What Is a Marriage-based Green Card and Who Qualifies?
You qualify for a marriage-based green card if you are the spouse of a United States citizen or a foreign national currently living in the U.S. with a permanent resident card. Under U.S. Department of State guidelines, those considered a spouse include:
- Anyone legally wed:
Cohabitation does not qualify.
- Common law marriages:
This may qualify for immigration purposes depending on the laws in the country where your common law marriage occurred.
- Cases involving polygamy:
In countries where polygamy is legal, only the first spouse qualifies as a beneficiary for a marriage-based green card.
If the couple has been married for two years or less, the green card will be granted on a conditional basis and is valid for two years. After this, you must file Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence.
The Difference Between Adjustment of Status and Consular Processing (for marriage-based cases)
There are two options in terms of how a foreign spouse can get a marriage-based green card (become a U.S. lawful permanent resident: LPR) and how the application is processed:
1. Adjustment of Status
If you are a foreign-born person married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident currently residing in the United States, you may apply for a marriage-based green card through adjustment of status (AOS) while remaining in the U.S.
2. Marriage Consular Processing
If you are married to a U.S. citizen or permanent resident but live abroad, you must apply for a green card via consular processing. This is generally the best option for foreign-born spouses who are not authorized to travel to the United States or have an expired temporary visa.
Fees and Documentation Required for Marriage Green Cards
We will assist with the underlying Form I-130, Petition For Alien Relative as well as the Adjustment of Status application or Consular Processing application.
Documentation required with your application includes:
- Evidence of U.S. citizenship or your lawful permanent resident status;
- Your marriage certificate and decree of divorce from prior marriages;
- Evidence you are in a bona fide marriage, such as birth certificates for children or documents showing jointly owned assets;
- A report of medical examination and immunization.
If you are eligible for Marriage Adjustment of Status (AOS), you must also file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence, or to Adjust Status.
Whether filing for AOS or consular processing, you will need to pay the $535 processing fee for Form I-130. In addition, filing Form I-485 costs $1,140. Other fees bring the average cost of consular processing to $1,200. At $1,760, the average for an adjustment of status application is significantly more.
How Long Does It Take To Get A Marriage Green Card?
If you apply for a marriage-based green card via adjustment of status, your application will be approved through USCIS. Wait times are generally 8 to 14 months. If you go through consular processing, you will be notified through the consulate or U.S. Embassy. This can take anywhere from five months to a year. Processing times are subject to change.
The faster processing times and lower application fees make getting a marriage-based green card via consular processing attractive. However, this route involves time outside the U.S., possibly away from your spouse. Adjustment of status allows you to remain together and work or travel throughout the U.S. while awaiting approval. To discuss the best option in your case, contact our Atlanta family-based immigration lawyers.
Currently, USCIS is experiencing an immigration backlog due to the Covid pandemic. According to the USCIS processing times online tool, the current wait time for Form I-130 is 11.5 – 25.5 months.
FAQs About Marriage-based Green Card Applications
What happens if my marriage green card application is denied?Elizabeth Garvish2022-08-10T13:20:34-04:00 What happens at the marriage interview, and how can I prepare for it?Elizabeth Garvish2022-08-10T13:19:53-04:00
You must attend an interview with either USCIS (if Adjusting Status within the U.S.) or consular officials (if consular processing outside the U.S.) to obtain a marriage-based green card. Questions generally focus on evaluating whether you are in a bona fide marriage.
Can you choose between marriage-based adjustment of status and consular processing?Elizabeth Garvish2022-08-10T13:19:29-04:00