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Marriage

There are several options of becoming a green card holder in U.S. through marriage to a US citizen or US Green Card holder.  

Depending on the status of the US spouse and where their foreign-born spouse lives, there are different options for immigrating and legalizing in America.

Marrying a U.S. citizen 

1. I-130 Petition and Consular processing

  • The US Citizen spouse first files an I-130 Alien Relative petition with USCIS.
  • The foreign born spouse may receive an Immigrant Visa if she is living in a foreign country and the US Citizen petitioner spouse files a family petition.  
  • The foreign spouse’s children may not be included in the petition. Children must have their own separate I-130 petitions filed for them by the US citizen petitioner.
  • After the petition is approved, the visa petition is processed first by the National Visa Center (“NVC”) where they collect required documents and financial support proof, and then the case is forwarded by the NVC to the Consulate in the country where the foreign spouse lives for an immigrant visa interview.  
  • At the immigrant visa interview, questions about the relationship and the foreign spouse’s eligibility are raised by the US consul.  In addition, public charge and financial support questions will be asked and the consul will want to see evidence of the foreign spouse’s ability to support herself in U.S.
  •  The Consulate issues an immigrant visa and upon entering US and paying the Immigrant Fee, the foreign spouse receives a green card.  

2. I-130 Petition and Adjustment of Status 

  • The US citizen spouse first files an I-130 Alien Relative Petition with USCIS
  • The foreign spouse’s children may not be included and need their own separate I-130 petitions and separate I-485 applications filed.
  • After the I-130 petition is approved or during the time the I-130 petition is processing, the foreign spouse files an I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Lawful Permanent Residence to receive a green card while in the U.S.
  • USCIS interviews the couple at the USCIS field office where they live as to whether their marriage is real and entered for love and to create a family together. 
  • USCIS also simultaneously interview the foreign spouse as to her eligibility for the green card (unlawful presence, lawful entry, arrests, convictions, morality issues, security issues, public charge and financial support eligibility).

Visa overstay (unlawful presence) and out-of-status stay is forgiven when the US spouse petitioner is a US Citizen,

Marrying a green card holder

1.I-130 Petition and Consular processing

  • The Green Card Holder (Lawful Permanent Resident) petitioner first files an I-130 Alien Relative petition with USCIS.
  • Children of the foreign spouses may be included in the petition and only one I-130 petition needs to be filed for them all.
  • The wait for the approval of the I-130 Family petition is longer than when the spouse is already a US citizen.  
  • The foreign born spouse may receive an Immigrant Visa if she is living in a foreign country and the US Citizen petitioner spouse files a family petition.  
  • After the petition is approved, the visa petition is processed first by the National Visa Center (“NVC”) where they collect required documents and financial support proof, and then the case is forwarded by the NVC to the Consulate in the country where the foreign spouse lives for an immigrant visa interview.  
  • The Spouse and the children must fill out separate immigrant visa applications 
  • At the immigrant visa interview, questions about the relationship and the foreign spouse’s eligibility are raised by the US consul.  In addition, public charge and financial support questions will be asked and the consul will want to see evidence of the foreign spouse’s ability to support herself in U.S.
  •  The Consulate issues immigrant visas and upon entering US and paying the Immigrant Fees, the foreign spouse and the dependent children will receive a green card.

2. I-130 Family Petition and Adjustment of Status

  • The Green Card holder spouse files an I-130 Family Petition. The couple waits for the I-130 to be approved. Approval times are much longer when the US spouse is only a green card holder versus being a US citizen.
  • When the visa category in F-2 category for issuance immigrant visas to spouses of Lawful Permanent Residents by the Department of State is current for the priority date (filing date of the I-130 petition), the foreign spouse may file for adjustment of status if they are:

                   – In status in the U.S. (for example, living in US on a student visa or work visa) and

                   – interested in living in U.S. while waiting for the Green Card interview.

  •  The foreign spouse files Form I-485 Adjustment of Status Application for Lawful Permanent Residence while in US and has a USCIS interview at the USCIS Field Office based on the place of residence of the couple.

K-1 fiancé visa

A U.S. Citizen petitioner may file a Fiancé Visa Petition (I-129F Petition for Alien Fiancé) for a foreign-born person to receive a K-1 Fiancé Visa to come to U.S. and marry the US citizen petitioner spouse.   

After the K-1 Visa holder marries the U citizen petitioner who brought her to the U.S., she may file for a green card in the US by filing an I-485 Application to Adjust Status to Lawful Permanent Residence.

Same-sex couples and their children can now apply for green cards through marriage and through a K-1 fiancé visa. 

Since 2020, all spouse immigrants and fiance immigrants to U.S. must have health insurance before entering U.S. and must demonstrate the ability to be self-sufficient in U.S. and never having used U.S. public benefits (like food stamps or Medicaid) prior to filing for the green card. 

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