U.S. citizens and legal permanent residents can apply for a marital green card to assist their mate in acquiring permanent residency in the U.S.

A green card, also known as a permanent resident card, is an important step in the immigration process because it grants the holder legal permanent residency in the United States. This means that the holder is allowed to live and work in the country permanently and can apply for citizenship after a certain period of time. Additionally, a green card holder is allowed to enter and exit the United States as they wish, and can sponsor their close relatives to come and live in the US as well.

The first step in acquiring a marriage green card is to get married.

The marriage must be recognized as a lawfully effective marriage in the state where it was entered into.

It is vital to note that the under-listed marriages are not acknowledged as legally valid marriages:

A legally valid marriage for immigration purposes is one that is recognized as such by the laws of the jurisdiction in which the marriage took place. This means that the marriage must be between two individuals who are legally able to marry, and must be recognized by the country in which it was performed. Civil marriages, family partnerships, or other arrangements that are not specifically acknowledged as marriage in the country where the marriage occurs will not be considered as legally valid. Additionally, polygamous marriages, where one spouse is already married to another person or persons, are not recognized as legally valid marriages for immigration purposes. Marriages in which one of the spouses is not attending the ceremony or marriages entered into with the intention of violating U.S. immigration laws will also not be considered as legally valid. It’s important to note that in order for the marriage to be considered as valid for immigration purposes, both parties must have entered into the marriage freely and voluntarily, not as a means of circumventing immigration laws.

A common law marriage can be acknowledged as a legal green card marriage.

To be acknowledged as a green card marriage, a spouse must reside in a place that meets the conditions required for a common law marriage.

Form I-130, Alien Relative Application.

Form I-130, also known as the Petition for Alien Relative, is an application that is used by U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents to sponsor certain family members for immigration to the United States. The form is used to establish the existence of a qualifying relationship between the sponsor and the relative being sponsored. The form must be filed with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and it is the first step in the family-based immigration process.

The I-130 form collects information about the sponsor and the relative being sponsored, including their personal and contact information, birth dates, and marriage information (if applicable). The form also requires the sponsor to provide evidence of their U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency status, and evidence of the qualifying relationship between the sponsor and the relative.

Completing this form is the first step you must take to acquire a marriage green card. 

Applicant and Beneficiary

In the context of Form I-130, “applicant” refers to the U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident who is sponsoring a family member for immigration to the United States. The applicant is also known as the “petitioner” and is responsible for submitting the I-130 form to the USCIS and providing evidence of their U.S. citizenship or legal permanent residency status, as well as evidence of the qualifying relationship between the sponsor and the relative being sponsored.

“Beneficiary” refers to the family member who is being sponsored for immigration to the United States. The beneficiary is also known as the “alien relative” and is the person who will be the recipient of the immigration benefits once the I-130 form is approved. The beneficiary is typically required to provide certain information and documentation, such as their birth certificate, passport, and other biographic information, as well as proof of their relationship to the applicant.

The applicant will need the under-listed information to complete Form I-130 correctly:

  • Address history for the past five years;
  • The name of any previous spouse (s);
  • The date of the termination of any former marriage;
  • All the work that has been done in the last five years;
  • Any former immigration petition to support a foreign beneficiary.

Address history for the past five years can be found on previous lease agreements, rent receipts, utility bills or any other documents that show the applicant’s address. The name of any previous spouse(s) and the date of the termination of any former marriage can be found on the divorce or annulment certificates. All the work that has been done in the last five years can be found on the applicant’s W-2 forms, pay stubs, or any other document that shows the applicant’s employment history. If the applicant has filed any previous immigration petition to support a foreign beneficiary, this information can be found on the previous Form I-130 or any other related immigration document. The applicant should gather all the required documents and information before filling the form to avoid any delays or errors.

The beneficiary will require the under-listed information to complete Form I-130 correctly:

  • Address history for the past five years;
  • The name of any previous spouse (s);
  • The date of the termination of any former marriage;
  • All the work that has been done in the last five years;
  • If in the U.S., a Form I-94 (see below) is required;
  • Any former immigration process.

Checklist of Required Documents for Form I-130

The following documents are required to complete Form I-130:

  • The applicant must supply proof that they are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident. Documents that meet this requirement include a U.S. citizen’s birth certificate or a permanent resident’s green card.
  • Certificate of marriage. The most common document is the marriage certificate.  
  • If any spouse has a former marriage, it is also vital to supply proof of termination of the marriage. A divorce document showing the name of the petitioner or beneficiary, as well as showing that the divorce was legally valid and is a common example.
  • Two passport-size photographs are needed for both the applicant and the beneficiary.

