Applying for a Green Card Through Marriage

Getting a green card through marriage is one of the methods a person can use to immigrate to the U.S. For additional info and advice, call the Law Office of Diana Levy.

Getting a Spousal Green Card in the US

Getting married to a U.S. citizen is one of the most popular ways for people from other countries to get permanent residency and a green card in the United States. This is because, under US immigration law, foreign spouses of U.S. citizens receive unique immigration benefits. They qualify as immediate relatives of U.S. citizens, so their journey to obtaining a (marriage) green card and, eventually, U.S. citizenship is a bit more straightforward than other categories of family-based immigration applications.

However, to qualify for a marriage-based permanent resident card, a foreign-born spouse must be legally married to a U.S. citizen and meet all other eligibility requirements as stated by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you’re a foreign national engaged or married to a U.S. citizen or a U.S. citizen in such a relationship and you’re interested in obtaining a green card for your foreign spouse, you likely have questions about the relevant immigration process.

This guide provides some generic information on getting a green card for a foreign spouse. However, if you require detailed information about your case, you may consult a family immigration lawyer.

Keep reading to learn more.

The Procedure for Obtaining a Spousal Green Card 

..The procedure for getting a green card through marriage depends on several factors, including whether the foreign spouse is present in the United States and the length of the marriage.

If you are applying for a marriage-based green card, bear in mind that the total cost is $1,760 if a spouse is living in the U.S. or $1,200 if a spouse lives outside the United States. It includes the government filing fees along with some other expenses. However, it doesn’t include the cost of the medical examination, which can cost from $200 to $500.

The procedure includes the following steps:

  • Establish the marital relationship with Form I-130 and supporting documents
  • Prove that the foreign spouse is eligible for obtaining a marriage green card with Form I-485 or DS-260
  • Attend the green card interview

Marriage-based green card procedure is a bit different depending on whether the foreign national spouse is currently living in the United States or not.

If the Foreign Immigrant Spouse Is Already in the US

In some cases, the foreign spouse seeking a green card may already be present in the U.S. They may have entered the US lawfully via a non-immigrant visa, such as a tourist or student visa, before getting married to their U.S. citizen spouse.

K3 visa holders and K1 visa holders who entered the U.S. to get married to their spouses also fall within this category.

In such cases, since the immigrant is already present in the US, they would need to apply to the USCIS to adjust their immigration status.

The procedure requires the U.S. citizen spouse to file Form I-130, which is the immigrant petition form for an alien relative on behalf of the applicant. Once the petition is granted, the immigrant spouse would need to file Form I-485, which is the application to adjust status. In some situations, you may be allowed to file both forms concurrently.

Once you’ve submitted all the necessary information, you’ll need to attend your biometrics appointment and green card interview as scheduled by the USCIS.

You’ll receive a decision on the success or otherwise of your application once the processing is complete. If you’re successful, you’ll receive your green card via mail after a while.

However, if you’ve been married for less than two years, you’ll receive a conditional green card/permanent residency valid for two years. You can remove the conditions on your green card by filing a petition with the USCIS 90 days before the conditional permanent residency expires.

If you need more information about this pathway to a spousal green card via a K-1 fiance visa or any other non-immigrant visa, you can contact a K-1 visa lawyer for help and guidance.

If the Immigrant Spouse Is Outside the US

If the immigrant spouse is outside the U.S., the path to permanent residency is through an IR1 or CR1 immigrant visa.

An IR1 visa is granted to foreign national spouses of U.S. citizens whose marriages are more than two years old; otherwise, a CR1 visa is granted.

These visas are obtained via consular processing. However, the U.S. citizen spouse would still need to first file Form I-130 and an affidavit of support with the USCIS from within the U.S.

Once the petition is approved, it is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC) for pre-processing. The NVC will inform you of the fees you need to pay and the documents you need to submit.

Once your file is complete, you’ll be scheduled for a visa interview at the U.S. embassy or consulate near you. You’ll need to complete your medical examination before your appointment.

If successful, you’ll be granted an IR1 or CR1 visa, depending on your circumstances. Once you have entered the U.S., your green card will be mailed to you shortly.

Documents Needed to Apply for Green Card Through Marriage

If you intend to apply for a green card through marriage, you’ll need several important documents other than the required immigration forms.

Primarily, you’ll need to establish the validity of your marriage with your bona fide marriage certificate since that is the basis of your eligibility for a marriage-based immigration visa.

Other necessary documents you may require depending on your specific circumstances include the following:

  • Birth certificate
  • Marriage certificate
  • Divorce decree (if applicable)
  • Passport
  • Petitioner’s photo ID
  • Petitioner’s criminal record (if applicable)
  • Police clearance certificates from all countries of residence since age 16 (if applicable).

After submitting your application, you may also be asked to provide additional supporting documents by the USCIS or embassy. It is essential to comply with such requests, as a refusal could adversely affect your application.

Can a Marriage Green Card Be Denied?


Yes, the USCIS can deny a marriage-based green card application for a variety of reasons. The USCIS grants adjustment of status at its discretion, so being in a valid marriage doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a green card.

For example, U.S. citizen or green card holder sponsoring their spouse has to prove they have enough financial resources to support them. The USCIS typically requires that sponsoring spouse earns at least 125% of the Federal Poverty Level so their applicant spouse can qualify for a green card. A Form I-864 (Affidavit of Support) and evidence such as tax returns and pay stubs can be used as proof for the sponsoring spouse.

Other reasons for denial can include particular medical issues and certain types of criminal records. Also, if a green card applicant doesn’t have a valid entry document or the USCIS believes their nonimmigrant visa was used as a way to reach the U.S. to adjust status, a green card through marriage will not be approved.

Can the Immigrant Spouse of a Lawful Permanent Resident Get a Green Card?

The spouse of a permanent resident can apply for a green card by the adjustment of status process or consular processing as described above. However, there are slight deviations from the process earlier described, including the following:

  • The fiance of a green card holder is not entitled to a K-1 visa, so their entry to the US is restricted to other non-immigrant visas before they can qualify for adjustment of status.
  • Spouses of permanent residents are generally not entitled to the concurrent filing of Form I-130 and I-485 when filing for adjustment of status. In most cases, concurrent filing eligibility is restricted to U.S. citizens’ immediate relatives, including their spouses. Spouses of permanent residents have to wait for an available immigrant visa in their category before they can file Form I-485.
  • Spouses of permanent residents are not eligible for IR1 or CR1 visas. However, they can still get a marriage-based green card by applying under the USCIS family preference categories.

How an Experienced Immigration Attorney Can Help You Obtain a Spousal Green Card


There is a lot of documentation to handle and information to process when you seek to become a legal permanent resident in the U.S. However, working with an immigration law firm can help simplify things.

Your immigration lawyer in Los Angeles can help you with all aspects of the green card process, from filing the necessary paperwork to understanding what is required. Their familiarity with immigration laws and processes makes it easy to avoid any mistakes that could lead to a denial of your application. Consider hiring one today to improve your chances of getting a green card.

If you have further questions about spousal immigration, obtaining a green card, or any other immigration process, reach out to us at the Law Office of Diana L. Levy, P.A. We can offer immigration services and guidance, as well as handle the immigration process on your behalf, depending on your unique needs.

Contact us today to get started with a free consultation.