Marriage Green Card
Updated on 11/17/2023
When you marry someone, you hopefully begin a long life of happiness with your spouse.
For immigrants, marriage to a U.S. citizen or U.S. green card holder can provide one specific source of happiness –the opportunity to obtain a green card. With a green card, you receive various valuable rights, including to permanently reside in the United States, to permanently work in the United States, to apply for government-sponsored financial assistance for education, to sponsor other family members for a green card, and to be eligible to apply for U.S. citizenship after three or five years.
This article discusses marriage green card – green card based on marriage of a foreign spouse to a U.S. citizen or U.S. green card holder.
Marriage Green Card - Eligibility
To qualify for a marriage green card, you first need to meet two eligibility requirements.
First, you need to meet the definition of a marriage for U.S. immigration purposes.
Second, you need to meet the conditions for one of the two common types of marriage green card.
Definition of Marriage for U.S. Immigration Purposes
There is no formal definition of marriage for U.S. immigration purposes. Instead, for U.S. immigration purposes, the key generally is that the marriage is valid under the laws of the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed and celebrated.
This is known as the “place-of-celebration rule”. If the marriage is valid under the laws of the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed and celebrated, it generally can provide the basis to possibly qualify the marriage for a marriage green card. On the other hand, if the marriage is not valid under the laws of the jurisdiction where the marriage was performed and celebrated, it cannot provide the basis to qualify the marriage for a marriage green card.
There are certain exceptions to the place-of-celebration rule, as follows:
- Polygamous marriages are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes;
- Certain marriages that violate the strong public policy of the state of residence of the spouses are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes. This exception has been applied to certain incestuous marriages;
- Marriages entered into for the purposes of evading the U.S. immigration laws are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes. This exception is often known as “marriage fraud”. Among the factors that will be reviewed to determine if marriage fraud exists arehow long have the spouses known each other, how many times did the spouses meet prior to the marriage, did the spouses live together in the past or do the spouses live together currently, do the spouses come from the same cultural background, did the spouses become married only after one of the spouses became subject to a U.S. immigration investigation, removal, or deportation proceeding, and did one of the spouses previously obtain a green card based on a prior marriage (unless five years have elapsed since the previous green card or the prior marriage was terminated by death).
- Certain “virtual marriages” are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes. A virtual marriage (also known as a “proxy marriage’) is when the married couple is not physically present together for the marriage. Virtual marriages are not recognized for U.S. immigration purposes, unless the virtual marriage has been consummated through sexual relations after the marriage.
Types of Marriage Green Card
There are two common types of marriage green card –IR1 visas and F2A visas.
The IR1 visa is a green card for the spouse of a U.S. citizen. If you marry a U.S. citizen, you can qualify for an IR1 visa.
An IR1 visa has its name because it is one of the “immediate relative” (“IR”) green cards. An immediate relative green card is particularly beneficial because there are an unlimited number of immediate relative green cards that are available. As an immediate relative green card, an IR1 visais not subject to any quota limitation that can slow the ability to be issued a green card.
The F2A visa is a green card for the spouse of a U.S. green card holder. If you marry a U.S. green card holder, you can qualify for an F2A visa.
An F2A visa has its name because it is part of the “F2A” (also known as “second preference”) category of “family preference” green cards. A family preference green card is not as advantageous as an immediate relative green card because a family preference green card can be subject to both numerical and country (based on the country of origin (country of birth) of the spouse seeking a green card) quotas. As a family preference green card, an F2A visa generally can take more time to obtain that an IR1 visa.
In addition to the requirements above, to obtain a marriage green card, the alien spouse must be admissible, which is a general requirement for all green card applicants. Commonly known grounds of inadmissibility include criminal records, visa fraud, infectious deceases, deportation or removal, national security threat to the United States, possibility of public charge to the United States, three or ten years inadmissible bar, etc. You can free to check eligibility at DYgreencard.com without providing credit card or personal information. Try here if you plan to apply for IR1 visa, try here if you plan to apply for F2A visa.
Marriage Green Card Process
Certain specific steps must be followed to obtain a marriage green card.
Whether you are seeking an IR1 visa or an F2A visa, the first step in the marriage green card process is to file Form I-130, “Petition for Alien Relative”. Form I-130 is filed by the U.S. citizen (IR1 visa) or U.S. green card holder (F2A visa) spouse (known as the “Petitioner”) with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”).
