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How to Get a Green Card Through Marriage

Updated on October 3, 2013

Getting a Green Card Through Marriage

Getting married is only the very beginning of the Green Card process.
Getting married is only the very beginning of the Green Card process. | Source

A “Green Card” refers to Lawful Permanent Resident status in the United States. Many mistakenly believe all one has to do is marry a citizen of the United States to get a Green Card. There is actually a lengthy process to apply for lawful permanent resident status. There are also more qualifications than simply getting married.

Getting a Green Card through marriage is a three step process. The first step is completing the right forms. The second step is getting together required documents and submitting the forms and documents. The third step is attending an interview with an immigration official. This process can be complicated and it may be useful to get advice from a licensed attorney before starting.


The Entry

The easiest way to get a Green Card through marriage is with a legal entry. What does legal entry mean? You have made a legal entry into the United States if you had a visa to enter the United States, or are from a visa waiver or visa exempt country, and you presented yourself at the border or point of entry to be inspected by Customs and Boarder Patrol. Once the agent has let you into the United States, you have made a legal entry. If you entered illegally there are additional steps and forms before you can get a Green Card that are not detailed in this article.

Usually when you enter the United States you are given a time you must leave the United States. This time can vary anywhere from fourteen days to six months to three years to longer. The length of approved stay will depend on what type of visa you have and how long the CBP agent felt you needed to accomplish the purpose of your trip.

Sample Visitor Visa

Example: Linda is from Austrailia. She was accepted to a college in the United States. She applied for an F Visa (student visa) from the U.S. Embassy in Austrailia. She was granted a visa and it was placed in her passport. Linda flew into San Francisco and was interviewed by a CBP agent. He asked her where she was going to school and if she had any food in her bags. After a short interview he stamped Linda’s passport and she went on to find her ride. Linda made a legal entry into the United States.

What if I overstayed my visa?

A common problem people have is they stay longer than permitted on their visa. If you are married to a United States citizen, overstaying your visa will most likely not cause any problems. Like everything in the law, there are several exceptions. If you are married to a Lawful Permanent Resident, overstaying your visa may be a big problem. However, being the spouse of a United States citizen will forgive overstaying a visa, as long as you have not left the country since your period of authorized stay expired.


Forms and Fees Needed for a Green Card

Form
Purpose
Fee
I-130
Petition for foreign family
$420
I-485
Application for Green Card
$985 or $1,070
I-765
Application for Work Permit
$380
I-864
Affidavit of Support
$0
G-325A
Biographic Information
$0
Source for Filing Fees is USCIS.gov/

The Forms


The first step in getting Lawful Permanent Resident status is to fill out a lot of forms. These forms can be found at www.uscis.gov/forms . There are also directions for all the forms, filing fee amounts, and addresses where forms need to be sent. The forms that will be needed are:

  • I-130
  • I-485
  • I-765
  • I-864
  • G-325A (One for each spouse)

Before completing any of the forms you should have the following information in front of you:

  • Dates of birth for husband, wife, and any children for either husband or wife
  • Addresses for past five years
  • Employment for past five years
  • Date of entry into the United States and copy of visa (if any)
  • Date and place of marriage
  • Dates and places of birth, place of current residence, or date of death of foreign spouse’s parents
  • U.S. Citizen’s income for last tax year

Read the directions for the forms and complete the forms online or in blue or black ink. I recommend using a computer equipped with Adobe Reader to make the forms are as neat as possible. Once the forms are filled out, check them over and make sure everything is accurate and spelled correctly. Any mistakes could lead to a delay or denial in the immigration process. Make sure all the forms are signed.

What do I need to send with the forms?

Next you need to get the immigration packet together. In addition to the forms mentioned above you will need to submit the following documents:

  • Filing Fees (I recommend a separate check/money order for each fee)
  • Two passport size pictures of Husband
  • Two passport size pictures of Wife
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate
  • Copy of foreign spouse’s passport, visa, and or entry stamp
  • Copy of either U.S. citizen’s U.S. passport, U.S. birth certificate, or U.S. Naturalization certificate
  • Copy of last tax year’s tax return with all schedules, including W-2’s and 1099’s
  • Letter from U.S. spouse’s current employer stating date of hire, current rate of pay, and approximate number of hours
  • A physical on form I-693 in a sealed envelope
  • You will also need copies of prior divorce decrees or death certificates from prior marriages if applicable

I recommend writing a cover letter listing everything included in the packet. Make sure the pictures and filing fees are attached to the forms with a paperclip or staple so that they are not overlooked. Double check the mailing address.

I mailed the forms, now what?

Once the forms are mailed you should receive several fee receipts from immigration telling thanking you for your money in about three weeks. In three to six weeks the foreign spouse should receive an appointment to go get biometrics taken. The notice will have an address and appointment date and time. The foreign spouse should attend the appointment and bring photo identification. This is not the final interview. This is just an appointment for the foreign spouse to be fingerprinted and photographed. It is usually a short appointment.

Depending on where you live, sometime between four and twelve months, you will receive a notice from immigration for both spouses to attend an interview. There will be a specific date and time and an address to report to. Both spouses must go to this interview or the application will be denied. You should both be on time for the interview, even though immigration is usually running late. Make sure to bring all the documents requested in your notice.

Both spouses are interviewed together, unless marriage fraud is suspected. The interview usually takes about thirty minutes. If you have been honest and done everything correctly you will likely get an approval at the interview. If you are approved the green card will arrive in the mail about three weeks after the interview. Congratulations, you are now a Lawful Permanent Resident.

"Green Card" or Lawful Permanent Resident Card

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