Obtaining a Green Card through marriage is a slightly different process from other residency routes. It’s a bit more complex, as it was typically used as an easy way into the country. As such, USCIS has cracked down massively on the application process.
However, for those who are genuinely married to a US citizen or permanent resident, getting a Green Card through marriage means you can live together in America as a couple. Here’s what you need to know.
Filling Out the Forms
In order to find out if you are eligible to qualify for a Green Card through marriage, be sure to thoroughly read the instructions shown on the application. If you’re currently undocumented, on a visitor’s visa, or your immigration status is expired, be sure to consult an immigration solicitor or a
US Immigration Advisor to make sure that your status can be revised.
As with any other Green Card application, there are plenty of forms to complete. The fiancés or spouses of US citizens can enter the country on a temporary visa, namely the K1. Once in the country, you can then begin the full application process.
For this, you’ll need to fill in Form I-130. This is to prove your marriage or relationship is real and valid. The spouse who is a US citizen or permanent resident is called the sponsor or petitioner, and the one receiving the Green Card is called the applicant.
Essentially, you need to provide evidence that your marriage is real. A marriage certificate is a good start, but you’ll also need to show something like a joint bank account, lease agreement, or mortgage statement. This is to prove that you genuinely live together and function as a “real” couple.
It can take USCIS up to 15 months to make a decision on Form I-130. This is because it needs to be careful about fraud and because there’s usually a substantial backlog. USCIS might also ask for more supporting evidence, but you’ll typically receive this request within 3 months of submission.
Applying for a Green Card
The next step in getting a Green Card through marriage is to actually apply for it. This can be done regardless of whether the foreign spouse is living in the US or abroad, although the process is slightly different for each.
If applying for a Green Card through marriage from within the US, the process is basically the same as for any other application. You begin by filling in Form I-485, which is the standard Green Card form. This will include attending a medical, an interview, and giving your biometric information.
For spouses living outside of the US, you’ll need to follow the consular processing route. It still allows for a Green Card through marriage, but the interview is completed at your closest US consulate or embassy. Also, you submit forms to the National Visa Center rather than directly to USCIS.
After you have applied
Providing USCIS is happy with all your documents, you’ll just have to wait to be issued with a Green Card. This can take up to 3 years, but the foreign spouse is allowed to continue living in the US on their temporary visa while they wait for the decision.
If you’ve been married for less than 2 years, the foreign spouse will be issued a conditional Green Card. This lasts for 2 years as opposed to the normal 10, and is easier for USCIS to revoke. While it’s unlikely it’ll do this, it’s issued because marriages of less than 2 years are deemed a higher risk of fraud.
However, if you’ve been married for more than 2 years, you’ll be issued a permanent Green Card. This is the normal kind that’s valid for 10 years and comes with all the standard perks of permanent residency.
What Happens Next?
Now that you have a Green Card through marriage, you can live as a couple in the US. You can also freely work and travel, just as any other permanent resident would.
One massive benefit of a Green Card through marriage is the path to citizenship. You don’t have to wait 5 years to apply like other permanent residents. Instead, you can apply after 3 years, providing you’re still married. You do still need to meet the other criteria, though, but these are pretty easy.
Although it’s not something people like to think about, it’s worth mentioning what happens to your Green Card through marriage if you get divorced. First, it depends on how long you’ve been married.
If you split up while on a conditional Green Card, chances are it’ll be revoked. However, if you’ve got a permanent one, you’ll get to remain in the country. The only real difference will be that you’ll have to wait the full 5 years before applying for citizenship.
As you can see, getting your Green Card through marriage is far from being a simple process. Before undertaking it, you might want to consider entering the Green Card Lottery. You can enter the Green Card Lottery via the APPLY TODAY section and if you win, you will be able to bypass a great deal of the verification paperwork that will be required otherwise.