Can I Get a Green Card By Marrying a Green Card Holder?

Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

Shawn Sedaghat, Esq.

President and Senior Attorney at Shawn S. Sedaghat A Law Corporation

Image of a man and woman sharing a kiss near a car.

Let’s break down getting a green card through marriage with a green card holder in the US. Now, imagine a green card as a fancy ID card saying you can live and work legally in the US. Pretty neat, right? So, if you’re hitched to someone with that green card, you might be wondering if it can help you get one too. The answer is yes, but there are a few things to consider.

Think of it like this: your green card holder spouse can basically vouch for you, saying your marriage is the real deal and not just a sneaky way to get into the country. The process involves your spouse filing a petition with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is like the government department that deals with all things immigration. They’ll check everything out to make sure your marriage is legit.

Here’s the catch: if you’ve been married for less than two years when you get your green card, it will be temporary, lasting only two years. But don’t worry, there’s a way to make it permanent! After those two years, you and your spouse can file another petition to remove the conditions and get a full-fledged, permanent green card. This way, USCIS can double-check that your marriage is still going strong.

Marrying a green card holder can definitely be a path to getting your own green card, but it’s not an instant thing and involves some steps. But hey, if you’re truly married and want to build a life together in the US, it could be a great option!

Key Takeaways

  • Marrying a Green Card Holder: If you’re married to a green card holder, you can apply for your own green card. The process involves your spouse filing a petition on your behalf with Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to prove your marriage is genuine and not just a shortcut to gain a green card.

  • Conditional Green Cards: For marriages less than two years old, the green card granted is conditional, valid for two years. You must file another petition to remove these conditions for a permanent green card, confirming the ongoing genuineness of your marriage to the USCIS.

  • Documents Required: Essential documents for the marriage green card application include your marriage certificate, proof of cohabitation, birth certificate, passport photos, and any evidence supporting the legitimacy of your marriage, demonstrating to the immigration services that your union is bona fide.

  • Application Process and Wait Times: The green card application process involves several steps, starting with the I-130 petition by the green card holder spouse. The wait time for a green card can be lengthy, often around two and a half years or more, depending on USCIS’s caseload and the visa number availability.

  • Employment Authorization: While awaiting your green card, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to work legally in the U.S. This is separate from the green card process and requires its application.

  • Interview and Approval: A key step in obtaining a green card through marriage is the green card interview, conducted by an immigration officer. This interview assesses the legitimacy of your marriage and your eligibility for permanent residence in the U.S.

  • Avoiding Fraud: It’s crucial to provide accurate and truthful information throughout the immigration process to avoid allegations of committing immigration fraud, which can have severe consequences for your status and future in the U.S.

  • Seek Professional Advice: Given the complexity of immigration law and the green card application process, consulting with a knowledgeable immigration lawyer or attorney can be beneficial in ensuring your application is complete, accurate, and submitted properly to the appropriate USCIS address.

Documents Needed to Apply for a Green Card Through Marriage to a Green Card Holder

You might be wondering what documents you’ll need to get your own green card. Think of it like this: the US government wants to make sure your marriage is the real deal, not just a way to sneak into the country. So, they need some paperwork to prove it.

The good news is, your spouse can actually vouch for you by filing a petition with the USCIS (that’s the folks in charge of immigration). They’ll be looking at things like your marriage certificate, proof that you and your spouse actually live together, and maybe even photos or greetings cards you’ve sent each other. Basically, anything that shows your life is intertwined.

On top of that, you’ll need some documents to prove your own identity, like your birth certificate and passport. You’ll probably also need to show you haven’t committed any major crimes.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Green Card After Marrying a Green Card Holder?

Let’s talk waiting times. So, you just tied the knot with your amazing spouse, who has a green card, that special ID card that lets them live and work legally in the US. Now you’re wondering, “how long will it take for me to get mine?”

The wait time for a green card through marriage to a green card holder can vary, but it usually isn’t as fast as marrying a US citizen. Think of it like waiting in line at the DMV – sometimes it’s quick, other times it takes a while.

Right now, the average wait is around two and a half years. That might seem like a long time, but there are a few things to consider. First, USCIS (the government folks in charge of immigration) needs to carefully review everything to make sure your marriage is legit.

They’ll want to see stuff like your marriage certificate, proof you actually live together, and maybe even cute couple photos or goofy birthday cards you’ve exchanged. Basically, anything that shows your lives are entwined.

The other thing to keep in mind is that wait times can fluctuate depending on how many people are applying at the same time.

