If you are married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident (LPR), you are eligible to apply for a green card. However, marrying a U.S. citizen does not guarantee you will be approved for a marriage green card. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) carefully reviews each and every marriage green card application.
Getting to Green
First and foremost, the way a marriage-based green card works is that the couple must already be married before any immigration paperwork is filed.
Getting a green card through marriage is not as simple as you might think. You and your spouse must carefully follow many steps to get approval for your green card. Failure to properly file your case or to follow each of the required steps can result in your case being delayed or, even worse, denied.
The application and approval process is complex and stressful, but with MyImmigration, you’ll have the right guidance, preparation, and support.
Here are two initial steps to get your marriage-based green card if you are currently in the US. Getting your green card through marriage while you reside outside the US requires different steps and goes beyond the scope of this article.
Step 1: I-130
After getting married, the first step is for your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse to accurately complete and file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with the USCIS. They also need to provide supporting documents, including proof of their US citizenship or lawful permanent resident status, the marriage certificate, copies of passports, pictures together, and other
documentation proving the validity of the marriage.
Your US citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse is the petitioner (person filing the petition), and you are the beneficiary (person benefitting from the petition). These are terms you are likely to hear throughout the process.
If your spouse is a US citizen, you can file the I-130 and I-485 concurrently, or in other words, you can perform steps one and two at the same time.
If your spouse is a lawful permanent resident, your spouse will need to file the I-130 first. Then, you need to wait until your I-130 is approved and a visa becomes available before you can take the next step. Processing times and visa availability vary, but currently, it can take 30 to 60 months for the I-130 to be approved.
If you receive the good news that your I-130 is approved, you’ll go on to the next step. Unfortunately, an approved I-130 petition does not, by itself, give you permission to come to or remain in the United States. The approval of the I-130 petition provides the basis to apply for your green card.
Step 2: I-485
The next step in the green card process is to correctly fill and file Form I-485 with USCIS. The I-485 is the “Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status.” To proceed, you must meet the following requirements:
- You must have entered the United States legally
- You are physically present in the United States at the time the I-485 is filed
- You cannot fall within one of the reasons why someone may be inadmissible to the United States (based on criminal convictions, health-related issues, etc.)
If your spouse is a lawful permanent resident, you must also meet these additional requirements:
- To adjust your status, you must make sure that there is a visa currently available at the time you file Form I-485. There are limits to the number of visas that are issued to the spouses of U.S. LPRs
- You must have never worked in the US without work authorization (no illegal employment)
- You must have always maintained lawful status in the U.S. This means that you cannot have overstayed the length of time you were authorized to be in the U.S., as shown on your Form I-94
- You cannot have entered the U.S. through the visa waiver program
To learn how to proceed after these two steps, see our next blog, “What are the steps to get a marriage green card?”.
In this blog, we simplified the explanation of this phase of navigating the immigration journey. The fact is that gathering, entering, and filing the correct information and interacting with the USCIS is more like climbing a mountain.
MyImmigration climbed the mountain, so you don’t have to. We have streamlined the process so that you don’t get overwhelmed or make mistakes that may cause delays or the rejection of your petition.
With MyImmigration, you can use our online platform to capture the information about your case quickly and accurately. Our customer service team works with you along the way, and you have access to a high-level immigration expert attorney for a fee at a fraction of the cost of a traditional law firm, and you’ll have peace of mind that your case will be done right.