simvisa logo
(312) 298-9766
Start your process
The Marriage-Based Green Card: An Ultimate Guide

The Marriage-Based Green Card: An Ultimate Guide

Love knows no borders. For couples seeking to make their union official in the United States, a marriage-based green card is the key to building a life together.

This ultimate guide, developed with the experience and skill of a Chicago marriage visa lawyer, is your roadmap, guiding you through the intricacies of the green card application process for spouses.

From demystifying the requirements to navigating the paperwork maze, our dedicated team is here to empower you with knowledge and legal insight. Join us as we reveal the secrets to a seamless marriage-based green card application, helping you turn your dreams of a shared future into a reality.

What Is a Marriage Green Card?

A marriage green card, often referred to as a spouse visa or marriage-based visa, is a gateway to the United States for foreign spouses of U.S. citizens or permanent residents.

This important document allows the foreign spouse to live, work, and eventually pursue citizenship. It's the United States government's way of celebrating international love stories and uniting families across borders.

In essence, a marriage-based green card is a legal affirmation of your love, an official recognition that your marital bond is genuine and recognized under U.S. immigration law. This card opens the door to a happy life with your partner in the Land of Opportunity.

Eligibility Criteria for a Marriage-Based Green Card

Managing the complexities of obtaining a marriage-based green card demands a clear understanding of the eligibility prerequisites. This table provides a succinct overview of the key criteria that must be met for a successful application.

Eligibility Criteria for a Marriage-Based Green Card

By understanding and fulfilling these prerequisites, couples can embark on a path toward lawful permanent residency in the United States.

Step-by-Step Guide to Applying for a Marriage-Based Green Card

Step 1: Filling Out Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative

The journey to obtaining a marriage-based green card begins with the submission of Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative. The U.S. citizen or permanent resident spouse files this form to establish the familial relationship with the intending immigrant spouse.

Providing accurate information and necessary supporting documents, such as marriage certificates and proof of the bona fide nature of the relationship, is crucial at this stage. Once approved by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), I-130 sets the groundwork for the subsequent steps in the green card application process.

Important Components of an I-130/I-130A Application

  • Proof of U.S. citizenship or permanent resident status of the Petitioner, also referred to as the sponsoring spouse (birth certificate, current U.S. passport, naturalization certificate, etc.).
  • Proof of marriage (marriage certificate showing a legally valid marriage).
  • Evidence proving the bona fides of the marriage (shared bank accounts, joint lease or mortgage statements, joint insurance policies, communications like emails, call logs, text messages, etc.).
  • Proof that any previous marriages for either spouse have been terminated (such as a divorce decree or death certificate).
  • USCIS filing fee of $535.
  • Two recent passport photos for each spouse (please see our passport photo page for details).

Step 2: Completing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence

Upon approval of Form I-130, the intending immigrant spouse can proceed to file Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. This step involves submitting extensive documentation to establish eligibility for a green card, including medical examinations, police clearances, and financial affidavits.

Form I-485 also requires the payment of all applicable fees and, in some cases, attendance at an interview with USCIS. Completing this step grants the intending immigrant spouse conditional or permanent resident status, depending on the duration of the marriage.

Important Components of an I-485 Application

  • Proof of identity (applicant's birth certificate).
  • Proof of valid entry into the U.S. (passport, visa stamp, etc.).
  • USCIS filing fee of $1,225.
  • Medical examination by a USCIS-approved doctor (see our immigration medical examination page for details).
  • Two recent passport photos of the applicant.
  • Form I-864, Affidavit of Support, showing that the sponsoring spouse is able to financially support the applicant (see our affidavit of support page for details).

Step 3: Submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (Optional)

Step 3: Submitting Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (Optional)

While awaiting the green card, the intending immigrant spouse may choose to apply for employment authorization through Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization. This will allow them to legally work in the U.S. while their green card application is being processed.

Proof of financial hardship or significant need can strengthen the case for approval. Obtaining employment authorization can provide a sense of stability during the waiting period and contribute to the financial well-being of the family.

Important Components of an I-765 Application

  • Form I-765, filed alongside an I-485 application.
  • Two recent passport photos of the applicant.

Step 4: Submitting Form I-131, Application for Travel Document (Optional)

For those who have a pending green card application but might need to travel outside the U.S., Form I-131, Application for Travel Document, is essential. This document seeks advance parole, granting permission to re-enter the U.S. after traveling abroad without abandoning the green card application.

It's important to note that traveling internationally while a green card application is pending can have consequences for lawful immigration. Obtaining advance parole is advised to avoid complications.

Important Components of an I-131 Application

  • Form I-131, filed alongside an I-485 application.
  • Statement of qualification and need for travel.
  • Two recent passport photos of the applicant.

