Navigating the complex immigration system can be daunting when a foreign-born person
wishes to marry an American citizen. This complete marriage green card guide of 2024 will help
walk you through the key steps to take after you get married to successfully obtain
permanent residency in the United States based on marriage to a United States citizen. In this
article, you’ll get assistance on the required forms, documents, and interviews to prove the
legitimacy of your union and secure your green card.
Tying The Knot With A U.S. Citizen
Getting married to an American citizen opens up a straightforward path to earning U.S. lawful
permanent residence. However, navigating the immigration system can be complicated for any
foreign-born person looking to marry someone born in the United States.
If you have already found your spouse in the United States, then you need to know there are a
few key steps you’ll need to take after your nuptials to successfully obtain a marriage-based
green card. This includes filing forms like the Form I-130 Petition for Alien Relative in addition to
submitting proof that your marriage is authentic.
Adjusting Immigrant Status Through Marriage
When a non-U.S. citizen marries an American, the foreign partner may apply for adjustment of status to earn their green card provided you entered the country legally. The American spouse must act as the sponsor to establish they can provide financial support at 125% above the U.S. poverty level.
Verifying Your Legitimate Marriage to USCIS
Both partners will also be required to undergo a USCIS interviews, the applicant will have to do a biometrics screening, and a medical exam as part of the marriage green card application process. Gathering the right documentation and records is essential to show the USCIS that you have a valid marriage rather than one intended solely for immigration benefits.
How Soon After Marriage Can I Apply For A Marriage Green Card?
The good news is marriage to a U.S. citizen spouse allows a visa to be eligible for you immediately after filing rather than waiting for years based on backlogged visa quotas. Hiring an experienced immigration attorney can streamline preparing forms and arguing your case for permanent residency.
Although the final decision ultimately rests with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, most couples who submit a complete application with ample proof of a legitimate, good-faith marriage are approved. Let us at Ibrahim Immigration Law Firm help you successfully marry a US citizen and secure your marriage green card.
Registering Your Marriage With The State
After you’ve gotten married, one important step for any newly married couple is ensuring your union is legally official in the jurisdiction where you hold the ceremony. Registering your nuptials with state authorities creates a certified public record that helps establish proof for organizations like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) when you later apply for permanent residency.
Most states only recognize marriages as valid if couples complete a Marriage License Application to get legally registered and receive a marriage certificate. The application asks for basic personal details about both spouses including:
- Legal names
- Dates of birth
- Information on when and where the wedding ceremony occurred.
The spouses will need to sign the Marriage License Application in front of a public notary.
How Much Does It Cost To Get A Marriage Certificate In The U.S.?
While the cost of marriage certificates varies widely across different states in the U.S., the majority fall between $30 to $70. There may be other additional fees depending on if the application is submitted in person or through the mail. In Texas where Ibrahim Immigration is located, the cost of a marriage certificate is $60.
Registering Your Marriage Certificate With The County Clerk
While state-specific guidelines vary, generally you return the completed license back to the county clerk’s office for registering within 30 to 60 days post-ceremony. This includes marriages performed in other U.S. states or abroad. The county then issues an official marriage certificate. If you do not register the marriage properly, it could negatively impact your case to pursue a marriage green card as a foreign spouse.
Be sure to request multiple original copies of your certified marriage certificate. You’ll need to include this documentation as you gather evidence to prove bona fide marriage while filing Form I-485 and other application materials to adjust status with USCIS. In general, avoid any issues to getting your marriage green card down the road by promptly formalizing your American marriage at the state level.
Submitting Immigration Paperwork After “I Do’s”
Once you’ve officially completed your marriage, the next step for spousal visas including marriage-based green cards is formally notifying the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to adjust your status as required when American citizens marry foreign nationals. This mandates filing key forms such as the I-130 Petition for Alien Relative which establishes the legitimacy of your relationship.
Your American spouse serves as the petitioner sponsor while you are considered the beneficiary when completing these immigration documents. Be sure to always provide your current address and contact information if it changes to avoid processing delays. The I-130 must be submitted alongside other core application materials like financial affidavits, proof of bona fide marriage, and medical exam results.
Filing Immigration Paperwork Within 90 Days of Wedding
Though timelines vary, you can generally submit the paperwork after 90 days after the wedding ceremony. You should try to submit the paperwork after 90 days because rushing the paperwork could cause scrutiny from the USCIS. Make sure to include as much supporting evidence as possible when mailing your properly signed forms to USCIS for review. Hiring an experienced immigration lawyer such as Ibrahim Fadel at Ibrahim Immigration to prepare and file the documents can greatly minimize any mistakes that would negatively impact the process.