Form I-130 has the following parts to be completed:
- Part 1 –Relationship between the Petitioner and the foreign spouse (known as the “Beneficiary”);
- Part 2 – Information about the Petitioner, including name information, address information, marital information, information about parents, and employment history information;
- Part 3 – Biographic Information about the Petitioner;
- Part 4 – Information about the Beneficiary, including name information, address and contact information, marital information, information about family, entry information, and employment information;
- Part 5 – Other Information, including whether the Petitioner ever previously filed a petition for the Beneficiary or any other person;
- Part 6 –Petitioner’s Statement, Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature;
- Part 7 – Interpreter’s Contact Information, Certification, and Signature;
- Part 8 – Contact Information, Declaration, and Signature of the Person Preparing the petition, if other than the Petitioner; and
- Part 9 – Additional Information.
In addition, with the Form I-130, various documents and other evidence need to be submitted, including:
- If the Petitioner is a U.S. citizen (i.e., for an IR1 visa), a copy of the Petitioner’s birth certificate showing that the Petitioner was born in the United States, or a copy of the Petitioner’s naturalization certificate or certificate of citizenship issued by USCIS or valid U.S. passport;
- If the Petitioner is a U.S. green card holder (i.e., for an F2A visa), a copy of the Petitioner’s green card;
- A copy of the marriage certificate for the Petitioner and the Beneficiary;
- If the Petitioner or the Beneficiary were previously married, copies of documents showing the legal termination of the prior marriages;
- Two identical color passport-style photos of the Petitioner and the Beneficiary; and
- Documentation proving a bona fide marriage, including documentation showing joint ownership of property, a lease showing joint tenancy of a common residence, documentation showing combined financial resources, birth certificates of children born to the Petitioner and the Beneficiary together, affidavits sworn to or affirmed by third parties having personal knowledge of the bona fides of the marital relationship, or any other relevant documentation to establish that there is an ongoing marital union. You many learn more about it in our article Evidence of Bona Fide Marriage. It is permissible not to submit these documentation with Form I-130. You can always submit them at the green card interview later.
With the filing of the Form I-130, the Beneficiary also must complete and file Form I-130A, Supplemental Information for Spouse Beneficiary, with USCIS.Form I-130A requires information about the Beneficiary, including name information, address history information, parent information, and employment history information (including employment outside the United States if any).
If the Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, and the foreign spouse is living outside of the United States, the next step in the marriage green card process is known as consular processing.
Consular processing means that the marriage green card application is ultimately processed through a U.S. consulate or embassy in the country where the foreign spouse is residing. Specifically:
- USCIS will send the approved Form I-130 to the U.S. Department of State’s National Visa Center (“NVC”). The approved Form I-130 then will be on hold until a visa number is available for the foreign spouse. This point is where the distinction between IR1 visas and F2A visas becomes most significant. As described above, while an IR1 visa as an immediate relative green card will be immediately available, an F2A visa as a family preference green card, because of possible numerical and country quotas, may not be immediately available and can be delayed.
- Once a visa number is available, NVC will issue an invoice number. With this invoice number, the couple can login in CEAC, which is NVC’s electrical immigrant visa processing system. All the information and documents required by NVC should be submitted through CEAC.
- After the invoice get paid through CEAC, the U.S. citizen or green card holder will need to complete and submit Form I-864, Affidavit of Support to prove their financial ability to support the foreign spouse after the foreign spouse immigrates to the United States. The foreign spouse will need to complete and submit Form DS-260, Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration. Form DS-260 requires responses to various questions, including questions concerning name, address, work and educational history, and family member information, and questions concerning possible inadmissibility to the United States.
- After Form DS-260 is submitted, the foreign spouse will be instructed to also submit various civil documents to NVC, including passport ID page, one U.S. passport-style photo, birth certificate, marriage certificate, divorce certificate, court and prison records, military records, and police certificate, as applicable.
- NVC will review all the information and documents submitted by the couple. If any missing, the couple will have chance to re-submit. Finally, NVC will notify the couple through email that the foreign spouse is documentarily qualified to have an immigrant visa interview at the designated U.S. embassy or consulate where the foreign spouse is residing.
- The foreign spouse will receive an immigrant visa interview notice through email from NVC. Interview preparation including having an immigration medical examination with an authorized physician and colleting all original civil documents. Then the foreign spouse needs to attend the interview at the designated U.S. embassy or consulate. The visa officer at the interview generally will play a critical role in deciding whether the marriage green card visa shall be approved. If approved, IR1 visa or F2A visa will be issued in the passport of the foreign spouse. And a physical green card will be mailed to foreign spouse within 120 days from the foreign spouse’s entry to the U.S. with the IR1 visa or F2A visa.
Adjustment of Status
If the Form I-130 is approved by USCIS, and the foreign spouse is living in the United States, consular processing does not apply. Instead, the next step in the marriage green card process is known as adjustment of status.