Attending the Green Card Interview: What to Expect

As a crucial step toward a marriage green card, the interview with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) holds immense significance.

Both spouses are required to attend this meeting and answer questions designed to ascertain the authenticity of their marriage. Expect inquiries about your relationship history, daily routines, shared experiences, and future plans.

USCIS aims to confirm that the marriage is bona fide and not entered into solely for immigration benefits. Being well-prepared with essential documents, such as joint financial records, photographs, and testimonies from friends and family, can contribute to a smooth interview process.

While the interview may be nerve-racking, it's a pivotal step toward obtaining a marriage green card and permanent residency in the United States.

Conditional Green Card vs. Permanent Green Card: Understanding the Difference

When pursuing a marriage-based green card, it's crucial to understand the distinction between a conditional green card and a permanent green card.

A conditional green card is typically issued to spouses who have been married for less than two years at the time of approval. It grants temporary residency, subject to a joint filing of Form I-751, Petition to Remove Conditions on Residence, within the 90-day window before the card expires.

By contrast, a permanent green card is granted to spouses married for over two years or those who successfully remove conditions from their conditional green card. It provides lawful permanent residency without the need for further filing to remove conditions.

Understanding these differences enables married couples to move through the green card application process effectively and transition from conditional to permanent resident status without unexpected obstacles.

Removal of Conditions: Filing Form I-751 to Remove Conditions on Residence

As you continue along your marriage green card journey, a pivotal step arises: removing conditions on your residence.

You might think of the removal of conditions as the second act in your love story. It entails filing Form I-751 jointly with your spouse within 90 days before your conditional green card expires, assuring immigration authorities that your union remains genuine. It's like affirming, "Our love is still going strong!"

By providing compelling evidence of your intertwined lives — financial, familial, and otherwise — you paint a picture of a lasting partnership. Approval takes your conditional status and places it on the solid ground of permanent residency, amounting to a legal affirmation of your enduring commitment.

From a legal standpoint, this important paperwork journey solidifies the foundation of your shared future.


How much does it cost to file for a marriage green card in the U.S.?

The government filing fees for a marriage green card application for a spouse living in the U.S. total $1,760. Additionally, the cost of a medical exam can range from $200 to $600.

Other potential expenses include mailing the application packet, hiring a professional translator (if needed), taking passport photographs, and paying attorney fees.

How long does it typically take to obtain a marriage-based green card?

The overall length of the process of receiving a marriage-based green card, a type of immigrant visa, can differ. It most often spans 10–24 months, starting with the initial petition and concluding with the issuing of the green card.

That said, factors like the USCIS workload, application processing, and individual circumstances can impact this timeline for becoming a green card holder.

Do members of same-sex couples qualify for a marriage green card?

Following the landmark 2015 Supreme Court ruling that granted same-sex marriages recognition in immigration matters, same-sex spouses became eligible to pursue a green card through marriage. This inclusive change applies to national visa center processes and benefits all green card holders, regardless of their gender or orientation.

Can I apply for citizenship after obtaining a marriage-based green card?

Absolutely. You have the option to pursue U.S. citizenship once you've been a lawful permanent resident for a specific duration — usually five years when married to a U.S. citizen or three years if married to the same U.S. citizen and capable of meeting additional eligibility prerequisites.

It's a good idea to consult with an experienced immigration attorney for help sorting out the complexities of the green card marriage process and acquiring a permanent resident card.

Simplify Marriage Green Card Applications With SimVisa's Legal Assistance

Your love story deserves a perfect re-beginning in a new land. A marriage-based green card not only symbolizes your commitment to your spouse but also holds the key to your shared future in the United States.

If you're eager to start this exciting adventure with the full benefit of the skill and support that only a knowledgeable marriage green card lawyer can provide, reach out to SimVisa.

We're here to help you and your partner make your American dream a reality. Contact us today to get started.

SohYoon Atac
SohYoon Atac
co-founder of SimVisa

Sohyoon is the co-founder of SimVisa. She has over 15 years of immigration specific experience and as an immigrant herself, fully understands the daunting nature of navigating the immigration process.

SimVisa helps you to get your marriage green card, only few steps needed
Love Knows No Borders. Contact Our Lawyers for Assistance
Don't let immigration hurdles stand in the way of your love story. Reach out to our experienced attorneys for personalized guidance.
Start your process
Ready to Start Your Life Together in the U.S.?
Let us guide you through the marriage-based green card process. Ensure a smooth journey to your new life in the United States
Start your process

Similar Useful Guides

K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide

K-1 Fiancé(e) Visa Guide

Are you planning to bring your fiance over to the U.S.? Our complete guide for the K-1 fiance visa process will walk you through every step, including requirements and costs.