The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has specific visa options for spouses of US citizens and green card holders (permanent residents). If you want to apply for a marriage-based green card, keep reading to understand the required process.
Obtaining Green Card Through Marriage – The Basics
Only US citizens or green card holders (permanent residents) can bring a spouse (husband or wife) to live in the United States.
If a US visa holder is under nonimmigrant status, his or her foreign spouse is not entitled to a marriage-based green card. The eligibility of spouses and other dependents of individuals under nonimmigrant classifications depends on each visa category.
US Citizens vs. Permanent Residents – Understanding the Application process
If you are a US citizen and your spouse is already in the United States under lawful status or parole, the first step is to file Form I-130 (Petition for Alien Relative) with Form I-485 (Application to Register Permanent Residence or to Adjust Status) at the same time.
If you are a US citizen and your spouse is outside the United States, the process will be handled in a US Embassy or Consulate abroad. The applicant must file Form I-130 with USCIS.
Once the petition is approved, it will be sent for consular processing. The consulate or embassy responsible for the application will notify the parties involved and provide all the necessary information.
For lawful permanent residents in the United States, the rules are similar. If the spouse is already living in the United States under lawful status or parole, the applicant must file Form I-130 on his or her behalf.
Once the petition is approved and the visa number is available, it is possible to file Form I-485 to adjust the spouse’s status to permanent resident status.
If the spouse is living outside the United States, the green card holder must file Form I-130 and wait for USCIS approval. After receiving approval, the petition will be sent for consular processing, similar to the process for US citizens.
The application process involves extensive documentation such as a valid passport, an affidavit of support, the beneficiary’s civil documents, the medical examination forms required by USCIS, and several other documents.
The process also requires an interview conducted by immigration officials to determine whether the marriage is a real relationship and not part of a scheme to circumvent US immigration laws.
US Marriage-Based Green Card – Conditional Residence
If the applicants have been married for less than two years when USCIS grants permanent resident status to the foreign spouse, the new visa holder receives a green card with a conditional residence.
Removing the conditions on the foreign spouse’s residence is a complex process. First, the couple must apply to remove the conditional status within 90 days before the expiration date on the green card.
The applicants must file Form I-751 (Petition to Remove the Conditions of Residence) with USCIS. If the couple fails to file to remove the conditions within the required period, the spouse’s status will be terminated.