A man and woman holding up a wedding ring, symbolizing love and commitment.

Conditional Green Cards

Here’s the thing: if you’ve been married for less than two years when you get your green card, it will likely be a “conditional” green card, valid for only two years. Think of it like a trial period.

The US government wants to make sure your marriage is the real deal and not just a way to get into the country. So, they give you a temporary green card. After two years, you and your spouse can file another petition to remove the conditions and get a regular, ten-year green card. This basically shows USCIS (the folks in charge of immigration) that your marriage is going strong.

It might seem like extra steps, but hey, good things come to those who wait! If you’re planning to get a green card through marriage to a green card holder, and you’ve been married for less than two years, a conditional green card is what you can expect.

Marriage-based green card timeline

The truth is, the timeline for a green card through marriage to a green card holder can vary, but it usually takes longer than marrying a US citizen. Think of it like waiting in line at a super popular restaurant on a Friday night – sometimes it’s quick, other times you might wait a while.

Here’s a general breakdown: First, your spouse files a petition with USCIS (the government folks in charge of immigration) vouching for your marriage. Then, USCIS reviews everything to make sure your marriage is legit.

This typically involves you submitting stuff like your marriage certificate, proof you actually live together, and maybe even cute couple photos or goofy birthday cards you’ve exchanged. Basically, anything that shows your lives are intertwined.

Once USCIS approves the petition, you might receive an interview where they get to chat with you and your spouse. After that, if all goes well, you’ll get your green card in the mail! The entire process can take anywhere from two and a half years to even longer, depending on how many people are applying at the same time.

First, the U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Spouse Must File a Form I-130

Buckle up – the first step involves your green card holder spouse. They gotta file a thing called a Form I-130 with USCIS (that’s the government department in charge of immigration). Think of it like your spouse is basically saying, “Hey USCIS, this is my real spouse, and we want to be together in the US permanently!”

This Form I-130 is like a petition – your spouse is vouching for your relationship. USCIS will want to see proof that your marriage is the real deal, not just a sneaky way to get into the country. So, they’ll be looking for stuff like your marriage certificate, and things that show you actually live together like bills with both your names on them, or maybe even a lease agreement. Basically, anything that shows your lives are intertwined.

Once your spouse files this form, it gets sent off to USCIS and the waiting game begins! This can take some time, so be patient.

happy family, US visa through marriage

Are Visa Numbers Available?

The US government wants to make sure your marriage is the real deal, not a way to just sneak into the country. They have a process for this called “adjusting status” – basically, you’re changing your immigration status from whatever it is now to permanent resident (green card holder). Sounds simple, right? Well, there’s a catch.

Unlike marrying a US citizen, there’s no guarantee you can apply to adjust your status right away. That’s because the US government only lets in a certain number of green card holders each year, kind of like a limited edition sneaker drop.

They call these limits “visa caps,” and depending on where you’re from, there might be a line for green cards in your category. So, USCIS (the folks in charge of immigration) can’t just approve everyone at once. They have to wait until a visa becomes available for you.

This waiting time can vary, but it can take a while. Don’t get discouraged though! If you’re serious about getting your green card, talking to an immigration attorney is a smart move.

This doesn’t mean it’s impossible, though!

How Much Does it Cost to Get a Green Card Through Marriage?

Here’s the breakdown: there are definitely fees involved, but it’s not like buying a whole new car.

The US government charges filing fees for the green card application process. Think of it like a registration fee for joining the green card club. These fees can add up, but they’re the same whether you’re marrying a US citizen or a green card holder. We’re talking about fees like the one for submitting the petition for your green card and the application itself. In total, these government fees can cost around seventeen hundred sixty dollars – that’s right, around $1760.

On top of that, there might be other costs depending on your situation. For example, you’ll need to get a medical exam by a doctor approved by the US government – that can cost somewhere between two hundred to five hundred dollars. You might also need some help filling out all the paperwork – an immigration attorney can be a lifesaver here, but their fees can vary.

So, while there are definitely costs involved, getting a green card through marriage to a green card holder isn’t about having pockets lined with gold.

Can You Work in the U.S. If You Marry a Green Card Holder?

Let’s talk about working legally in the US after marrying someone with a green card. Saying “I do” to your amazing spouse with a green card (that special ID that lets them live and work legally here) is pretty awesome, but what about you? Can you get a job too? Here’s the deal: while marrying a green card holder can be a path to getting your own green card eventually, it doesn’t automatically mean you can work right away.