Proving Financial Support for Your Spouse’s Green Card
Meeting Income Thresholds As A Visa Sponsor
When petitioning for a foreign spouse’s green card, U.S. citizens must file an Affidavit of Support to legally commit to providing financial assistance. This binding Form I-864 outlines IRS tax return requirements proving your annual income tops 125% of the U.S. poverty level based on household size.
You should also submit recent pay stubs, W-2s, or 1099s as evidence you meet minimum income amounts. If the sponsor fails to satisfy financial sponsorship duties, you may need to get a co-sponsor.
Gathering Sufficient Financial Documentation For Proving Financial Support
In addition to the Affidavit of Support, include supplementary paperwork to demonstrate income history and assets. This includes:
- Bank statements
- Investment portfolio reports
- Deeds to property
- Additional tax transcripts
Having a joint sponsor with sufficient earnings cosign the affidavit will also improve the proof of means to support living costs.
Providing Evidence Of A Legitimate Marriage
When an immigrant spouse applies for permanent residency, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services scrutinizes whether marriages with American citizens are “bona fide” rather than sham relationships entered just for a green card. Submit as much paperwork and records as possible upfront to substantiate shared finances, cohabitation, and real commitment between you and your U.S.-born husband or wife.
Key items to include for submitting proof of marriage for a green card are:
- Copies of joint bank account statements
- Apartment leases or property deeds showing both your names
- Insurance policies recognizing you as beneficiaries
- Photographs spanning your relationship history
Also compile thorough testimonies from family, friends, or coworkers affirming the validity of your time together as a married couple. Being proactive with evidence proving legitimacy ahead of interviews works in your favor rather than appearing evasive.
Affinity Ties That Strengthen Your Marriage Green Card Application
As an immigrant spouse, take steps like adopting your American partner’s last name, adding them to travel visas, and consolidating bills or subscriptions in both names. Consider sharing a cell phone plan contract, too. The more affinity ties confirming lifetime commitment to reviewers, the higher the green card marriage approval odds.
The focus on multiple varieties of authentic marriage confirmation paperwork, along with demonstrations of legal/financial bonds, helps this cover details searchers want to know while using highly relevant phrases.
Completing Medical Exams For Immigration
As mentioned at the beginning of this article, a medical exam is required to complete your application for a marriage green card. This medical exam is important to establish whether or not the marriage green card applicant is healthy enough to successfully apply. The USCIS medical exam is conducted by a civil surgeon authorized by USCIS. The components include:
- A medical history review
- Physical examination
- Chest X-ray
- Blood tests for syphilis
- Testing for tuberculosis, gonorrhea, and HIV may also be required
The USCIS provides a Form I-693 Report of Medical Examination documenting your overall admissibility based on the assessment. This Form must be signed by a USCIS-accredited doctor. Make sure you are 100% truthful when filling out the form and fully cooperative when doing the screening to improve your chances of passing. If you have any contagious illnesses, it may delay obtaining your marriage green card. Remember to consult your skilled immigration lawyer on any questions you may have for this step.
Attending Your Green Card Interview
Couples petitioning for marriage green cards must sit for an in-person immigration interview so USCIS officers can validate their relationship and marriage credentials. The USCIS determines whether your union is authentic or entered just for immigration benefits. Expect questions probing the specifics of your relationship, wedding ceremony, and general life together. Questions about these topics will be individual and joint (together).
What Should I Bring To My Marriage Green Card Interview?
It will be beneficial if you bring key evidence like:
- Wedding photos
- Utility bills
- Bank accounts
- Leases for homes or automobiles
- Affidavits from those familiar with your history as a couple.
How Do I Prepare For My Green Card Interview?
Take time to get your testimonies aligned before sitting for the interview, and remember that you are allowed to bring your immigration lawyer. If you are approved shortly after marriage, you are eligible to get a 2-year conditional green card. Within 90 days of expiration, you must then file paperwork and undergo a second interview to remove conditions and earn 10-year lawful permanent residence.
How Long Do I Need To Be Married For A 10-Year Green Card?
If you can show a 2+ year legitimate marriage from the start, you can qualify for the 10-year marriage green card outright without any extra steps. Remember, if you bring enough documentation and show confidence in discussing shared hopes for your married future, you can sway any skepticism the officers may have regarding your marriage.
How Soon After The Green Card Interview Will I Know The Decision?
While some USCIS Officers give their decision on the spot, others will send you a decision in the mail. If your application is approved, you will receive an approval notice and your green card in the mail. In some rare cases, the USCIS Officer may stamp your passport with the I-551 stamp which will signify your green card status.
How Long Until I Obtain My Physical Green Card Once I’m Approved?
Although it can vary how much time it takes from passing the green card interview to obtaining the physical green card after the case is approved, the average wait time is about 2 weeks to 3 months. The worst-case scenario is 6 or more months if there are unforeseen issues requiring more scrutiny.
Last updated on January 17, 2024