What is the Marriage Green Card Timeline?
Would you like to apply to get a Green Card through marriage? In this guide, I will explain the process and the typical timeline. If you have any questions, you may call us at +1-818-741-1117 or you may request a free consultation by clicking this link.
- What is a Green Card through marriage?
- Marriage to either a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
- Applying from inside the United States (Adjustment of Status)
- Adjustment of Status Steps and Timeline
- Applying from outside the United States (Consular Processing)
- Consular Processing Steps and Timeline
What is a Green Card through marriage?
A Green Card, officially known as a Permanent Resident Card, allows you to permanently live and work in the U.S. There are several ways to become a permanent resident. One of the most common ways is through marrying a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. There are several steps in the Green Card process. The process will depend on whether you apply from inside or outside the U.S.
Marriage to either a U.S. Citizen or Lawful Permanent Resident
The rules are a little different depending on whether your spouse is a U.S. citizen (USC) or lawful permanent resident (LPR).
The U.S. Government places limits on the total number of Green Cards that can be issued in a year. That cap is further subdivided based on Green Card category and country of chargeability (country of birth in most cases). These caps can sometimes result in a wait period before a visa becomes available.
There is an exception to these limits for spouses of U.S. citizens. There are no limits to the number if Green Cards that can be issued to immediate family members of U.S. citizens. That means that you can get your Green Card as soon as your case can be processed if you are married to a U.S. citizen. But it can still take a long time for your application to be processed.
If you married a lawful permanent resident, you might have a waiting period before your visa becomes available. Each month, the U.S. Department of State issues a visa bulletin, which shows your place in line. You will need to check the current visa bulletin to see if you will have to wait for your visa. You will be in the second preference category (F2A) - spouses and children (unmarried and under 21 years of age) of lawful permanent residents.
Applying from inside the United States (Adjustment of Status)
If you are already in the U.S., you will most likely get your Green Card through adjustment of status (AOS). This process allows you to get your Green Card from inside the United States. It’s important to know that not everyone already inside the U.S. is eligible to adjust their status. You must be considered admissible to adjust your status. Having a criminal history, immigration violations, certain diseases and several other factors can make you inadmissible. You can get a waiver in some circumstances.
Adjustment of Status Steps and Timeline
- Your spouse files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and the I-130A supplement with USCIS.
- File Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status with USCIS. If you are married to a U.S. citizen, you can file form I-485 concurrently (at the same time) as form I-130. If you are married to a lawful permanent resident, you will need to check the visa bulletin to see if you are eligible for concurrent filing. As of this writing, spouses of lawful permanent residents can file form I-485 concurrently. Your spouse will also need to include Form I-864. This form is used to show that you aren’t likely to become a public charge (somebody who depends on financial support from the government). You might also want to file Forms I-765 and I-131, which will allow you to work and travel outside the U.S. while your case is pending.
- Attend your Biometrics Appointment. About 3 to 4 months after you submit your AOS application, you can expect a notice to attend a biometrics appointment at a local USCIS office. There, you will be photographed and fingerprinted.
- Attend your Green Card Interview. You and your spouse will need to interview with an immigration officer at a local USCIS office before getting your Green Card. This is the final step before you become a permanent resident. It can take from less than 1 year to more than 3 years from the point you submit your AOS application until your interview. Times can vary widely depending on the local USCIS office. Offices in cities like New York and Miami where there is a large volume of applicants often have the worst wait times.
- Receive your Permanent Resident Card. Most people receive their Green Card about 1 week to 1 month after their interview, though it can sometimes drag out longer. You will receive a conditional Green Card if you have been married less than two years. After two years, you will need to apply to remove the conditions.
The bottom line – All together, expect the AOS process to last from about 1 to 3 years.
Applying from outside the United States (Consular Processing)
If you are outside the U.S., you will receive your Green Card through a U.S. consulate in your home country or the country you live in (if different). You might also take this route if you aren’t eligible to adjust your status.
Consular Processing Steps and Timeline
- Your spouse files Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative and the I-130A supplement with USCIS. The processing time varies depending on which Service Center is processing your case and whether your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. If you are the spouse of a U.S. citizen, it can take from less than 6 months to almost 3 years. If you are the spouse of a lawful permanent resident, processing times are typically between 1 to 2 years.
- Once the I-130 is approved, your case is sent to the National Visa Center (NVC). If you are married to a U.S. citizen, there is no wait time and this process can begin immediately. If you are married to a lawful permanent resident, you might have to wait for a visa number to become available. As of this writing, wait times for the F2A category are very short and there should be a visa available by the time your I-130 is approved. It will take the NVC about 2 weeks to get your case set up.
- You and your spouse will need to pay fees and upload the required documents. For your spouse, that will be Form I-864 and supporting financial documents. For you, that will be Form DS-260 online visa application and civil documents. Once everything is uploaded, it will take the NVC about 3 months to review your documents.
- Once the NVC approves your application and documents, they will schedule a visa interview for you. It has become very difficult to predict how long it takes to have your appointment scheduled. The COVID-19 pandemic closed consulates and not all have resumed normal visa processing. Even those that have face serious appointment backlogs. Pre-pandemic, you could expect to wait 2 to 6 months for your visa interview. Timelines can vary depending on the individual consulate.
- You will receive your visa allowing you to enter the U.S. This usually happens fairly quickly, in 1 to 2 weeks. Some cases are sent for administrative processing, which can add weeks or months to the timeline. If this happens, it is usually because you have (or are suspected of having) complicating factors in your background or case.
- You can expect to receive your Green Card in the mail within 90 days of entering the U.S. You will receive a conditional Green Card if you have been married less than two years. After two years, you will need to apply to remove the conditions.
The bottom line – All together, receiving your Green Card through consular processing takes about 1 to 4 years from filing the I-130 to having your Green Card in hand.
Applying for a Green Card through marriage is one of the most common ways of getting a Green Card. You should now have a much better understanding of the application process and timeline.
Timelines can vary significantly. Factors such as whether you are applying through adjustment of status or consular processing, whether your spouse is a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident and the USCIS service center, field office or consulate that is handling your case can all impact the timeline.
If you have any questions on any of the information discussed in this guide, feel free to email me directly at Michael@AshooriLaw.com. I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer, I’m very responsive via email, and I would be happy to help you.
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Michael Ashoori, Esq.
U.S. Immigration Lawyer
I’m a U.S. immigration lawyer and I help families, professionals, investors, and entrepreneurs get visas, green cards, and citizenship to the United States.
Since starting my law firm, I’ve helped hundreds of people from all over the world with their immigration needs. I’m very passionate, hard-working, and committed to my clients.
Got a question? Send me an email.