Getting Green Card Through Marriage To a U.S. Citizen

  • POSTED: November 25, 2014
  • POSTED BY: LawrenceGruner

 Getting a Green Card Through Marriage To a U.S. Citizen

Getting a green card through marriage to a United States citizen is basically the quickest and most efficient way to obtain a green card.  As a U.S. Citizen you may apply for your spouse whether your spouse is in the United States or is living abroad.  If your spouse is abroad (living outside of the United States) it should take 12-14 months for your spouse to arrive in the United States.  (We would be happy to talk to you if this is your situation.) However, this article is for those U.S. Citizens who wish to apply for their spouses who are living here in the United States.

This area of law can be confusing and tricky.  There can be pitfalls along the way.  These pitfalls can lead to very serious consequences.Therefore, although you are never required to have a lawyer represent you in your immigration case, it is highly recommended that you consult with one before you file any paperwork with USCIS.  If your spouse entered the United States illegally then it is extremely important that you seek the advice of an immigration attorney.  Do not file any paperwork with USCIS unless you are working with a competent immigration attorney.


In order to get a green card through marriage you must be eligible to be married (meaning you meet the requirements of the jurisdiction in which you live to get married).  You must also have finalized your divorce or annulment.  Do not file for a green card for your spouse if either of you are still married as a divorce or annulment has not yet been finalized.  Only once you are legally married may you apply for the green card.

Your spouse will be considered an “immediate relative” for immigration purposes.  This means that your spouse will be eligible to obtain a green card without having to wait possibly several years (as other relative categories due) for her green card.  There are no quota limitations for spouses of U.S. Citizens.

The U.S. Citizen spouse must prove to the United States government that the marriage is real.   In addition, the U.S. Citizen will file forms I-130, I-130a, I-131 and proof of citizenship (either a certified copy of his birth certificate, U.S. passport, or copy of naturalization certificate) and a certified copy of divorce, death, or annulment decrees or certificates (if applicable).  Passport photos are also required of the U.S. Citizen.

The U.S. Citizen must also show that he can support his spouse financially.  He will need to file form I-864 and supply his most recent tax return, an employment letter which details his income, and 3 months worth of bank statements. This requirement can be met based on his income, assets, or a combination of the two.  If the citizen does not earn the required income (pursuant to the poverty guidelines), a joint financial sponsor can be obtained for the purpose of meeting this requirement.  Since this co-sponsor will be financially liable should the immigrant becomes a public charge it usually makes sense to speak to an attorney to see if there is any way the U.S. Citizen can proceed without the need of a co-sponsor. If this cannot be done then the co-sponsor needs to be aware of his or her responsibilities to the U.S. government if he or she becomes a co-sponsor.  In my experience only close relatives or friends agree to be a co-sponsor.  The co-sponsor will need to complete an additional I-864 form, turn in bank statements and tax returns to the government. The joint sponsor must be a US Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident and meet the income requirements as set out by USCIS.

The immigrant needs to provide proof of their legal entry into the Unites States.  However, not all legal entries are sufficient to file for lawful permanent residence, for example people who enter on C visas(Crewman visas) are not eligible to adjust status in the United States. (You should speak to a lawyer before filing anything with USCIS to ensure you are not going to have problems with your case.)
If  the immigrant did not enter legally they might be still eligible to file for their green card. However, this is a complicated area of the law. If the immigrant entered illegally then he or she should definitely consult with an immigration attorney prior to proceeding with the case.  Failure to do so could lead to removal from the United States for 3 to 10 years.
Assuming you are eligible to proceed then the immigrant must submit the following:
Their birth certificate
6 passport sized photos
Proof of their legal entry to the USA
Form I-485
Form I-765 (employment authorization)
their marriage certificate as
well as proof of any prior divorces
Sealed medical exam completed by a USCIS approved medical provider  (The immigrant and not the U.S. Citizen must undergo the medical examination. It must be done by a doctor who is approved by USCIS.)
Check for the USCIS filing fees and
other supporting documentation.
Necessary Steps
After all the documents have been submitted you will receive receipts from USCIS that they have received your application and fees. Next the USCIS, will schedule a biometrics/fingerprinting appointment. The next step will be receiving the interview notice for your “marriage/green card interview.” This interview should occur approximately six to twelve months after the applications are filed. (Although this can vary.)  You should read our blog post titled: Sample questions for green card interview. Shortly before your interview date you should receive your employment authorization document in the mail.  If all goes well at the interview then the immigrant should receive her green card within 30 days.
You should not leave the United States during the pendency of the case.  If you feel you must leave the country prior to your green card being issued then you may apply for advance parole in order to leave.  However, do not apply for advance parole if you have been in the United States illegally for 180 days or more as you may not be able to return for 3-10 years.  (If this is your situation either do not leave or consult with an immigration attorney to review your case in detail.) Just because USCIS grants you advance parole does not mean that they will allow you to re-enter the United States.  Therefore, be very careful about leaving the United States.

This article was titled: Getting green card through marriage The information provided on this site is not legal advice but general information only. Laws can and do change and additional laws may apply in your case Lawrence Gruner is a Sacramento Immigration Attorney, a Sacramento Immigration lawyer, a fiancé visa attorney, green card attorney and an  immigration attorney with almost 20 years of experience handling immigration cases.  He would be happy to talk to you about your immigration case.  He has office locations throughout California and handles cases throughout the United States and the World.  He may be reached at 888-801-6558. You should always at least consult with an immigration attorney prior to filing any immigration case.




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