There are at least three different ways to obtain a green card through marriage. The most common way–green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen.
green card through marriage to a U.S. citizen
The category of immediate relatives includes husbands and wives of U.S. citizens. It is presumed that visa numbers are immediately available for them. However, it would be false to say that immediate relatives can receive their green cards without any wait.
The process starts with filing I-130. The government charges $535 for filing this petition. U.S. citizen files this form for the spouse. Processing times vary based on Service Center processing I-130.
one can apply in the U.S. by filing an application for adjustment
Adjustment stands for changing nonimmigrant status to a green card. Adjustment of status is not possible if the spouse of a U.S. citizen is abroad. There are multiple requirements for adjustment of status. Take a look at the disqualifying factors in the section on form I-485 with yes or no questions.
The most common ground of ineligibility for adjustment is entering the United States unlawfully. Form I-485 is needed in every case where the applicant seeks adjustment of status. The government filing fee at the time of this writing is $1,225.
Immediate relatives are eligible for one-step adjustment of status. One step means that both petition and application for adjustment are filed simultaneously. You can pay the government fee for submitting these two applications with one check for $1,760. USCIS will mail receipts for form I-130 and for the form I-485 both to the applicant and to his attorney.
USCIS will schedule a fingerprinting appointment, aka biometrics, in all cases of green card through marriage. Alien spouse attends this appointment to get fingerprints taken. Many applicants apply for their work permit and travel document during adjustment process. These applications are free of charge when the applicant pays I-485 filing fee.
It takes about 15 months from submitting the forms for green card through marriage in San Francisco, California, until the interview.
receiving green card after an interview at a U.S. consulate abroad
In many cases of green card through marriage, U.S. citizen spouse will not qualify for adjustment. Then there may be no other option but for attending a US consulate abroad and going through and interview.
First, U.S. citizen initiates the process by filing I-130 with USCIS. It takes about 6 to 9 months since filing for green card through marriage for USCIS to make a decision and approve I-130. Then they forward it to the NVC. After a few months National Visa Center e-mails petitioner a fee bill to pay $325 for printing a visa sticker and $120 to process affidavit of support, which must be filed on form I-864. Then the alien spouse fills out form DS-260 online and submits civil documents to NVC. U.S. citizen prepares and submits form I-864 by uploading it on the web portal of the NVC. If applicants do not contact NVC for longer than one year, NVC will terminate their process.
NVC reviews all the necessary documents and requests more if needed. Then they transfer the applicant’s file to the U.S. consulate. The consulate schedules an interview in the following few months. Applicant picks up the passport after the interview. If granted a visa, there will be a visa sticker in the passport. USCIS now charges $220 to print a plastic green card. The applicant can pay this fee after the interview and before or after entering the U.S. The first entry to the U.S. with the immigrant visa and inspection at the border are necessary to start once residency. The agent of the border patrol at the airport will stamp the visa sticker in the applicant’s passport. Visa stamp with endorsement serves as temporary green card for one year. The physical green card arrives by regular mail in several months.
getting married to a lawful permanent resident and applying for green card
We have written another article about how to get a green card through marriage with a resident.
marrying a U.S. citizen helps even if the legal stay in the US is over
Adjustment in the U.S. is possible even if the immigrant stayed longer in the States than his or her legal status permitted. Article INA 245(c) of the Immigration and Nationality Act provides legal authority. This exception applies only to immediate relatives of U.S. citizens. The category of immediate relatives includes spouses, parents, and unmarried children under 21 of U.S. citizens. All other categories of people immigrating through family or employment have to maintain lawful status until they file for adjustment. There is another exception for VAWA applicants and special immigrant juveniles applying for adjustment.
Immigration Attorney in San Francisco can help with a green card through marriage
Filling out and sending an I-130 to the immigration service is not very difficult. There is still potential for error and delay, if something goes wrong. Immigration attorney prepares all documents for green card through marriage, files petition with USCIS. Immigration attorney supervises the process all the way, up until the person obtains green card. As a rule, immigration attorneys do not overcharge for their help with adjustment or processing visa through a consulate. Expect to pay a little bit more if attorney agrees to attend your interview with you.
Andrei Romanenko, has helped hundreds to get a green card through marriage in San Francisco, California, and the Bay Area.