the United States is a multi-step process that requires careful preparation, attention to detail, and patience. By understanding the requirements, timelines, and costs involved, you can navigate the process smoothly and increase your chances of success.

Summary

  • A marriage green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or green card holder to live and work permanently in the United States.
  • The process involves three main steps: establishing the marriage relationship, applying for the green card, and attending an interview.
  • Step 1: The U.S. citizen or green card holder spouse files Form I-130 to establish the marriage is real, along with supporting documents like marriage certificate, proof of citizenship, and evidence of a bona fide marriage.
  • Step 2: The foreign spouse applies for the green card by filing Form I-485 (if living in the U.S.) or Form DS-260 (if living abroad), along with supporting documents like birth certificate, medical exam, proof of financial support, and filing fees.
  • Step 3: Attend a green card interview at a USCIS office (for spouses in the U.S.) or a U.S. embassy/consulate (for spouses abroad) to demonstrate the marriage is legitimate.
  • The total process takes around 9-23 months for spouses of U.S. citizens and 13-20+ months for spouses of greencard holders.
  • The cost is $3005 for spouses living in the U.S. and $1340 for spouses living abroad, plus medical exam fees.
  • After approval, spouses receive a conditional green card (valid for 2 years if married less than 2 years) or permanent green card (valid for 10 years if married more than 2 years).
  • Spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for naturalization after 3 years of marriage and meeting other requirements.

Marriage Green Card Timeline Facts about the U.S. Process

Navigating the Marriage Green Card Process in the U.S.

If you’re a U.S. citizen or a permanent resident looking to sponsor your spouse for a green card, the process can seem overwhelming. With numerous forms, supporting documents, and interviews, it’s crucial to understand the details of the marriage green card process to ensure a smooth and successful application.

Step 1: Establishing the Marriage Relationship (Form I-130)

The first step in the journey towards a marriage green card is filing Form I-130, also known as the “Petition for Alien Relative.” This form, along with supporting documents, serves to establish the legitimacy and bona fide nature of your marriage.

Required Documents:

  • Proof of the sponsoring spouse’s U.S. citizenship or permanent residency
  • A valid marriage certificate
  • Evidence that the marriage is not fraudulent (e.g., joint lease, bank statements, photographs)
  • Proof of termination of any previous marriages, if applicable

Once submitted, the processing time for Form I-130 typically takes around 12 months. During this period, USCIS may request additional information or evidence through a Request for Evidence (RFE).

Step 2: Applying for the Green Card (Form I-485 or Form DS-260)

After USCIS approves Form I-130, the next step differs based on whether the foreign spouse is living in the U.S. or abroad.

For Spouses Living in the U.S.

If the foreign spouse is residing in the U.S., the process involves filing Form I-485, also known as the “Adjustment of Status” application. This form establishes the spouse’s eligibility for a green card.

Key Components:

  • Government filing fees ($2,330)
  • Proof of nationality and lawful entry into the U.S.
  • Medical examination report
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and financial evidence

For Spouses Living Abroad

If the foreign spouse is living outside the U.S., the process involves filing an application package with the National Visa Center (NVC) through consular processing. The NVC will gather the necessary forms and documents, and schedule an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in the spouse’s home country.

Key Components:

  • Government filing fees ($445)
  • Form DS-260 (online green card application)
  • Proof of nationality
  • Police clearance certificate
  • Affidavit of Support (Form I-864) and financial evidence

Step 3: Attending the Green Card Interview

The final step in the marriage green card process is the green card interview. During this crucial stage, an immigration officer will assess the authenticity of the marriage by asking questions about the couple’s relationship history, daily activities, and future plans together.

For Spouses in the U.S.

Spouses applying from within the U.S. will attend an interview together at their local USCIS office.

For Spouses Abroad

Spouses applying from abroad will attend an interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate in their home country, without the sponsoring spouse present.

If the interviewing officer is convinced of the marriage’s legitimacy, the application will be approved, and the foreign spouse will receive a conditional or permanent green card, depending on the length of the marriage.

Timelines and Costs

The total processing time for a marriage-based green card averages around 9-23 months for spouses of U.S. citizens and 13-20+ months for spouses of permanent residents. However, these timelines can vary based on individual circumstances and USCIS processing times.

As for costs, the government filing fees for a spouse living in the U.S. are $3,005, while for spouses living abroad, the fees are $1,340. Additional costs may include medical examination fees, which can range from $200 to $500.

After Approval: Conditional vs. Permanent Green Card

Upon approval, the foreign spouse will receive either a conditional or permanent green card, depending on the length of the marriage at the time of approval.

  • Conditional Green Card: If the marriage is less than two years old, the spouse will receive a conditional green card valid for two years. Before it expires, the couple must file Form I-751 to remove the conditions and obtain a permanent green card.
  • Permanent Green Card: If the marriage is more than two years old, the spouse will receive a permanent green card valid for ten years, which can be renewed without the need to prove the marriage’s authenticity again.

Applying for Naturalization

One of the significant benefits of a marriage green card is the opportunity for the foreign spouse to apply for U.S. citizenship through naturalization. Spouses of U.S. citizens can apply for naturalization after three years of marriage, provided they meet other requirements, such as continuous residency, physical presence, and good moral character.

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