In the meantime, proof of bona fide marriage is necessary. Proof may include:

  • A valid marriage certificate issued by the government
  • Jointly filed tax returns
  • Jointly owned property or assets
  • Joint bank accounts or credit cards
  • Insurance policies with the spouse as the beneficiary
  • Birth certificates of children born to the couple
  • Affidavits from friends or family members attesting to the legitimacy of the marriage
  • Evidence of cohabitation, such as shared lease agreements or utility bills
  • Photographs of the couple together, showing their relationship over time
  • Evidence of shared responsibilities, such as joint bills or shared childcare arrangements
  • Correspondence between the couple, such as emails, letters, or text messages
  • Travel documents showing trips taken together
  • Social media posts or other online evidence of the couple’s relationship
  • Any other documents or evidence that can demonstrate the couple’s shared life and commitment to each other.

The husband and wife will be required to supply proof that the spouse is married and is not trying to acquire a green card from the immigration office fraudulently.

The application fee for submitting Form I-130 is $535 and shall be posted at the time of filing.

How much time does it take to be granted a marriage green card?

Spouses of U.S. Citizens

The great news for spouses of U.S. citizens applying for a marriage green card is that they can acquire an unlimited number of visas. 

This implies a much shorter processing time for the green card when the beneficiary is married to a U.S. citizen.

Green card processing time for spouses of U.S. nationals can take 11 to 13 months.

If the beneficiary resides in the U.S. and is wed to a U.S. national, the processing time is estimated to be between 7 and 13 months.

If the beneficiary resides abroad, the processing time may be up to 15 months.

Spouses of Permanent Residents

For spouses of permanent residents, the processing time for a green card can range from 12 to 14 months.

If the beneficiary resides in the United States, the processing time is estimated to be between 12 and 14 months.

If the beneficiary resides abroad, the estimated time will be between 22 and 32 months.

What occurs after submitting Form I-130?

After Form I-130 is submitted, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will begin the process of reviewing the petition for completeness and ensuring that all necessary documents have been supplied. This is an important step in the process as it helps to avoid delays in the processing. The applicant will be notified if there are any omissions or errors on the form, and will be given the opportunity to correct them.

After the initial review, USCIS will then examine Form I-130 and the supporting documents in depth. For example, USCIS will examine the marriage certificate supplied with Form I-130 to ensure that the marriage was legal in the place where the ceremony occurred. Other documents are also examined, such as any evidence submitted in support of the authenticity of the marriage and the passports of the applicant and beneficiaries. This is to ensure that the marriage is not fraudulent and that the parties have entered into the marriage voluntarily.

If USCIS approves the I-130 petition, it will inform the applicant and then send the immigration documents to an appropriate location. The location where the next steps take place depends on where the beneficiary is located. If the beneficiary is located in the U.S., the next step is to apply for an adjustment of status. If the beneficiary is overseas, they will be transported to the appropriate U.S. consulate or embassy overseas for consular processing.

It’s worth noting that the process could take several months or even years, depending on the current workload and backlog of the USCIS. The applicant will have to be patient and keep an eye on the status of the application using the receipt number provided on the acceptance notice.

Green Card Applicants Residing in the United States.

Adaption of status is the procedure by means of which an immigrant changes their immigration status from nonimmigrant to permanent resident.

If an immigrant does not qualify for regularization status, then they have to use the consular process.

In order to qualify for adjustment of status, the below conditions must be met:

1. The immigrant is present in the U.S. and will maintain their presence throughout the adjustment of the status process;

2. The immigrant is lawfully admitted to the country. This implies that the immigrant entered the country with the necessary documentation and was approved for entry by USCIS; and

3. The immigrant has an approved Form I-130.

If the immigrant satisfies these three qualifications, then they will need to file Form I-485, the Application to Registration Permanent Residence or Adjust of Status.

There are some immigrants who are lawfully admitted to the U.S. but will not be allowed to apply for adjustment of status.

These include immigrants who arrived in the U.S. as crew members and those who arrived in the U.S. on their way to a third country.

In addition, the grounds for denial continue to apply to immigrants in the country.