Adjustment of status means that the marriage green card application is ultimately processed through USCIS. The foreign spouse’s status will change from whatever visa category previously permitted entry into the United States to the status of U.S. green card holder. Specifically:
- The foreign spouse will file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, with USCIS. Similar to consular processing, Form I-485 requires various information and documents about the foreign spouse, including two U.S. passport-style photos, a copy of photo ID, a copy of birth certificate, copies of documentation showing that the foreign spouse was inspected by an immigration officer and either admitted or paroled into the U.S., and certain certified police and court records as applicable. Different from consular processing, police certificate is not required in most cases. For F2A category applicant, evidence continuously maintaining a lawful status since arrival in the U.S. is required as well.
- Evidence of financial ability, Form I-864, Affidavit of Support is required to submit with Form I-485 as well. Form I-693 medical exam report is required, too. However, it can be submitted either along with Form I-485 or when USCIS ask for it through Request for Evidence notice in the future.
- Form I-485 generally cannot be filed unless a visa number is available for the foreign spouse. Thus, just same as with consular processing, IR1 visas, as always available immediate relative green cards, generally can be obtained more quickly than F2A visas, as family preference green cards subject to numerical and country quotas under adjustment of status.
- With an IR1 visa, but not an F2A visa that is not always immediately available, it is possible to file Form I-485 concurrently with Form I-130. Such concurrent filing is another reason why IR1 visas generally can be obtained more quickly than F2A visas.
- After Form I-485 is filed, the foreign spouse will attend a biometrics service appointment, to be fingerprinted and photographed. In some cases, the couple will need to be interviewed at a USCIS local office. Similar to the case with consular processing interviews, the USCIS officer at the adjustment of status interview can play a critical role in deciding whether the marriage green card application will be approved. If approved, the foreign spouse will receive the green card in the mail.
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If the marriage to the foreign spouse has been for less than two years when the foreign spouse enters the U.S. on an immigrant visa (IR1 visa or F2A visa) or when the I-485 adjustment of status application gets approved by USCIS, the marriage green card will be issued as a CR1 visa. The “C” in the CR1 visa means that the marriage green card is conditional.
The foreign spouses must apply to UCSIS on Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, to remove the conditional status from the CR1 visa within the 90 days before the expiration of the conditional green card. You may learn more about Form I-751 petition at our article Renew 2 Year Green Card.
Marriage Green Card Processing Time
Marriage green card processing times will vary based on the type of green card that is being pursued. Meanwhile, marriage green card processing times change over time.
For IR1 visas, the average processing time is approximately 6 to 18 months.
For F2A visas, the average processing time is approximately 2 to 4 years. By consulting the USCIS’s processing times data and the U.S. Department of State’s monthly Visa Bulletin, it is possible to get a current and accurate sense of F2A visa processing times.
Marriage Green Card Cost
There are two principal parts to the cost of obtaining a marriage green card – government filing fees and attorney expense.
The following is a summary of various required government filing fees to obtain a marriage green card:
- Form I-130 – $535
- Form DS-260 – $445 (consisting of a Visa Application Processing fee of $325 and an Affidavit of Support fee of $120)
- Form I-485 – $1,140 (biometrics services fee – $85 is required as well if applicant is under 79 years of age)
- Form I-751 – $595 (biometrics services fee – $85 is required as well)
In addition, because of the many complex issues involved in obtaining a marriage green card, it is prudent to incur the cost of retaining an attorney to assist with the marriage green card process.
Other Possible Green Cards
If a marriage green card cannot be obtained, it should be noted there are other possible ways to receive a green card, including:
- Other immediate relative green cards (unmarried children under 21 years of age of a U.S. citizen and parents of U.S. citizens (if the U.S, citizen is 21 years of age or older));
- Other family preference green cards (unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age and older) of U.S. citizens, children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of U.S. green card holders, unmarried sons and daughters (21 years of age or older) of U.S. green card holders, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens (if the U.S. citizen is 21 years of age and older); and
- Employment-based green cards (including persons with extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics, outstanding professors and researchers, certain multinational managers and executives (EB-1), members of the professions holding advanced degrees or who have exceptional ability (EB-2), certain other workers (EB-3 and EB-4), and certain investors who create certain jobs (EB-5)).
Not sure which type of green card you can try to apply for? Try DYgreencard.com’s first time free consultation with an immigration lawyer today!
When you marry someone, you want to share the benefits that you enjoy with your spouse.
For a U.S. citizen or a U.S. green card holder who marries a foreign spouse, a marriage green card can enable the foreign spouse to enjoy many of the benefits that the U.S. citizen has, and all of the benefits that the U.S. green card holder has, in the United States.
If your foreign spouse wants to live and/or work in the United States, a marriage green card, whether as an IR1 visa, an F2A visa, or a CR1 visa, and whether through consular processing or the adjustment of status process, should be pursued by you and your foreign spouse.
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