Think of it like this: the US government wants to make sure everyone playing by the rules. Marrying someone to sneak into the country for a job isn’t cool. So, while your spouse’s green card paves the way for yours, there might be a wait involved before you can work legally.

The good news? You can apply for a work permit at the same time you apply for your green card through marriage. It’s like filling out two permission slips at school – you can knock them both out in one go! This work permit, called an EAD (Employment Authorization Document), lets you legally work in the US while you wait for your green card to be approved.

But, there can still be a wait for the EAD itself, depending on how many people are applying at the same time.

What is the I-130 Filing Packet for Green Card Marriage Applications?

Think of it like the first permission slip you need to turn in – it shows USCIS (the government folks in charge of immigration) that you’re married for real and deserve a green card.

This I-130 petition is basically a packet of documents you send to USCIS. It’s like a big envelope filled with stuff that proves your marriage is the real deal, not just a way to get a green card. We’re talking things like your marriage certificate, of course, but also stuff like proof you actually live together.

This could be bills with both your names on them, a lease agreement you signed together, or even cute couple photos (think goofy birthday cards or anniversary dinner pics) that show you’re a real couple.

Now, there might be other things USCIS asks for depending on your situation, but an immigration attorney can help you make sure you have everything you need.

Attend the green card interview and await approval

So you’ve filed all the paperwork, gathered your documents – you’re a pro at this whole green card application thing by now, thanks to your amazing spouse with a green card (that special ID that lets them live and work legally in the US). But there’s one more hurdle to jump: the green card interview.

The USCIS officer (basically an immigration government official) will want to meet you and your spouse in person. Think of it like a chance to chat and show them your relationship is the real deal. They might ask questions about how you met, your plans for the future, or even silly things like what your spouse puts on their pizza (pineapple? No way!). The key is to be yourself, relax, and tell your story honestly.

After the interview, USCIS will review everything and let you know their decision. This can take some time, so be patient.

Conclusion

Navigating the journey towards obtaining a green card through marriage to a green card holder can indeed be complex, but it’s a pathway filled with hope for many seeking to build a future in the U.S. With the assistance of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and the guidance of a knowledgeable immigration attorney, applicants can successfully navigate the green card application process. It’s crucial to gather the necessary documents, such as the marriage certificate and proof of a bona fide marriage, to demonstrate the legitimacy of your union. The conditional green card serves as a stepping stone towards permanent residence, offering a period to prove the marriage’s genuineness. Despite the potential for lengthy waiting times and the challenges of adjusting status, the end goal of lawful permanent resident status alongside your citizen or lawful permanent resident spouse remains a worthy pursuit.

FAQs on Green Card Through Marriage to a Green Card Holder

1. Can I work in the U.S. while I wait for my green card after marrying a green card holder?

Yes, you can apply for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) to legally work in the U.S. while your green card application is being processed. This is a separate application from your green card and is essential for foreign nationals seeking to adjust their status and work legally.

2. How do I know if visa numbers are available for my application?

Visa availability is determined by your priority date, nationality, and the category of visa you’re applying for. The State Department’s Visa Bulletin is updated monthly and provides information on which priority dates are currently being processed. For spouses of green card holders, this can significantly impact the waiting time for your green card application.

3. What happens if USCIS suspects marriage fraud in my green card application?

If USCIS suspects that a marriage was entered into solely for the purpose of gaining immigration benefits, they may conduct further investigations, including background and security checks. Committing immigration fraud can lead to severe penalties, including denial of the green card application, deportation, and being barred from future entry into the U.S.

4. Are there specific steps for applying for a green card while already in the U.S. on a different visa?

Yes, if you are in the U.S. on a valid nonimmigrant visa and married to a green card holder, you may be eligible to adjust your status to a lawful permanent resident. This process involves filing Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status, along with the necessary supporting documents and fees. However, you must ensure that a visa number is available before applying to adjust your status.

5. Can my spouse and I include our unmarried children in the green card application?

Yes, when a green card holder sponsors a spouse for a green card, unmarried children under the age of 21 can also be included in the petition. This is part of the family-based immigration process and allows for the sponsor’s green card to potentially extend immigration benefits to immediate family members.

6. What are the fees associated with getting a green card through marriage to a green card holder?

The total cost can include several fees, such as the filing fee for the Form I-130, Petition for Alien Relative, and the Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status. Additionally, applicants must pay for a medical examination, biometrics, and potentially, legal fees if hiring an immigration attorney. These costs vary but are essential investments in securing lawful permanent residence status and a physical green card in the United States.

Scroll to Top