Examples of grounds of inadmissibility that prevent an immigrant from changing status include:

  • Health-related grounds, such as having a communicable disease or a history of drug addiction
  • Criminal history, such as having been convicted of a crime involving moral turpitude or of a controlled substance offense
  • Security-related grounds, such as being a member of a terrorist organization or having engaged in espionage or sabotage
  • Public charge, meaning that the person is likely to become primarily dependent on the government for subsistence
  • Fraud or misrepresentation, such as lying on an immigration application or using false documents
  • Unlawful presence in the U.S., meaning that the person has been in the U.S. without proper authorization or has overstayed their visa

The following documents are required when filing an I-485 application. These documents are required to show that the beneficiary is eligible for a green card:

  • Proof of lawful entry into the U.S. (for example, an I-94 record).
  • A copy of the applicant’s birth certificate and passport;
  • Proof that the I-130 applicant is able to economically back the beneficiary (Form I-864, Affidavit of Support).
  • The beneficiary must undergo a USCIS – approved medical examination (Form I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record);
  • If the applicant has ever been arrested, they must supply proof that he/she has not been convicted.

Spouses of U.S. citizens residing in the United States.

Spouses of married green card applicants and U.S. citizens residing in the U.S. may file Form I-485 at the same time the applicant files Form I-130.

The form may also be filed after the I-130 has been approved.

The filing fee for Form I-485 is $1,225.

When spouses of U.S. citizens file the I-485, the processing time is 9-12 months.

When the spouse of a lawful permanent resident files the I-485, the processing time is longer because the spouse must wait for the green card to become available. This usually increases the processing time by 8-10 months.

It is also vital to remember that the beneficiary must maintain legal status as a nonimmigrant during the treatment of the I-130 and I-485.

Green Card Applicants Residing Abroad

In addition to a change of status, another way to obtain a green card is through consular processing.

Consular processing is presently the only method available to those who are outside the U.S.

Once Form I-130 is approved, the national visa center will notify the applicant that the visa will soon be available.

Once the visa is about to become effective, it is able to start the procedure of gaining a green card through the consular process.

The below documents are necessary for the consular procedures:

– The applicant must submit an immigrant visa and alien registration application. This is form DS-260. The application fee is $325.

– The applicant will file an Affidavit of Support, Form I-864. This Affidavit of Support tells USCIS that the applicant will financially support the beneficiary if the beneficiary is unable to feed themselves. The fee for filing the Affidavit of Support is $120.

Interview at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate

If the beneficiary is abroad, an interview will be held at a U.S. embassy or consulate.

When a visa is issued, and the Form DS-260 and all other documents are received, the consular office will arrange an interview with the applicant.

The consular interview is a very vital part of the process.

You shall anticipate a number of issues regarding your spouse and your association with your spouse.

The interview will determine whether you are in a bona fide marriage.

You will be asked various questions about your spouse’s biographical information, for example, date and place of birth.

The interview will include questions about how you met your spouse and when you last saw and spoke with your spouse.

There are questions about your spouse’s family, about the wedding, and about your and your spouse’s future plans.

In that case, there will be issues regarding your background.

It is vital to answer truthfully and also to be ready.

Go through your spouse’s background and ensure that you understand as many specifics as possible about your spouse and their family.

If the consular authority approves the immigrant visa, then the applicant will receive a visa package.

This visa package will permit the applicant the opportunity to be accommodated in the U.S.

When the applicant heads to the U.S., they will present the visa package to the border customs officer at the entrance to the country.

If Customs determines that the applicant is acceptable, then the applicant will be accommodated as a permanent resident.

USCIS will post the green card to the new permanent admission in 45 days.

If you Have been Wed for under 2 Years

As you are issued your green card, you will likely notice that it is “conditional” and scheduled to expire in two years. 

In the case where you and your spouse have been wed for under 2 years from the date your green card is approved, then you will be issued this conditional green card.

It is vital to realize that holders of a conditional green card have the same rights and privileges as permanent residents who hold a permanent green card.

After two years, you will need to demonstrate again that the marriage is a bona fide marriage.

At that point, you will be issued a permanent green card.

To get a permanent green card, you must submit Form I-751, the Petition to Remove Conditions.

This form must be submitted within 90 days of the expiration of your conditional green card.

The application fee for Form I-751 is $680.

You will be required to supply additional evidence of a bona fide marriage.

This can include photographs of you and your spouse, extra evidence of joint financial responsibility, and proof of any children from the marriage – basically the same kind of evidence used on Form I-130.

Upon approval, you will be issued your permanent green card.


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