What is a marriage green card?
A marriage green card allows the spouse of a U.S. citizen or green card holder to live and work anywhere in the United States. A green card holder will have “permanent resident” status until they decide — if they wish — to apply for U.S. citizenship, for which they become eligible after three years.
Establishing the marriage relationship (Form I-130)
The first step in the process of getting a green card through marriage is to submit Form I-130 (officially called the “Petition for Alien Relative”) to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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The main purpose of the I-130 form, along with supporting documents, is to establish that a valid marriage exists.
The spouse filing the I-130 is called the “petitioner” or “sponsor.” This is the spouse who is a U.S. citizen or current green card holder. The spouse seeking a green card is called the “beneficiary” or “green card applicant.”
Critical elements of a complete I-130 filing package include:
Government filing fee of $535
Proof that the sponsoring spouse is a U.S. citizen (copy of the sponsor’s birth certificate, naturalization certificate, or valid U.S. passport photo page, for example) or permanent resident (copy of the sponsor’s green card, for example)
Proof that a legally valid marriage exists (for example, a marriage certificate showing the names of both spouses, as well as the place and date of the marriage)
Proof that the marriage is not fraudulent (for example, a joint lease, joint bank account statements, and pictures together)
Proof that any previous marriage of either spouse has been terminated (typically, a divorce document)
Once the I-130 filing package is complete, it must be mailed to the appropriate USCIS address. USCIS will then send the sponsoring spouse an official acknowledgement (or “receipt notice”) in the mail, typically within two weeks.
If USCIS needs more information or documents to process the filing package, they will send the sponsoring spouse a Request for Evidence (RFE) within 2–3 months. Once USCIS has everything they need, they will typically make a decision on the I-130 application within 7–15 months, depending on the couple’s situation.
After receiving notice that the I-130 form has been approved, the next step will be to determine whether the spouse seeking a green card is eligible for one.
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