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Frequently Asked Questions About Green Cards Through Marriage

4.75 minute read
"Getting married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident makes the foreign national eligible for immigration benefits. It is one of the most common ways for foreign nationals to apply for a Green Card. A Green Card is a physical identification card that states your immigration status as a lawful permanent resident of the US."
Written by My Visa Source Team
Published on:  Aug 2, 2021
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Getting married to a US citizen or lawful permanent resident makes the foreign national eligible for immigration benefits. It is one of the most common ways for foreign nationals to apply for a Green Card. A Green Card is a physical identification card that states your immigration status as a lawful permanent resident of the US. 

Applying for a Green Card can be an unfamiliar and confusing process. However, successfully applying for a Green Card will make you eligible to live and work permanently in the US. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Regarding Obtaining a Green Card through Marriage

When is the best time to apply for a Green Card?

The best time to start your Green Card application process is after you have gathered sufficient documentation to prove that your marriage is Bona Fide. This means that you should be able to provide supporting evidence to prove that your marriage was for love and not solely for immigration benefits. 

The US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) may charge you with misrepresentation if there isn’t enough evidence to prove that your marriage was in good faith through Family-based Immigration. Most couples apply for a Green Card as soon as they receive their marriage certificate. 

Which forms are required to apply for a marriage-based Green Card?

To understand which forms will be required, first, you need to know that there are 2 ways to start the immigration process: Consular Processing and Adjustment of Status. The path you take usually depends on where you are applying. 

Consular Processing: 

Most people who go through consular processing live outside of the US. To start the process of your marriage-based Green Card through consular processing, the following steps must be followed:

  • US citizen or permanent resident spouse files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, to the USCIS
  • Once approved, additional forms must be submitted with the National Visa Center which includes Form DS-260, Immigrant Visa Application, and Form I-864, Affidavit of Support

Adjustment of Status: 

This process is followed when the foreign spouse is already residing in the US. The foreign spouse applies for Adjustment of Status by filing the following forms with the USCIS with their US citizen or permanent resident partner:

  • I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status
  • I-130, Petition for Alien Relative
  • I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary
  • I-864, Affidavit of Support
  • I-693, Report of Medical Examination and Vaccination Record
  • I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, if required
  • I-131, Application for Travel Document, if required

What options are available for fiancees or engaged partners of US citizens or permanent residents?

For foreign engaged partners of US citizens, the USCIS offers the K-1 Visa. The K-1 Visa is a nonimmigrant visa with dual intent, meaning that it allows your foreign engaged partner to travel to the US to get married within 90 days of arrival in the US.

This visa program will also allow the beneficiary to eventually apply for a Green Card through adjustment of status. To start the process of applying for a K-1 Visa, the US citizen partner will be required to file Form I-129F, Petition for Alien Fiancé.

Are marriage-based Green Cards available for same-sex couples?

Sam-sex marriages were legalized in all 50 states by the Supreme Court of the United States on June 26, 2015. Since then, the immigration system has been expanded to include same-sex couples.

Therefore, a married same-sex couple can utilize the US immigration system just like a heteronormative couple.

However, it will only be valid if the country where the marriage took place also recognizes it as legal. This is why many same-sex couples often prefer applying for the K-1 Visa mentioned above.

Can you get a marriage-based Green Card even if you are living apart from your spouse?

In these cases, your eligibility for a Green Card is determined based on your reasons for living apart from your spouse.

Marital Problems: 

Now, the USCIS understands that not all marriages work out, and having marital problems does not mean that your life in the US must come to an end. The USCIS only requires your marriage to be bona fide. Meaning that you must have gotten married for love and lifetime commitment even if it doesn't work out eventually. 

As long as you are not legally separated or divorced, you can still apply for a marriage-based Green Card. If you are living at separate addresses, then you will be required to provide a detailed explanation to the immigration officer.

Temporary Relocation: 

You may be forced to live apart from your spouse due to unavoidable circumstances such as an employment assignment or attending school in a different state or serving in the US Armed forces. 

In such cases, applying for a marriage-based Green Card is generally not a problem, however, it does make the situation a little more complicated.

How long does the processing of the marriage-based Green Card take?

The processing time usually depends on the type of immigration path taken, visa availability, visa backlog, and your ability to submit a completed application along with all the required documents.

Currently, consular processing is restricted due to the lockdowns imposed given the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. As for getting a Green Card through Adjustment of Status, the processing time is estimated to be 8 to 13 months.

When can you apply for US citizenship after obtaining a marriage-based Green Card?

As a lawful permanent resident in the US, you will be eligible for US citizenship after completing 5 years of continuous residence in the country.

However, if you have obtained your Green Card through marriage to a US citizen or permanent resident, then you can apply for US citizenship after just 3 years of continuous residence in the US. You will be required to submit Form N-400, Application for Naturalization.

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