Marriage Immigration

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The first step of the green card process is proving to the U.S. government that your marriage is bona fide. To do this, the U.S. citizen or U.S. permanent resident spouse must file Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, with U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) along with evidence demonstrating the legitimacy of your relationship. 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.To prove that your relationship is bona fide, the government requires the following evidence:

Evidence of U.S. citizenship or lawful permanent residence, such as a birth certificate, U.S. passport, naturalization or citizenship certificate, Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), or U.S. Permanent Resident Card (Aka Green Card).

Evidence of a lawful marriage with foreign national spouse, including a copy of the marriage certificate and proof that both spouses have lawfully terminated any prior marriages.

Evidence that the marriage is bona fide, such as documentation demonstrating joint ownership of property; a lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence; documentation showing that you and your spouse have combined your financial resources; birth certificates of children born to you and your spouse together; affidavits from family and friends with personal knowledge of the bona fide nature of your relationship; and any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union.


    Once USCIS has approved your I-130 application and determined that your relationship is bona fide, you must still formerly ask the government to create and issue your green card. There are two ways to do this:

    Adjustment of Status: An adjustment of status application is filed concurrently with Form I-130 and includes a request for work authorization and advance parole (permission to travel internationally). This option is only available if the foreign national spouse is lawfully present within the United States. Once the application is submitted, the foreign national spouse cannot leave the U.S. until his or her request for work authorization and advance parole has been approved.

    Immigrant Visa (Consular) Processing: Immigrant Visa Processing is initiated following approval of Form I-130 and involves submitting an application to the National Visa Center (NVC) and attending an in-person interview at the appropriate U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. After a successful interview, the foreign national spouse will receive an immigrant visa that is then used to enter the United States as a lawful permanent resident.

    Both methods of filing have advantages and disadvantages, and a decision should be made based on the applicant’s location at the time of filing, future travel and work plans, and the couple’s preference for processing.  Our attorneys are happy to discuss your circumstances and come up with a specific strategy that meets your individualized needs.

    U.S. Sponsor’s Financial Obligation

    To obtain a marriage-based green card, the foreign national spouse must show that he or she has adequate means of financial support and are not likely to become a public charge. To do this, a U.S. sponsor (typically the U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse) is required to complete Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, and provide evidence that he or she has enough income and/or assets to maintain the foreign national spouse and the rest of your household at 125 percent of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Form I-864 is an enforceable contract between the sponsor and the U.S. government, and, can result in a lawsuit against the sponsor to recover the cost of any benefits provided to the foreign national spouse.

    If the U.S. citizen or permanent resident sponsor does not have enough income and/or assets to meet the government’s income requirements, a Joint Sponsor or Household Member may be used.

    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.

    Validity of Green Card

    Upon issuance of the green card, a foreign national spouse is permitted to live and work in the U.S. permanently. The actual green card, however, expires every ten (10) years and must be renewed by submitting Form I-90 to USCIS. This is similar to renewing a United States’ driver’s license.  If your permanent residence is conditional (detailed below), your green card will only be valid for a period of two years.

    Conditional Permanent Residence

    A foreign national spouse will be granted conditional permanent residence if his or her marriage is less than two (2) years old on the day lawful permanent residence status is granted. In other words, if you have been married for less than two years when you obtain your green card, your permanent residence in the U.S. is conditional and a separate application to remove conditions must be filed with USCIS. Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence is submitted during the 90 days before your second anniversary as a conditional resident. Conditional permanent residency is the government’s “insurance policy” to make sure that the couple is still married and living together in a bona-fide relationship.